How to THRIVE in the Fierce Austin Summer
Well, it's official -- the summer heat has begun in earnest. On Tuesday the mercury hit 109. Whew! And it's only June. So we've got a few months to go -- til mid-September at least, if history is any guide. (The hottest day I've experienced in Austin was back in September 2000, when the temp soared to 114. I was living in an RV at the time.)
Are you tired of dreading summer in Austin? Would you love to be able to not only endure summer better, but actually look forward to it? Well, I've got the secret for you. It's very simple.
Turn off your air-conditioning. Yes! Turn that fossil-fuel-sucking, money-eating, health-damaging thing OFF. Open the windows. And avoid air-conditioned environments as much as you can. I've become convinced that air-conditioning (and climate control in general) is ruining us! It's impeding our bodies' natural acclimation capabilities. I also read recently that HVAC ducts often harbor mold and other nasties -- the very nasties that many people are using A/C to try to shield themselves from!
You may say, "But it's not that simple! I have [FILL IN THE BLANK WITH REASON WHY YOU CAN'T POSSIBLY LIVE IN AUSTIN WITHOUT AIRCONDITIONING]".
And yet ... for the most part, it really IS that simple. People lived without air-conditioning for millennia, and we can too.
Enjoying summer really IS that simple, as my fellow air-conditioning-refuseniks know. (Did you even know that there are air-conditioning-refuseniks? Yes! We exist! A whole class of eccentrics who despise forced-air cooling for various reasons. Some of us hate it for what it does to our respiratory and immune systems; some hate it for what it's doing to the planet. Some, like me, also just think artificially cooled air feels icky, for the same reason that a refrigerated peach or grapefruit feels and tastes icky compared with a fragrant, luscious fruit served at natural temperature.)
I dislike A/C for all of the above reasons, and more recently have also come to dislike it for what it apparently does to our BRAINS. And that is, air conditioning, used excessively over time, apparently eats our brains: It makes us think we can't function without air conditioning.
And so we stay indoors, confined to our little boxes. We scurry from house to car, car to office, never staying outdoors for long. And by so doing, we miss a lot of rich experience and important information.
Are you old enough to remember sleeping-porches? Or are you perhaps one of those diehard weirdoes who like to go camping while everyone else is huddled inside their refrigerator boxes? If so, you know the secret that all of us who sleep outdoors regularly are privy too: If you sleep outdoors, sometime around 3 or 4 in the morning, you will feel so cool that you might actually need a blanket!
All week, I've been working mostly outdoors. And sleeping outdoors, under an oak tree. (Mosquito netting is my best friend!) By morning, I feel downright cool! There's something about experiencing the full range of temperature variations (as opposed to 78 degrees 24-7) that seems to fortify one's ability to endure the extremes.
That said, when it's 109 degrees out, I notice the heat just as anyone else does. Here are some handy, obvious-but-overlooked tips for thriving in summer heat:
-- Stay out of the sun in the heat of day. If you need to do outdoor work, wake up early and get it done before the sun is high.
-- Watch where the pets go. They know the coolest spots. If you've lived in artificially cooled environments for a long time, your "sense-meter" might be a little dulled. Our four-legged friends can help you get it back.
-- Sleep outdoors! Buildings are extremely uncomfortable in summer. Build a little screened addition onto your place. Or screen your balcony or terrace. Or build yourself a portable, al fresco sleeping pod like this one.
-- Go to cool places during the day. Parks, the river, a big shady tree in your neighborhood.
-- When the sun dips low, grab a blanket and head to the park to eat supper. Summer heat can "light a fire" under us to deviate from the post-industrial "home-office-bed" rut that we fall into; re-enliven our routines and our relationships to one another.
-- Don't dwell so much on the heat. Focus on the GOOD of summer. Watermelon, cucumbers, picnics, kids running around laughing and playing. Enjoy your super-low electric bills (because without A/C, they are super-low).
-- Discover simple pleasures. If you live without A/C, ice is a major amazing sensory experience! And NOT just for drinking -- for the whole body. (Back in the 1960s, my family lived in rural Japan for a brief spell. The locals, who had no A/C and also didn't necessarily have refrigerators in their own homes, turned us on to ice-pillows.)
-- And finally, accept that the temperature fluctuates! Accept that you'll be hot sometimes and cold other times! Embrace the rich variation that is life on planet earth.
If you're disappointed that I don't have some super-fancy tips or sophisticated high-tech-yet-bright-green device for really thriving in summer heat, I apologize. But really, the most surefire way to really enjoy summer in Austin is simply this: Turn off your air-conditioning and spend more time outside.
(Typed on my MacAir, on the porch.)
* Note: I've happily lived without air-conditioning my entire adult life, entering cooled buildings only when compelled by an irresistible draw (seeing a film, checking out a library book, spending time with friends and family in their homes, etc.) or a legal mandate (renewing my driver's license, etc.) And, as many others will tell you, it's really no big deal.
Turn Off Your Air Conditioning : "If the place you live now was not in prior days a desolate wasteland, unseen except by the occasional nomad or caravan, then air conditioning is not required. However, most people lack the skills for getting by without air conditioning. Here's a quick primer."
Kill Your Air Conditioner : "The unnecessary refrigeration of America has become a chronic disease. It seems to have gotten worse over the past few years, with thermostats routinely set at 68deg.F, and sometimes even 65 deg., in the (far too many) hotel rooms I've suffered on the campaign trail. ... I will confess a bias here. I love warm weather, even when it slouches toward humidity. I detest the harsh, slightly metallic quality of the air forced through even the fanciest AC systems."
Help Our Workspace Be Not So Freezing! Truly chilling horror tales from the trenches of corporate America.