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Conservation Corner: Fresh air or cool air?

Believe it or not, I often spend the whole month thinking about a possible subject for the next Conservation Corner. Sometimes a blast of insight comes out of thin air; but, most often, the topic evolves out of a thought, or a mere observation. This month’s ‘corner’ has been nagging at my brain for weeks, but I still find it difficult to put my thoughts into words.

The topic is: air conditioning. Most people have air conditioning and love it. Without air conditioning no one would choose to live in Florida or the deep south. And, being efficient energy minded folks, we have closed our windows and doors to keep the cool, dry air in and the hot, humid air outside. Few people with air conditioning would ever choose to be without it, ever.  And, for energy efficient homes, the cost in terms of electricity is not much.

So, what’s the problem? Maybe there isn’t a problem, but I do believe that there are some hidden costs that we haven’t taken into account. When I walk down the street, past the many lovely front porches on Saluda’s old summer homes, no one is sitting on those porches. No one waves or says hello as I pass; they do not know who the neighbors down the street are because they are sitting inside where it is cool. It’s a lot easier to not be afraid of your neighbors if you know them.

Also, there’s no way of hearing the sounds of birds and katydids and frogs and so many creatures that I can’t even name them all. Every morning I wake up to the sound of morning birds outside our bedroom window; it’s a wonderful way to begin the day. Then my pleasure doubles when Allen brings me a hot cup of coffee, so I can sit and listen to all the noises outside before starting my own chores for the day. I’ve noticed that there is lots of bird activity and conversations from tree to tree as the sun is rising. Then, when the sun is shining brightly overhead, the birds quiet down.

As I write this, I am listening to the sounds of quiet, evening noises outside: crickets, leaves rustling in the breeze, a wren, cicadas, a dog barking in the distance. These simple sounds bring a calm whose value is hard to measure. It’s a calm that is rare in our modern lives.

Several years ago a member of our small church in Saluda complained about there being no air conditioning in the sanctuary. Since he volunteered to pay for installation of the cooling system, we said “yes” and now we are blessed with a cool church, and windows sealed shut. This past Sunday it was not particularly hot, so it would have been a perfect time to open the windows and let the fresh air in. But, the windows are sealed shut. I miss being able to look out the window during the sermon; I miss feeling the fresh air. Most of all, I wonder why we are so concerned about our own comfort that we are willing to shut out the very thing that gives us life – the earth.

Life these days seems frantic. We are bombarded with cell phones, news, TV, social media, etc. Sometimes I feel like I want to put a suit of amour around me to keep all of that ‘information’ away from me. There is no escape – technology has made us accessible anytime, anywhere.

But I can open the windows, or go sit on the front porch, and it changes the way I feel. Instead of feeling the need to protect myself from all the vibes coming my way, I feel like I want to expand and to look out at the infinite skies, and to relax with the clouds and the sounds of the wind. Maybe the fresh air clears the clutter from my brain. It makes me feel like I am part of a much bigger place than our little house. I don’t know just what it is, but it’s there.

Am I glad that the hot, humid days of August are past and I can start cleaning the summer mildew off the walls on the north side of the house? Yes. Am I willing to trade that chore for keeping our windows and doors closed, with an air conditioner going, all summer long? No.

Life is simply better with the windows open!