In the predawn darkness, all is quiet. Nothing moves, no car traffic, no dog walkers. No birds have yet taken flight. Even the tree leaves are still.
Not a sound can be heard.
Or maybe it’s just that I can’t hear anything over the constant roar created by the small air conditioner in the living room. It’s like sitting on a sofa next to a 747 spooling up for flight.
For the space I am attempting to cool, this little machine is underrated, but it works as hard as it can, and does chip the edge off the summer heat, making the room more livable than it would be otherwise. Without it, and absent any cooling breeze from the vast inland sea, the house would become so warm that even a night with all windows open would not cool it by morning.
Here, the summertime heat is assaulted with several countermeasures.
– Trees are the first line of defense. Two pathetically small landscape trees planted long ago are now as tall as the house. They provide an impressive amount of shade for the large west-facing picture windows of the living and dining rooms.
– Next are ceiling fans. Portable room fans are woefully ineffective, so Jeni installed ceiling fans in most rooms of the house.
– Fixed pane windows were replaced with ones that open, to catch as much of the prevailing NNW breeze off the water.
Coordinating these elements can be likened to the fiddling needed to get a Model T to run smoothly, a notorious exercise of complexity and adjustment I am told. In my one-man combat with the summer heat, my days consist of the constant monitoring of temperature, indoor and outdoor; adjustment of window openings to account for changes in wind direction; changing the speed of the ceiling fans as needed; engaging the air conditioner when either rising temperature or lack of cooling breeze fails to suffice.
This is a fussy, old-womanish business which can and does lead to something approaching a full-time summer job. If there are chores to do or errands to run, I make sure they are accomplished before mid-morning, leaving afternoons free to see to the management of indoor climate. Outdoor activities or day trips are postponed. In truth, anything that might cause us to lock up the house is ruled out. After about a week of this, I begin to feel captive to it.
The weather service reports that the official daytime high temperature has exceeded 90 degrees on ten or a dozen days this year, with the result that I have been busy at my self-assigned duties. But with the days becoming shorter and the nighttime temps having a chance to fall lower still, the end seems to be in sight. There is some reason to believe the long slide toward our signature grey, cool, moist weather, for which we are famously disparaged, has begun.
Before long the two trees will drop their blessed shade-producing leaves, the windows will be closed and latched and the little A/C box will be relegated to the garage for the winter. I will stand down from my vigilance while the earth continues its cycle around the sun.