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Blog: On Health. On Writing. On Life. On Everything.

Summer Heat

July 18, 2012

Tags: order, water, air conditioner, air pollution - indoors - outdoors, bass, birthright, cello, cherries, children, cold exposure, cold shower, cold water, creativity, dinner - light, fall, fish, garden, heat, heating - central, houseplants, immune system, indoor air, mint, music, nap, pruning, reading, salad, season, shade, sleeping with window open, string camp, summer, Summer Heat, summer reading list, sweating, thunderstorm, September, tea, viola, violin, weeding, writing, work

A tremendous lightning-and-thunder storm brought a huge downpour and a bit of cooling to our region. Not much so. It is nearly ten o’clock at night, and I am still sweating.
You hear me often talk of the benefits of a cold shower (after the hot one). The cold water mimics the exposure to cold we need for a functioning immune system. Since we live in rooms with central heating and are not working outside so much, we don’t get enough of our birthright: cold exposure.
We likewise don’t get enough of the summer heat because most of us live in air-conditioned rooms. Not we though. In twenty years, we have used our central air conditioner a single time. We didn’t like it. We prefer to sleep with window open to get cleaner air. Contrary what you might think, the indoor air pollution usually is much worse than the outdoors air pollution. Hint: Houseplants help cleaning up indoor air.
We sleep with window open even in winter, in severe minus grades. I lie under about five duvets then and stay snugly warm.
Now, in summer, I am sweating – I can’t remember a hot and humid summer like this one. But sweating: That is what summer is for. Summer is a season that gives you a sauna for free: You can sweat out toxins which otherwise are hard to eliminate. Now I am getting rid of waste and damaging agents about twenty hours a day. Of course, I make sure that I take in enough water and salt, to make up for the losses. And be reasonable about it: If you have a medical condition, switch on the air conditioner. Keeping a cold facecloth at hand or taking a short cold shower can keep you cool.
I feel uncomfortable now, sweating. But I know I good I will feel come September: Cool and ready to work hard again. In this heat, I admit, working and writing comes nearly to a standstill; the garden slowly turns into a jungle again as if the months of weeding and pruning never happened. This is the time for cold black tea with mints from the garden, reading in the shade, enjoying delicious music and light dinners – cold fish with a salad and some cherries afterwards. On the weekends, I am planning long afternoon naps, This is not my most effective time – but it is getting me ready for work and creativity in the fall.
Soon I will give you my summer reading list. But for now I am in the middle of the summer string camp with two hundred kids playing violin, viola, cello and bass – and I am one of them. The one who plays cello badly. But having fun.
In an air-conditioned room, actually.

World Water Day 2011 – Seen From the Namib Desert

March 22, 2011

Tags: water, food, Angola, agriculture - plant, Benguela upwelling, deforestation, desert, ecosystem, fauna, flora, fog, fruit, gazelle, goats, Gondwana, grazing, Harald Süpfle (photo), Independence Day - Namibia, jerky, Namib Desert, Namibia, overgrazing, rain, rain clouds, sheep, South Africa, sweet water reservoir, thunderstorm, ur-continent, vegetable, well drilling, Welwitschia mirabilis, West Gondwana, World Water Day 2011, World Water Day 2011 – Seen From the Namib Desert

Every 22nd of April, World Water Day is celebrated. This year I observe it from an unlikely place: The Namib Desert.

The Namib is the oldest desert of the world. We know that some deserts have been man-made, by human deforestation and overgrazing of goats and sheep. This desert, luckily, is not man-made. When West Gondwana split from the original one-lump ur-continent Gondwana about 140 million years ago, conditions arose for the arid coastal strip that we call the Namib Desert. Then and now, warm moist winds from the north are cooled down by a cold ocean stream, the Benguela upwelling. The mixture results in cold air that can’t rise up high enough to make rain clouds, just fog. So it rarely if ever rains here, which creates this desert, many hundred of miles long, from Namibia to Angola. Those cool ocean fogs maintain the nearly invisible desert fauna and spare flora.

History aside, the most prominent feature of the Namib Desert are the wandering dunes, spectacular formations in constant movement, propelled by the winds. I marvel at the sharp edges, undulating forms, surprising patterns one finds and the colors of yellow and red sand, sometimes dusted with crimson or black – the beauty of this desert is indescribable. The desert reaches right to the edge of the ocean. One would think there should be a thin stripe of green between them, but there is only the stark contrast of endless yellow sand and endless turquoise ocean.

Plants and animals eke out a living in the Namib Desert. Welwitschia mirabilis is such a plant, ancient and immutable, nurtured by the ocean fogs that roll in most days. Hundreds of years old at times, perhaps even thousands, Welwitschia has two long leaves (usually ripped into several strands by the constant desert winds) and a middle trunk that grows incredibly slow. We saw a colony of plants of male and female plants spreading on the desert floor – it takes hundreds of years before you’d call the middle a real trunk that visibly reaches some height from the ground.

How can a country like Namibia exist? Due to a sweet water reservoir beneath this scorched coastal stripe. Namibians are very aware how fragile this ecosystem is, and fierce regulations who is allowed to drill a well and where are in place. Namibian agriculture consists mostly grazing cows and sheep. A famous meat product is a jerky made from springbok, a wild antelope. Due to lack of water, Namibia has nearly no plant agriculture – most fruit and vegetables are imported from South Africa by which Namibia was annexed until 1990, when it freed itself during a bloody rebellion. By chance, their Independence Day happened to be yesterday – March 21st.

And by another chance we arrived last week during some of the worst rains and thunderstorms the Namibian remember. We ended the first leg of our trip at a washed out bridge and had to make a huge detour. And for all that unusual rain, the Namib Desert, in places, showed us a fine, fuzzy green – a beautiful welcome.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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