When it’s Hot, thank the Lord

Yes, it’s hot and I want to thank you Lord, for air conditioning.

I’m serious. I want to formally and officially thank our Good Lord for air conditioning, because without the ability to escape the heat for a bit and sleep at night, I’d be one crabby, nasty, terribly unpleasant human being to live with.

I have to laugh at myself, because as I sit in my kitchen typing, gratefully at peace with the warm but tolerable temperature, vs the hot and sticky muck outside, I am drawn back to a memory of my youth, living in Oregon.

As I recall, I was about 6 or 8 and we were living on the west side of town, in a brand new sub-division. We had moved from California and I thought it was the coolest thing to be on a cup-de-sac, with acres of hay fields to play in as our back yard. Pause for a moment and let that sink in. New development….fields. Yep, no shade. Gratefully, Oregon is fairly temperate and doesn’t get too hot nor very cold. In fact, being a zone 8 (gardening term) it ranges from 20-90 degrees, but with only a handful of days in those extremes, if it ever got that ‘extreme’.  A typical, average day runs between 50-70  deg most of the year. Thus, many homes do not have a/c there, and when I was growing up, this exposed little house did not.

The sweltering run of hot days this summer brings to my recollection a particular ‘heat wave’ of one summer in that house.  What was probably only days, felt like weeks of 90 degree weather. My brother’s and my little bodies, (children tend to run hot anyway) felt like they were going to instantaneously combust. Poof! I was convinced my mother would wake and we’d be ashes.  It was so hot, this little child refused to sleep in anything other than cotton undies, and I recall my thoughtful mother bringing in a small fan to blow air on the sweating little bodies, in a failed attempt to keep us cool enough to sleep. Despite the near Adam and Eve-like state, the thin sheet over the top of me felt as heavy as a woolen winter blanket.

It’s rather humbling to be reminded of how spoiled I live as an adult. Not everyone has a/c, and with this long stretch of brutal hotness, I am even more grateful for the inspired invention of cooled air. I think of how life has changed due to what is seemingly such a simple idea and product. I marvel at the freedom and power of the American free market to make a once expensive, elusive and desired symbol of wealth and privilege, in to something the everyday common man can attain and afford. Think about it for a moment. We travel, for the most part, in comfort. We work, for the most part, in comfort. There are places for everyone to escape the heat, public buildings, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, gas stations, malls, community centers. It has become such an everyday, accepted luxury of living in America, I think sometimes it’s good to be humbled and be reminded of how truly blessed we are. It’s easy to get caught up in the difficulties of living, and so pausing for a moment to relish the little things can be a tonic to the life-worn soul.

And so, as I peer through the steamy double pane windows out in to that sauna, called summer in Minnesota,  I turn my face to the heavens and thank my Good Father for, what to Him is a just one of the many ‘simple’ gifts He showers on us in this broken and flawed world of ours…Air Conditioning.


Muddling Through

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When I woke up this morning, it was actually 28. Mind you, the date on the calendar is April 2, and yet the temp has barely topped 43 degrees for months. This is the life of someone living on the Great Plains of the upper midwest. It is a life of extremes that most cannot quite understand unless they have lived it.

I have many friends who are natives, and love it here. My daughters, who have basically been raised here, love it here. I however, was raised and lived all my life on the west coast of the country, am not a fan. I mean, in all my years on the west coast, I can honestly say I never heard nor saw someone doing this as April approached:

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Yes, that is grilling in the snow. This is a more positive view compared to a couple weeks ago, since we had one of our ‘balmy’ days and the snow had melted enough for us to actually GET to the grill! We decided it was cause for celebration, it was above 32 degrees and so the meat would actually cook!

Yes, Minnesota is land of extremes. Summers are beautiful I won’t lie. They are green, lush and by August, dry. This is the land of lakes, and we have plenty. Ironically, I’m not really a lake person, but I do love the river. While the lakes are silty, murky and have lots of vegetation, the St. Croix is beautiful. By late summer it’s warm, clean and slow running. No slimy weeds in your toes or little fishes like Sunnies to bite at your moles. My girls love to take a gaggle of girls, head to the beach to hang out and tan. One of my favorite family summer traditions is to pack a picnic lunch, and paddle the canoes from Taylors Falls down the river a few miles, ending up where shuttle bus takes us back to the car. It’s a lovely way to spend 4-5 hours on a hot and steamy June day off.

The heat here starts in June and doesn’t really let up until mid-September. While we have -20 in the deepest part of winter (Just for reference, that is cold enough to freeze the snot in your nose. Cold enough to vaporize a cup of hot water thrown in the air) , we reach nearly 100 at times in the summer. It’s a steamy heat due to all the water we have, so with heat index, it is over 100 at times. So, come August, another favorite family summertime tradition is to go up to the North Shore of Lake Superior. It allows us to escape the heat for a brief week. Not only is is cooler up there, but the scenery is breathtaking. Being that far north, you cannot see to the other side of the lake. It reminds this coastal girl of the ocean. It is my guaranteed once a year sanity break from being land bound. That far north, you sit on the slopes of the Iron Range. Tall pines, birch, elevation that produces rivers, streams and fun climbing trails all remind me of my beloved Central Oregon and the high desert around the Three Sisters Mountains. Staring out my window and looking at this:

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makes me pine for summer up north (Grand Marais) where we enjoy this:

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Sigh. When spring consists of snow, snow and more snow, it’s hard to envision and recall the warmth and green of summer. Right now, the forecast is for yet another couple days of cold, with the hope of warming by weekend. Sadly, all that warmth will bring is mud. Lots and lots of mucky, muddy, soggy ground that will result in lots of work to keep clean. Spring brings rain, which on the still frozen ground, results in flooding. Spring water and warmth, brings the mosquitoes, which are big enough to be semi-laughingly be referred to as the state bird. Spring brings the humidity. But at least with the arrival of spring, I know that summer is not far behind.

We had our first snowfall here mid-October. It’s now April 2. I won’t lie, my patience for winter to be over is waning. My fingers itch to be out in the garden. My body is restless to be in something other than turtlenecks and sweaters. My dog yearns to be taken for long walks in the farm fields. It’s a feel of expectation and anticipation. It’s a sense of impatience that grows stronger with each passing day. I know that once the thermometer hits 50, I will go from impatient toe tapping to frenzied activity, so I guess during this transition, I’ll have to settle for muddling through.