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Jessie Raymond: Can’t take the heat? Try Vermont

A faraway Facebook acquaintance of mine recently posted that, in an unexpected but delightful gesture, a new neighbor had come to her door with a loaf of banana bread.
It struck me, as it did some of the Facebook commenters, that it would have been more appropriate if she and her family had brought banana bread to the new neighbor, and not the other way around.
She agreed but explained that she wasn’t aware that she even had new neighbors because (a) their car was similar to that of the previous owners and (b) she and her family never go outside.
Never?
Not knowing her in real life, I wondered if she was actually a recluse whose only contact with the outside world was online. But then it dawned on me: She lives in Arizona.
I checked the weather in Phoenix. The temperature at that moment was 102 (though it would plummet to a bracing 85 during the night).By the end of the week, however, highs would be hitting their fourth consecutive day of 112. They say it’s a “dry heat,” but even so, I imagine you could smoke meat at that temperature.
I understood then why my Facebook friend might stay in the house. But what about the new neighbor? Who moves in August in Arizona, when the temperatures are so hot that setting a packing box down on the driveway for even a few seconds will leave it with griddle marks?
And who, still faced with unpacking and spending hundreds of dollars a month to keep the house comfortably cool, decides to bake? It may technically be classified as a “quick bread,” but banana bread needs 55 to 60 minutes in the oven. When temperatures hit three digits, I’d be opting for no-bake cookies. Some people might even just go to the store.
And as for my Facebook friend, does she never look out the window? Wouldn’t there have been a “for sale” sign in front of the neighbor’s house for at least a few weeks, alerting her to the idea that change was imminent? How could she have missed a moving van in the driveway, not to mention the emergency vehicles there to tend to the heatstroke victims on the moving crew?
Of course, it’s easy for me to judge. At the time I read this woman’s post, I was sitting out on the back porch on one of a string of breezy, clear Vermont summer mornings, watching a hummingbird at the feeder and enjoying the lush greenery all around.
Her post, however, put our Vermont summer into perspective. Sure, sometimes it gets uncomfortably warm and muggy. But when I say it’s “too hot” to go outside, I’m generally talking about a three-hour period in the afternoon when I’d prefer to be inside near a fan. I don’t mean that I require 24-hour air-conditioning for my very survival.
When I consider that the highest temperatures we’ve recorded this summer are in line with the average nightly lows in places like Phoenix, I can’t complain. The worst thing about summer in my world is when I stand up from sitting on a plastic chair; on humid days, the back of my thighs peeling off the seat makes a sound like a strip of duct tape being torn off the roll. It’s painful, sure, but hardly life-threatening.
I’ve probably thought a little too hard about that Facebook post, but it’s only because that woman’s life seems so different from mine. She and her family have closed themselves off from the outdoors as completely as possible, while at my house we’ve got every door and window open. (In fact, given the size of the holes in our screens, the distinction between outdoors and indoors becomes less clear with each passing day.)
But we’re really not so different. When winter rolls around, I’ll be the one hunkered down in my climate-controlled house, oblivious to the outside world. Five months from now, Ringling Brothers could set up a big top in my back yard and I’d be so obsessed with staying warm I wouldn’t notice unless an errant trapeze artist slammed into one of our windows.
That Facebook post is a reminder that I should embrace the summer weather while it’s here. Still, I’d just like to see temperatures cool down just enough allow a little baking.
For some reason I’ve got a hankering for banana bread.

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