LAKE MACBRIDE— During childhood, our home had no air conditioning. We had four mature trees, two pine and two maple, on the south and west sides of the house. There was an exhaust fan on the upper landing of the staircase that led to our bedrooms on the second floor. During the summer heat, we slept with windows open and the exhaust fan on. When temperatures cooled as night progressed to dawn, our parents turned the fan off. On good days, we woke to the sound of songbirds in the predawn hour. It wasn’t so bad.
During my military service I became a morning person, craving coffee and exercise when I woke. Some of the exercise was provided at 6 a.m. at our battalion commander’s direction. I would dress in my VOLAR (for volunteer army) sweatsuit, pile into my pickup truck and drive past the white asparagus fields and vineyards to the caserne for a several mile run. Ours was an infantry unit, so we worked in whatever weather presented itself— exercise being part of our work. The caserne had no air conditioner either.
We didn’t have central air conditioning in our home until we moved here from Indiana and sold the two window air conditioners we had accumulated. Central air was a luxury we have come to depend upon during the heat spells of Eastern Iowa.
Last summer’s drought was the worst. Continuing days of extreme heat had us penned up in the house, with the air conditioner hum drowning out the exterior world. I have learned to get outside more during the extreme heat, to tend our garden in the morning light, to work under shade trees grown mature from saplings, and to take a break when feeling overheated. Partly, this is adaptation to changing climate, and partly the behavior reflects a need to be useful in life. Both are important.
As the sky turns gray this morning, I’ll finish this post and have first breakfast. There are green beans to pick, garlic to check, and onions to dig, all while the temperature is in the 70s. After that, the perennial question of what to do with the remainder of my life, something wanting an answer despite best efforts to focus on this moment.
According to the weather forecast, there are about three hours before the temperature hits 80 degrees. It’s time to get on the gardening, after some locally prepared food for breakfast. The beginning of another day, presenting just as much opportunity as any day every did. A time for action to improve the sustainability of our life on the Iowa prairie. Part of that is dealing with the Iowa heat.