Do you find it difficult to get motivated for outdoor activities when the temperature is too high? And what is “too high” for you? I’m uncomfortable whenever it’s over 85 degrees, as a general rule. Well, if I’m being totally honest, I’d prefer it under 80, but that’s too restrictive and wimpy. It’s quite often over 90 these days. My low tolerance for sweating has meant that I’ve been spending a lot of time indoors, or at least not too far from a fan, and I’m not able to satisfy my usual appetite for dragon hunting. Normally that would make me miserable, but since I’ve been gradually returning to my introvert ways, it’s actually working out okay. I need a break from the world for a while. So I’m catching up on reading escapist novels (because vampires are less scary than many people these days). And I’m writing…and drawing…and just being. I’m also cleaning my house more thoroughly, which is great therapy for releasing stress when world events are overwhelming. (By the way, did I tell you about how I invented exercising in the shower so the sweat is rinsed off immediately? Genius, right? You’re welcome. But be careful!)
Last week I spent a day hunting dragonflies with a friend around Lansing, Michigan. It was an uncomfortably hot day, and while I had to change my shirt halfway through it, my friend seemed cool as a cucumber. And while that may just reflect the fact that I have the body chemistry and hormones of a 60-ish woman and he’s got those of a 30-ish man, it made me start wishing I had better ways of staying cool. I recently came up with a fun way, but I’ll get to that later.
And of course I thought about the unique way that dragonflies have of cooling off on a hot day. I’ve touched on this topic briefly before, but let’s quickly run through it again for those of you who maybe haven’t seen those posts.
Like all insects, dragonfllies are ectothermic, which means that they can’t generate their own body heat like we can (we’re endothermic). They need the warmth of the sun to give them the energy for their acrobatic and exhausting flight, so they aren’t usually very active early in the morning or when it’s cool and/or cloudy. But they also have limits to their heat tolerances and they can’t sweat like we can, so if it gets too hot they risk death. It’s very important for them to do whatever they can to keep their bodies in the optimal range of temperatures.
One way they stay cool is to fly into the trees to rest on a hot day, just coming out long enough to feed or mate, and then going back into shelter. But another, more interesting, way is to strike a pose. No, not Madonna style. I’m talking about their technique called obelisking. In this pose, a dragonfly will point his abdomen toward the sun to minimize the surface area of his body that is exposed to the direct rays. It’s my favorite way to photograph them.
As an upright human, I suppose I’m always naturally in the obelisk position, but even with my body’s (supposed) ability to temperature regulate, that’s not enough to make me comfortable. So as I mostly cocoon here at home for the rest of the summer, I’ll be taking breaks from garden chores by sitting on my swing and cooling my feet in my new rubber duckie pool (it’s actually a baby bathtub). Doesn’t that just make you smile? If not the duck itself, then the image of me sipping iced tea with my feet in cold water inside the duck. I tell ya, these days it’s the little whimsical things like this that make me happy.
I hope you find some pleasant ways to stay cool and sane as the world seems to be doing the opposite of both. Be well.