Living Without Air

Growing up on the peninsula south of  San Francisco, nobody had air conditioned houses. The natural “air conditioning” would roll over the hills from the foggy Pacific every afternoon at roughly 2 o’clock, and nestle into the valleys between the ocean and the bay. It’s a pretty narrow isthmus of land, and being surrounded by water made things naturally cool off every evening, no matter how hot it was earlier. I remember 100 degree days, but not too many- and never for more than a few days at a stretch.

When I moved to the northwest, I was surprised when the home we bought had central cooling. I wondered why on earth a house in the Evergreen State would need air conditioning. Central heat? Sure (No house I lived in in California had central heat, believe it or not. It just wasn’t needed. 70 degrees in May, 80 in July, 65 in December- a wall heater was more than ample.)

My first year here, I vowed I wouldn’t stoop to using something like central air. Then July hit, and it wasn’t so much that it got hotter, but it did that too- it was the days of hot stretched on- a heat wave. And at night, there was no cooling fog rolling over the foothills to chase the sweltering day. The first summer, I remember looking at the thermometer at midnight, and being shocked (shocked!) that it was still almost 86 degrees. At midnight! The California girl in me was completely offended.

So I turned on the air. And for the next eight years, I loooooved my air conditioning. My big fancy house had the biggest, baddest air conditioner, and that sucker kept that giant fancy house like a freaking ice box in July. And I loved it. I loved every minute of it. Except sometimes. When the California hippie girl would poke her head out and wonder what the heck? Then I would feel bad.

Now that we are in Little House, for the first time since we moved from California, I am again without central air. Along with my gleaming floors, and fancy French wallpaper, I surrendered my icy July air. But along with all the other things, this has surprised me. As it starts to heat up (finally!) I find I’m kind of comforted by the hot air. I find myself feeling more in tune with the rhythm of the season- the at the end of June, you are supposed to be warm, you are supposed to feel the heat standing in your kitchen window, while you wonder if the berries are ripe yet, and should you make jam today? Having my nightgown be limp, and the window fan whirring is oddly comforting. I feel more in touch with who I am this year.

Now if you ask me in August, the charm may have worn thin, and I may be hot and grumpy again. But for now, I kind of like this summer thing.

8 thoughts on “Living Without Air

  1. I’m from the Olympic Peninsula, and when I got my first car, it had no a/c, but that was no big deal because I lived on the water in the Pacific Northwest, and rolling down a window more than sufficed.

    Then I, with my car, moved to the Midwest.

    And oh my heavens, did I want a/c in that car. It was a tiny oven. It’s taken 5 years for me to get over the immediate feeling of nausea driving somewhere on a hot day induces. I have to remind myself that I have air conditioning in the car now, and I can unclench my fists and get on with my life. But I get what you’re talking about. I mean, I’m not about to go without here – it was 92 yesterday morning at 8 am – but I miss feeling the seasons. I guess I need to live somewhere where the seasons aren’t quite so drastic.

  2. Oy. I live in the Mojave desert of socal and yup, “it’s a dry heat”! The 1st year we lived here I thought I’d expire, just turn into vapor and float away. We have central air but have never turned it on, we can’t afford it. Between energy and water holy nightmare bills! We also use a “swamp cooler” which works more efficiently, except during humid days when a summer storm comes over the mountains, then we suffer and suffocate. After a year here folks acclimate and the 110 heat in summer and 28 cold in the winter don’t kill a soul. I admit I’m a baby who would prefer the socal beach temps, but alas, no.

  3. You obviously live on the other side of the Cascades cause over here in Seattle no one has air conditioning and other then one week a year we really don’t need it. Geez – we finally got above 75degrees earlier this week for the first time since Sept 2009 and now it’s back into the high 60′s.

    I had to laugh yesterday when my work gave a presentation on how to avoid heat stroke. I grew up in the heat and humidity of the east coast and midwest so the idea that someone worries about heat stroke when our average summer temps are in the upper 70′s (and no humidity) just cracks me up.

  4. I don’t remember what that feels like… to be content with just a window fan and no necessary central air.

    Any time you want to experience what it’s like to *NEED* A/C, you can come visit. The humidity of the Mississippi River Midwest rivals the humidity of the Deep South. And I’m telling you, I *never* thought that was possible. I step out of my van (with its glorious A/C) and my glasses immediately fog over. It’s crazy!

  5. Michelle- I discovered that last year when I was in Nauvoo! The only time in my life my glasses had ever fogged was at Christmas when I opened the oven after baking all day. It was insane!

    Then I went to Houston in October, and got schooled in what INSANE really meant. Holy. Cow. Not only did my glasses fog on leaving the hotel, convention, restaurant, lobby, car- but my HAIR was the size of Texas too! I couldn’t even fit in the car. I stopped even trying. And forget make-up in that kind of climate. Why bother? ;)

  6. If I go out in the morning, my glasses fog. Often. There is no such thing as a cool morning or a cool evening in my neck of the woods in the summer. I have NO IDEA how people lived without central air in the olden times. Ours went out at 9pm, and the house was close to 90 degrees in minutes. It was the worst night of my life, and girlfriend, there is nothing, NOTHING nostalgic about waking up with sticky pajamas. You’re only nostalgic because it hasn’t happened to you much, like the kid who gets to play in the snow for the first time when he moves from Hawaii to Utah. That kid is blissfully unaware that snow can KILL YOU. Sticky pajamas can be just as dangerous, not the least of which because they are connected to a hot and sleep deprived momma who just wants to curl up next to a fan and die because she knows that hell can’t possibly be this hot and she is damn well ready to risk it.

    Sorry, have I mentioned we’ve been having a miserable summer?

  7. I am laughing because I live in Alberta Canada and it is dry and cool here all the time and no one has a/c. It is mostly unnecessary a, like Seattle, our average temperatures are high 70′s-low 80′s in the summer and it ALWAYS cools down in the evening and overnight. I have said before that I think I need to go to the South, where it is REALLY hot so that I will never again complain and wish it would be warm like it is down there (we often joke that we have 3 seasons – almost winter, WINTER and just past winter). Hope your feelings do not change over the summer and you find a way to enjoy the heat!

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