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August 05, 2019

The Luxury of No Air-conditioning

People are shocked to hear that my family doesn’t have air-conditioning.  We live in an old farmhouse by the Chesapeake Bay.  Summers are hot and humid.  You can smell the marsh on muggy nights.  The crickets, cicadas, and frogs are so loud, but after a while it’s just a background hum.  When a breeze picks up you are immediately attuned.

We have all sorts of fans, and I half-heartedly joke that I know Laws of Thermodynamics on which fans should face what direction at what time of day.  Joking aside, I am serious about my theories on fans.  Before I leave for work, I run around the house becoming more and more late, adjusting some fans and turning off most.  In my strong opinion, a fan is truly useful only if you are in the room – unless of course, it is necessary for blowing out hot air or sucking in cool at a particular time of day.

When it’s very hot, 95 degrees with 95% humidity, you must move slow.  You take a lot of cold baths.  You stick to the shade, but nothing keeps you in the house.  Going outside can only make things better.  It’s better in the woods, under a tree, riding a bike. 

A storm pops-up – the wind gusts hot and then cooler.  The kids run out on the front porch and put their arms in air.  Some of them are even jumping for actual joy.  After the storm, the windows are opened.  Even the drops of rain on the windowsills are cool and a welcome relief.

At night the temperature drops, hopefully in the 70s.  You can cool down your core body temperature and wake up a little chilled.  The kids come downstairs wrapped in cotton blankets.  Some nights it stays in the 80s.  People sleep downstairs on the floor.  Someone is laying on a bench on the porch.  Everyone is complaining, ‘Why can’t we get air conditioning?’

I tell them it is a luxury to be in the season.  We are fortunate to live somewhere where the windows stay open all night and a cool breeze can kick-up into a downright burst of cold.  I’m lucky that the heat pushes us outdoors, or makes me stay longer in a store, checking out all of the bug repellent at the pharmacy, or taking my time in the vegetable section at the supermarket.  When it’s really hot, and we go into town, there’s no one outside.  Windows are closed.  TVs are tuned into the weather. 

Right now, I can still take the heat, but I worry, what if the planet keeps heating up?  What if I finally give in to comfort?  What if I stop counting our kilowatts and cook pasta when it’s 100 degrees because I can if the kitchen is air-conditioned? 

More than once we have pulled an old window unit from storage.  Inherited from my parents, it’s a safety net.  There was a heat wave 1999 and another in 2001…maybe another in 2006, where we changed the filter and started her up.  On those nights we all sleep in the air-conditioned room.  Sleeping bags and pillows all over the floor.

Ask the kids, and you’ll hear a different interpretation, more about the hardships of heat.  Maybe by next year, there will be boxes popping out of our windows, curtains will be drawn, and an old movie on the TV while we wait for the heat to pass.  For now, I think living in this beautiful part of the world, with the heat and the cold, lets me appreciate the comforts and challenges of each season.  It’s really quite humbling to feel subject to and part of it all.

Wishing everyone cool breezes this summer!