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Noonday Demon

Updated: Jul 24, 2022

The Applegate Valley is classified as a Mediterranean climate. Why aren't we on a Mediterranean schedule?

I walked into Trader Joes a couple weeks ago and was surprised to see, amid the various potted herbs that crowd the entrance, a collection of ready-to-plant olive trees for sale. Olive trees? Could our climate really support olive trees?

According to the Köppen climate classification system, The Applegate Valley is indeed deemed “Mediterranean”—which means abundant sunshine, hot, dry summers and mild winters. I love the sound of that. For one, it puts The Applegate Valley in the same genre of some of my favorite places on earth: Morocco, Italy, and Spain. It also implicates all things al fresco: dining, gathering, and walking in the woods. It bodes well for gardens, too. My front yard Rock Rose is bright, my porch Jasmine fragrant, and the potted fig trees I’ve been nursing for five years are still hanging in there.

But the one thing we don’t have (aside from the actual Mediterranean) is the Mediterranean schedule—that body-friendly rhythm that allows you to lay low during the hottest part of the day and then spark up again when things cool down. Spain is particularly well-known for this lifestyle. They happily hang their “Closed” signs around 3 pm and retreat indoors. After 6 pm, they return to the streets and open their shops again. As the sun sets, you can feel life zing back to the cafes and inspiration return to the blood. Night markets open up and are populated with cheer.

For some reason, we don’t adapt to our own heat in that way. Maybe because it didn’t used to be so hot around here, so we're yet to catch up with climate change. As it is now, most of our local wineries close for the day at 5:00 pm-- just when the mood for drinking and relaxing begins to set in. The evening events that do happen, often start early—right during peak heat. I went to an outdoor concert last weekend that started when it was still 95 degrees out. Fortunately, the savvy host planned ahead, erected shade structures, and strung up misters. Still, most people did not show up till around 7 pm—an hour before the show was scheduled to end.

Going to the Farmers Market in July and August can be tricky, too. I’m pretty committed to it, though, and so drive my roasting little VW Golf down the road to shop. I get my lettuce from the first stand and then pace across the hot, dusty field for the icy cup of Horchata what waits on the other side. With body alarm bells now in full panic mode, I hunt for a piece of shade and watch the band sweat it out.

I’ll admit, sometime I don’t make it out at all in the afternoons. It’s not just physical toll of the heat that paralyzes, but there is a mental component as well. When the temperature tops 90, I grow cranky and unmotivated—even depressed. This afternoon agitation is well-documented—and was even given the name “Acedia” in the monastic literature of the Middle Ages. This word captures the listlessness and loss-of-faith that afflicted the monks at midday “when the sun moves slowly, or not at all, and the day seems to be 50 hours long.” (Evagrius of Pontus: The Greek Ascetic Corpus, #12). You might know it as “The Noonday Demon."

Contending with this Noonday Demon wouldn’t take anything too dramatic. It doesn’t require a siesta-schedule, or eating dinner at 10 pm—as in Spain. A slight shift would do it—say, holding events from 7:00-10:00 pm. That way locals would have time to shake the grass clippings off their pants, take a shower, and then patronize the local wineries. I love the idea of gathering and enjoying the valley’s exhale of heat together, of feeling our energy rise as the sun sinks, and celebrating the magical onset of dusk—a moment my friend Anna calls “The Sunset Magazine” hour.

Maybe Trader Joes is trying to tell us something. I skeptically bought the olive tree and am going to plant it on the high part of my property. We'll see how it goes. I suspect the Applegate Valley isn’t quite Mediterranean enough, but if it actually takes root, it might be time to reconsider our schedules.

*While most of The Applegate wineries close at 5:00, there are a few wonderful exceptions. Check out:

-Thursday music by the river at Red Lily.

-Friday night music at Schmidt Vineyards.

-There is also Friday evening live music in the shady gardens of The Applegate Country Club

Thank you A Greater Applegate for supporting homegrown writers. For more info about this great .org, click the image below:

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