In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the (Summer) Evening

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It was about thirty years ago that I threw in the towel. After a little more than three decades of roughing it without central air conditioning, I broke down.

I have to admit. There’s something sweet about swimming in the hot muggy midsummer air. Like the reassuring aroma from your mother’s kitchen, you can smell it. Like the snuggling comfort of your favorite blanket, you can feel it. Like the glittering neon signs of the exciting night, you can see it in the twinkling above.

Yes. All the radiating vapor creates waves of transparent turbulence, only visible through the amazing sight of scintillating stars.

Not the planets, though, and there are plenty of planets out right now. About an hour before sunrise, Venus and Mars, with a hint of Mercury, shine in the morning (along with the crescent Moon). In the night, you can watch Saturn chase Jupiter. Jupiter is the bright one.

Why do the stars twinkle while the planets and the moon do not? As many of you already know, but perhaps don’t really believe, you have tremendously good eyesight. You can actually see the planets as the orbs they are. They’re close enough to see the actual sphere.

Stars, on the other hand, sit so far away they appear as mere singular points of light in the night sky. As the atmosphere flows between you and the star, the light from the point jumps back and forth as an image would when seen through a passing glass of water.

Indeed, our atmosphere is just like a glass of water.

And, when it’s hot, you want to just drink it in.

Or you go inside and relax in the cool, cool, cool of the central air conditioning.

I thought I’d miss the heat when we got air conditioning. And maybe I did. But that “missing” was so fleeting I don’t remember it now. All I remember is how much better it feels to move from the humid heat of summer to the crisp cold of air conditioning.

I didn’t know how reliant I had become on this relatively modern convenience until we lost the ability to control our home’s internal environment a few weeks ago. Of course, it was during a spell of record-breaking heat.

Isn’t that the way these things always happen?

Worse, the failure of the air conditioning unit didn’t become fully apparent to us until shortly after 5pm.

Isn’t that also the way these things always happen.

It could have been worse. It could have been a Friday. Fortunately, this was on a Thursday.

Of course, we tried our best to fix the problem. Having failed at that, we opened the windows, made a quick run to buy an armada of small fans (the only ones available at a reasonable price), and began the search for a reliable repairman.

Our initial calls for help were met with “How’s next week for you?” By next week, the heat wave would have subsided.

Our last stab yielded a local fellow with quite a bit of a fan following. He showed up within the hour, assessed the problem, and recommended a solution. By the next day – and just before the steamy rains came – our air conditioning was up and running.

Life was good once again.

I can’t help reflect back on those 24 hours with the windows open and the fans a-blowin’. That brief one-day span transported me back to a time when life was, well, different. Not necessarily better, but not necessarily worse. Just different.

All those same sights, sounds, and smells breezed through the naked screens. Our neighborhood, antiseptic when seen through the impenetrable environment of air conditioning, emerged anew, buzzing with the activity that was always there. The neighbors’ kids alternatively played gleefully or performed landscaping chores dutifully. There was the regular rush of incoming and outgoing vehicles, either to deliver goods to the quarantined or to transport denizens to and from their intended destinations.

Mostly, though, there were the sounds of nature. Pervasive, yet pleasant, they soothed the day and the night. The barking dogs, the singing insects, the chirping birds, they all filled the atmosphere with a vivacity long forgotten within our hermetically sealed interior.

Ah, the chirping birds. It’s one thing to listen to them all day. That calms the inner soul. It allows us to become one with the countryside that surrounds us. In doing so, it makes us more efficient, more effective, and, most importantly, more effervescent.

But, in the early morning hours, those chirping birds… Those chirping birds!

What are they? On an alarm clock?

This is one of two reasons I remembered why I didn’t like leaving the windows open at night (the other was nighttime rain).

Every morning, precisely at 5:17 a.m., the birds would start chirping. That was thirty years ago.

Today, the descendants of those same avian species sleep a little later. Evolution tends to do that. In the year 2020, birds don’t start chirping until 5:18 a.m.

Mind you, this little birdie (i.e., the one named “Chris”), likes to work into the wee small hours of the morning. Ergo, this same little birdie (i.e., the one still named “Chris”), prefers to sleep well past the hour which the summer sun rises.

These other birds, tenants no doubt in the trees near my bedroom windows, run on a different biological clock. With no creative need to write late at night, they can afford to rest in their nest earlier; therefore, they rouse from that same roost when the sun first beckons.

I don’t know. Maybe it has something to do with Ben Franklin. You know, “early to bed, and early to rise, makes the early bird catch the worm.”

Whatever. It was only one morning. And who needs sleep anyway?

What I can tell is this: With apologies to Rosemary Clooney (who sang it), Hoagy Carmichael (who wrote the tune), and Johnny Mercer (who penned the lyrics), the cool, cool, cool of the evening – er, “summer” evening (I added that part) – continues to inspire me.

And it’s well worth the sacrifice demanded of those 5 o’clock feathered friends.

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