Today's topic is heat. Though the name of my column does include the word 'rambling,' that doesn't mean this one won't end with the majority of the copy being about coldness. Or bicycling, as we all know that rarely does a day go by without my mentioning of pedaling or the prospect of it.
I'm told, there is no such thing as cold. It simply does not exist. There is only a lack of heat. Likewise, there is no such thing as darkness – there is only lack of light. The duality we find ourselves in the midst of which can boggle and amaze. Does this mean that there is no such thing as death? Perhaps death is only the absence of life. I'm digressing. This was supposed to be about heat.
Often, when writers write, they have little tricks they employ to make themselves sound smarter than they actually are. Many have a thesaurus handy. A normal word can be replaced with a googled thesaurus synonym. In between the lines of the last few sentences, I checked for an alternate word for 'stifling,' to address the nature of the heat we're all experiencing.
I was unimpressed with the results. I'm sticking with stifling in all its appropriateness. There is no word that can outdo such a term. Sometimes the simplest descriptor is the finest. It's hot enough to make breathing inward a difficulty. It hurts. It's hot enough for me to avoid my bicycle several days in a row now.
I'm more than familiar with heat. I grew up in Jordan, which borders the Dead Sea. I've floated in it without trying – I've done the National Geographic poses. I've smothered myself in medicated mud. When you rise up from a dip, one's body is coated in an oil and salt sheen that cakes and cracks. It's very uncomfortable and how an entire tourism industry has been built on mud and salt is beyond my abilities to comprehend.
The point is this. The Dead Sea can get hot. 120 degrees farenheit is not abnormal. In my wisdom and genius, I decided to go camping there with my older brother and a friend during the height of the summer sun. My early high-school brain had not developed enough to understand the danger we were putting ourselves in.
There isn't much to say, really. I'm paid to write, so I'm expected to turn ten words into 100, but a short summation is a short summation. I can't turn the events of nothing into Shakespeare. On my Dead Sea camping venture, nothing really happened. It was too hot.
We arrived on the shores early in the a.m. Israel could be seen across the horizon and the sun had yet to bake. Keep in mind there is no tillable ground anywhere near the shoreline. There are rocks, big and small, some coated in dried salt. You won't find animals, save a scorpion perhaps. Somehow, we managed to piece together a tent overhang. By the time we were done, the sun had started to cook. We did nothing but sit underneath a tarp for two hours.
By noon, it was approaching 105 degrees, and we were desperate for relief. The lifeless body of water does not coolly greet you like the ocean. The water is hot and unfriendly, aside from being laden with oil and salt. You can't hop in to cool down. There are natural springs around its edges that flow within, so the three of us hitched to an oasis about one mile away in distance. Yes, an oasis – the kind you see in the movies with palm trees and a couple of cliffs –and that may not actually be there. The kind that gets hallucinated by thirsty soldiers and adventurers.
Arrival was joyous. We ran and dove in the water. One problem. Natural springs they were. But, natural springs, most often, carry with them the heat of the inner earth. We substituted the Dead Sea atmospheric heat with the heat of warm springs. A monumental let down.
We left immediately. Back at our makeshift rock campground, we tried to drink our water, which had been cooked in the now 115 degree sun. Undrinkable. Our food could not be swallowed. The lowest point on earth had taken everything from us. A knife would not save you – only coldness, which does not exist.
We lasted a total of 4 hours that day. We hitchhiked back to the capital, Amman, and drank water. It was the first time in my life that the anticipation of drinking water placed butterflies in my stomach. Wonder met my lips in liquid form.