So, on I went. I think I never saw
Such starved ignoble nature; nothing throve:
For flowers—as well expect a cedar grove!
But cockle, spurge, according to their law
Might propagate their kind, with none to awe,
You’d think; a burr had been a treasure-trove.
No! penury, inertness and grimace,
In some strange sort, were the land’s portion. “See
“Or shut your eyes,” said nature peevishly,
“It nothing skills: I cannot help my case:
“’Tis the Last judgment’s fire must cure this place,
“Calcine its clods and set my prisoners free.”
If there pushed any ragged thistle-stalk
Above its mates, the head was chopped; the bents
Were jealous else. What made those holes and rents
In the dock’s harsh swarth leaves, bruised as to baulk
All hope of greenness?’tis a brute must walk
Pashing their life out, with a brute’s intents.
(Robert Browning, “Childe Roland To The Dark Tower Came”)
South Texas is a capricious region. She seduces us with her sunny, mild winters and colorfully floral, sometimes delightfully cooling springs, so that we think we live in paradise and wonder who would ever choose to live elsewhere? Oh, but then: suddenly summer. Overnight, without warning, late spring turns to something akin to Hell. Death steals the blooms from the wild flowers that just the day before had abundantly crowded any patch of grass visible in every field and pasture, alongside every path and trail, and parallel to every back-road and highway. The air heats up to triple digits, so that even morning runs are Hellish as the insensitive sunshine aggressively pours itself out on the land, assaulting anyone caught without shade or shelter, making it seem much as desolate and hopeless as the wasteland described by the hapless speaker in Browning’s unsettling poem. When sunset arrives and the outside temperature falls from 102 at 7:00 pm to 95 at 8:00 pm, the condition finally seems cool enough to get in a decent run for the evening. Though still hot, with the humidity rising at this point, the slight twilight breeze that often accompanies the setting of the sun creates an environment more conducive to running or biking. Continue reading