Resilience at 118 degrees

Phoenix temperatures as measured July 2023
Screenshot of Phoenix temps on July 17, 2023.

Resilience at 118 degrees is a challenge this year. I am tired of being hot and it’s not just me.

As I write this, CNN reports that 45% of the US population from California to Massachusetts are under extreme heat alerts. Where are the most dangerous spots? The Southwest, especially in Phoenix, where I have lived most of my life. Today, Phoenix passed thirty-one days in a row of triple-digit temperatures, with no end in sight.


We desert dwellers are experienced in surviving triple-digit summers. July is always the worst, the annual endurance test, but this year is the worst in years. Mother Nature, can you give us a break?


I think about the weather, and how more than ever we need resilience to adapt to our changing world. Extreme weather seems to be the new norm.


My children’s school was determined to graduate life-long learners and resilient adults. The school was right. Becoming resilient means becoming a life-long learner to find workarounds and weather hacks. The world is only getting hotter, and Phoenix faces a serious water crisis that is not going away. Climate change challenges each of us in different ways no matter where we live.



How hot does it get? Hot.

We are baked inside for at least three months, usually five (May through September at minimum.)  The streets are deserted unless you are up at 5:00 a.m. to see a few neighborhood walkers. The concrete and asphalt are too hot to walk dogs unless you buy them booties. I feel for the mail carriers and UPS drivers who must work all day in vehicles without air conditioning. I’m sure whoever mandated those truck designs never delivered packages for three months in a Phoenix summer. Summer is hard on many people, and downright dangerous for others. Not everyone has the option to work indoors or leave town for the summer. It’s not just weather, it’s survival.

Temperature inside car in Phoenix in July 2023
I tried an experiment last week. I took a thermometer with me to the dentist. In the car with air conditioning, it registered a comfortable eighty-eight degrees. Left on the dashboard of my car parked in the sun, thirty-five minutes later it registered 142 degrees. (There aren’t many shaded parking places out there.) I left the gauge in the car later that day. It stopped registering temps above 157 degrees.

A friend who works for an electronics company was trying to convince co-workers in Kansas that car electronics need to survive high temperatures. They really couldn’t envision much higher than a humid 108 degrees. I wish.

Here is my attempt at positivity. I asked friends for their positives, and several echoed things on the list below.

The perks of Phoenix in the summer.

  • Traffic is lighter and restaurants aren’t crowded. Anyone who can has left town.
  • You don’t have to shovel sun or scrape ice off your windshield.
  • Cars don’t rust.
  • There is little risk of losing your home to a flood, landslide, or tornado.
  • No water? No mosquitoes.
  • You don’t have to mow desert landscaping.
  • You can brew tea in the sun and bake cookies on your dashboard. (OK, I haven’t tried the cookies yet.)
  • Low humidity? Forget the blow-dryer. Clothes, towels, and your hair dry in an hour.
  • Every place is air-conditioned, and pools are abundant. I didn’t realize until I grew older, that houses existed without air conditioning.
  • Relief is within driving distance. San Diego is a 5.5-hour drive. Northern Arizona is three hours away and offers respites 20-30 degrees cooler than Phoenix. (Translation – you still want air conditioning for the peak of summer.)
  • There are lots of movie theaters compared to other places I have visited. We need indoor date nights and things to do with kids.
  • I’ll be hiking outside all winter long, as other parts of the country endure the opposite: freeze warnings and blizzards. We live here, while others must pay to travel and vacation here for the tourist-perfect weather. Summer is the price we pay.
  • It doesn’t last forever.

My roots are greener.

Occasionally I meet people who love the summer heat. I smile and wonder what planet they came from. My original roots are greener.

Every summer I remember the culture shock of moving here in mid-June from Pennsylvania to triple-digit temperatures. I was nine years old, and my father took a job transfer here. Instead of the green woods behind our house, our Arizona yard consisted of gravel, cactus, and palm trees. Where Pennsylvania was green, everything here seemed brown to a nine-year-old’s eyes. I was cooped up inside all summer. But my parents loved Arizona and never left.

Resilience of a rainbow at the Grand Canyon
Rainbow over the Grand Canyon, August 2022. By author.


Life happens. I am still here and have grown to appreciate the true beauty of the desert and the blessings of Arizona. I love the open skies, gorgeous sunsets, nearby hiking, and the light show of monsoon lightning flashes. Places like Sedona, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, and the Grand Canyon (which I have hiked three times) are magnets for worldwide travelers, and for good reason. These settings form the backdrop for commercials, movies, and spectacular photography. In April, the desert really does turn green with blooming cactus and desert flora.


And a year-round bonus for East Coast folks: there are no toll roads here or fees to cross bridges at any time of year. It’s why they are called “free-ways.”

Building Resilience

Resilience comes from working through challenges, be it weather, a flat tire, job crises, or more. I know if I move elsewhere there will be a different learning curve for the quirks and hacks of that area. I don’t like these high temperatures or getting in a hot car. But I can adapt and have my own hacks. If weather is the main complaint I have, then life is pretty darn good.

And I know the perfect way to bring rain. All we have to do is wash our cars.

I hope you can enjoy the beauty of where you live. Do your best to stay cool out there.

In friendship,


stay cool

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Tags: Commentary, Just for Fun

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