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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

I am almost 35 years old, and for the first summer of my life, I am living without air conditioning.

And I kind of love it.

Colorado summers are gorgeous.  All of the summer cliches - outdoor weddings, dinners in the backyard, long afternoons on the porch - make sense in Colorado.  The mornings and evenings are cool, there is practically no humidity, and there is almost always a breeze.   The sun is more intense here, which means that the shade is significantly cooler.  Sitting under a tree on even the hottest day is still comfortable.  Plus there are no mosquitos or cockroaches, and that in itself was worth the fifteen hundred mile drive.  Summers here are lovely.

Summers in the Deep South are to be endured.  The humidity, the insects, the heat.  All of the Southern  cliches - oppressive heat, air that can be cut with a knife - apply there as well.  The Deep South is pleasant in other seasons (while the West is still stomping slush from its boots, the Deep South is enjoying a glorious spring), but summers are miserable.  Swimming is the only relief from the heat, and even that comfort is often hampered by swarming mosquitos.  There, air conditioning feels like a human right.


So when we realized our house had no air conditioning, I thought it would be manageable.  We were moving to a cooler climate.  We can make it work.  I never imagined I would actually enjoy it.  It never occurred to me that, for a number of reasons, I would begin to prefer life without it.


For one thing, I feel more connected to the land.  The false chill of an overly cooled room has always felt canned and artificial to me.  Rather than accepting the natural world, we insulate ourselves against it, insisting on comfort at almost any cost.  This is a total way of life, of course, not just an approach to summer.  And to be honest I only give that up in small ways.  I like boxed cake mixes and antibiotics as much as the next guy.  But I enjoy stepping out of my cocoon, too.  Instead of creating artificial comfort, you learn to work with the natural world - closing blinds to the afternoon sun, resting in naturally cooler areas like basements and shade trees.  It feels more real.  It's a similar feeling to grilling your own chicken and chopping your own lettuce, rather than buying the precooked and bagged stuff.  It just feels right, somehow.

Also, without air conditioning, our neighbors are more connected to our daily lives.  Nobody around us has air conditioning, either.  Those with other types of arid cooling systems need to access outdoor air to use their systems effectively.  So we all have our windows open, or sit outside, much more frequently than we ever did (or could) in the South.  In the evenings and weekends, the neighborhood is full of the noises of life.  One set of backyard neighbors watches sports while cooking dinner; another sends their children out to play at exactly the same time ours are going to bed, causing us to pause every night and wonder, "Wait, did my kid just wake up, or is that somebody else crying?"  Across the street, a developmentally disabled older man instructs my boys to pick up their daily trash, and drags each house's trash cans back to their garage on Wednesdays.  And there was one afternoon when I was writing in the backyard (just as I am right now) and felt compelled to move inside, giving neighbors the privacy they obviously thought they already had.  Trash days, fussing children, blaring televisions ... we don't just hear and see our neighbors at barbeques, when everyone can put on their happiest face.  We hear their daily lives.  And they hear ours.  They are not my best friends, but we share a common need.  We are all in this together.


Don't get me wrong.  There are moments when I think, really, what's so bad about air conditioning?  And there was one week when it topped out in the mid-90's every afternoon.  I refused to turn on the oven at all, instead recreating Runaway Bride in front of the boxed fan and serving PB&J for every meal.  But most afternoons are like this one - shady, breezy, comfortable.  And I'm glad to live in a culture more accepting of the natural world.

As I wrote my last sentence a little long-legged spider crawled up my shoulder.  I'm not quite that accepting.  Yet. 

1 comment:

  1. I am reading this as I hear people laughing and playing with their frisbee in the park and the water gurgling in the creek. I am not sad to be missing the humidity in DC:)

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