Thursday, July 8, 2010

Living a Simple Life - No Air-Conditioning

When we determined to try and live a simpler life, one of our goals was to regain small and subtle awarenesses that are lost in the hustle-bustle of the modern lifestyle. Not that a simple lifestyle isn't busy! But it is busy in a different manner.

One modern convenience we have chosen to do without is air conditioning. 

Not because we are superior beings who don't feel heat and humidity, but because it is less costly in terms of money and environment. It also allows us to keenly live with the seasons and the cycles of change in the year. We notice and appreciate when a cooling breeze drifts thru the curtains. We "feel" when a storm is coming, not just from ominous clouds but the other signals: scents of damp earth, undercurrent breezes turning up leaves, bird behavior, the heavy still air...and more.

But why would we care? Well, I feel that we had lost something precious when we lost our appreciation for small changes. And that we became weaker when we lost our ability to adapt, as our nature meant us to.

For example, this past Tuesday dawned hot and sunny and gloriously clear. I had elected to walk the two miles to mom's house to help her with errands. I had a water bottle and chose a shady route.

And then the text messages began: "don't walk! Heat wave! Take a cab!". 

Yes, it was hot. And I was dressed for the weather and pacing myself appropriately. But still folks panicked at the idea of a 40-something woman taking a walk. Why? Our modern conditioning. Fear of nature is what we are taught every time we tune into weather reports, with their doom and gloom scenarios, turning normal cycles into emergencies that have to be feared if not outright conquered.

Well, we don't have television. And when we turned on the radio in the evening we noted with disgust all the "its so hot! Its dangerous out there folks! Stay in the cool a/c" messages we heard.

Hot days are normal here in summertime. 

Even days that reach 108 or 116 or higher. And for millenia, humans survived quite nicely without a/c and without utter panic. We didn't even know the temp until later in the day, we just knew "hot today, drink water, move a little slower". And we had an enjoyable day, living more like our grandparents and great-grandparents did.

Today dawned grey, humid and heavy - clearly rain is on the way! It is cooler but stickier. I truly relished my morning tea on the deck this morning: listening to the slower rhythm of the cicadas, the heavy air perfumed with scents of herbs and soil, the birds clearly preparing for something - so I gather its probably more than a slow, drenching rain on its way - perhaps dramatic summer thunderstorms? And I appreciate the coolness!

As I walk to the train, I notice how vibrant the colors of flowers appear in this grey light. And how the moist air seems to almost feed and soften them as it also soothes and softens my skin. Subtle and small, yes. And I would miss these small moments if I were in an air conditioned taxi being driven to an air conditioned station. The people in the station don't notice the coolness, they only complain about heat.

To someone who moves from one climate-controlled box that smells of stale air to another - home to car to office to car to home - where the temp is always 68, I guess real weather is quite unpleasant.

To me, the temperature controlled boxes are unpleasant. 

Its all what you are used to - and what you tell yourself is normal!