Today’s column is nature-focused, with news from a state conservancy group and write-ins from readers about the hottest day delivered by Mother Nature.
The Nature Conservancy in Virginia recently announced that Rebecca Rubin, longtime resident of Fredericksburg, has joined its state chapter as the newest member of its board of trustees.
It’s an appointment that makes sense, as Rubin is the founder, president and CEO of Marstel-Day, an international natural resources and environmental consulting company based here.
In a news release noting the appointment, Rubin says that she “fell deeply in love with the lush green landscape that Virginia offers its residents and visitors” after moving here from New York. She also appreciates the Nature Conservancy’s conservation of more than 300,000 acres of critical land in Virginia.
Prior to founding Marstel-Day, Rubin served as director of the Army’s Environmental Policy Institute and was a member of the professional research staff at the Institute for Defense Analyses. She was named by President Obama as a White House Champion of Change for Community Resilience and received the 2018 B’nai B’rith Humanitarian Award for environmental resiliency.
She serves on the board of Virginia Forever, which advocates for increased funding for water quality improvements and land conservation across the commonwealth.
Rubin said her particular interests lie in land conservation and the environmental education of the next generation.
“We’re either going to get this right and preserve large landscapes or we’re not, and be left with only habitat fragmentation,” she said. “Building on the Nature Conservancy’s accomplishments to date, we need to continue to create the conservation mosaic in Virginia in the right way, knitting together water resources, air quality and the preservation of wildlife and habitat.”
Rubin said she was especially excited by the Nature Conservancy’s efforts to connect families—particularly children—with nature.
“We can’t provide generations of children with access to nature unless it is permanently preserved,” she said.
From that nature-focused news, I’ll pivot to responses I got after asking readers to share memories of their hottest day ever.
The most heartfelt response came from Michael B. Goodin of Spotsylvania County, who in 1974 found himself moving his family from Springfield to Austin, Texas, for a new job.
“Although I had gone through advanced Army training earlier in my life in San Antonio in July and August, I had forgotten just how brutal Texas summers can be,” he said, noting that he, his wife and two daughters were shocked by it when they arrived.
Goodin recalled a particular day when the family made the short trip to nearby Red Rock to attend a small-town festival there.
By 11 a.m., he said, it was already hot enough to fry an egg on the hood of their car. Two hours later, it had gotten even hotter. That’s when the family spotted folks crowded around a contest with its own heat.
“We encountered 10 people participating in a jalapeno pepper eating contest, the hottest peppers I ever endured in Texas,” said Goodin, who noted that a few of the contestants fainted from the combined heat of the air and the peppers.
“It was so bad that you could feel the sweat trickling down your legs,” he said, noting that he never could comprehend how the winner could survive the combination of being outside on a fiercely hot day and then downing more than 30 very hot peppers.
Goodin said there were many ferociously hot days like that during the eight years he and his family were in the Lone Star State before returning to Virginia in 1981.
“We loved Texas, but the summers could last from March until October,” he said, noting it was one part of living there that he doesn’t miss.
Lisa Rickert of Colonial Beach said she never felt summer heat like August 2007, when the temperature hit 100 degrees at her home, then in southern Stafford County.
“I was just out of the hospital after being in a serious car accident,” she said. “My house had no AC and I couldn’t get relief in my car, because I had totaled it in the accident.”
To make matters worse, she was covered in hives from poison ivy she encountered after the accident.
“The sap was just oozing off of me and the only relief I got was walking down to the nearby Fas Mart” for a shot of cooler air, she said, noting that the only other relief to be had was a shower.
For Elizabeth White of Spotsylvania, thinking of hot days always takes her back to the summers of 1951 and 1952, when she and her siblings couldn’t bear the heat upstairs in their family’s home outside Richmond.
“We would stretch out on a cot on the screened porch at night until our parents hauled us up to our beds, to sheets that felt as though they had been baked in the oven all afternoon,” she said.
A close second in summer heat came a bit later in life when she was driving across Kansas in mid-August with a car that had a broken air conditioner.
“The wind blowing in the windows felt like what you got opening an oven door to take out a finished cake,” she said. “Everything shimmered with the heat and every gasoline station had several cars in its lot with boiling-over radiators.”