Little light is shining through the window, Lets me know everything's alright
Summer breeze, makes me feel fine….” --Seals and Croft
Windows open or windows shut tight?
I face this conundrum in late spring and early summer: when to shut the sashes and secure the locks and then wrestle my bulky, noisy, creaky, ancient window air conditioner into place. When to say “UNCLE!” to the hot days of summer and surrender. When to hermetically seal up the house and for the most part not crack open the windows again until after Labor Day.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the artificial cool: the sweet sensation of walking into a chilled room after wading through waves of sticky humidity. The relief of a chilled night’s sleep after sweating and schlepping all day. The hum of the machine putting me to sleep. I certainly get that some folks—the old, the ill, poor souls whose job it is to work under a hot sun—they deserve to chill out. In many places air conditioning isn’t a luxury. It’s a given, non-negotiable. There’s New England heat and then there’s Texas hot!
But me? I need my open windows.
I need to hear the train whistle blow late at night, stirring restlessness and comfort in me. To wake up to bird song in the morning, cardinals and finches and mourning doves heralding a new day. I need to hear the pitter patter then the torrential tumult of a thunderstorm. To hear the laughter of kids playing catch, the whap of the ball in a baseball mitt. I need to hear the whir of a lawn mower and then smell the perfume of freshly cut grass. To be serenaded by the warble of the ice cream truck as it lumbers down the road on a sultry August afternoon. When the window is down and the AC is cranked up I’m deaf to this symphony.
Open windows do mean there will be noises we can do without: the numbing buzz of leaf blowers, the whine of sirens in the distance, the whir of traffic and horns blowing on the street, the cheers of late night revelers partying it up one block over. When we choose to keep the windows open we invite the whole world in, God’s Creation writ large, all of it: the good, the bad, the soothing and the cacophonous.
But that’s a risk I’m willing to take. I can’t imagine summer without seasonal sounds. It would be much too muted, quiet, muffled and certainly boring. Only three months ago our windows were shut tight. Remember? The singular sound then was the metallic scrape of snowplows. The soundtrack of summer is not supposed to be dominated by the industrial hum of an air conditioner. Instead it’s a top 40 song blasting from a passing car, the splash of water from a backyard pool, the sizzle of meat on the grill and peepers peeping at dusk.
I confess that on some wicked hot day in the weeks ahead, I’ll finally break down and chill out, turn my AC on. I’ll seal up all the air cracks and then pull within my little igloo of icy air. I’ll awaken each morning well rested but chilled, as if I’ve slept in a refrigerator crisper drawer all night long.
Until then I’m keeping the windows open for a summer breeze. After all, it’s almost summer! You just have to listen.