I don’t tolerate summer weather very well, and pretty much everyone within earshot knows it.
And yet, for some odd reason, I continue choosing to live without air conditioning. Odder still, I can’t really come up with an answer when people ask me why I don’t just go out and buy a window-unit AC, already. I always hedge around and come up with some weird non-answer like “I’m afraid it will fall out of the second floor window,” or “I don’t want to take the window screen off and then lose it.” If the truth be told, I really don’t know why I don’t just go out and buy a window-unit AC, already. I think my reason has something to do with knowing that I’m alive.
Most days I can figure out easily enough that I’m alive, in the medical sense, but rarely do I seem to notice that I am alive, in the fullest sense of the word. Most days I’m on a sort of “aliveness autopilot” that gets me through the day without really appreciating what it means to be a living creature on planet earth.
To be fair, I’m not the only human suffering from a diminished sense of aliveness. It is becoming increasingly difficult to recognize that human beings are, in fact, messily and earthily alive, just like every other one of God’s creations. We humans are so enamored with the idea of taming and controlling our universe that we’ve forgotten how refreshingly good and lovely it is to live as a part of, rather than master of, the natural world.
21st-century Americans are well insulated from the natural world and our natural place within it. We are inundated with labor-saving devices, modes of transportation, and climate-control apparatuses which lull us into the belief that we have conquered Mother Nature and put her squarely in her place. When those technologies begin dropping out of the picture – as air conditioning has dropped out of my personal picture – we begin to notice that humans are not actually in control of very much at all. And that’s OK.
It’s OK to feel the realness of sweat. It’s OK to rely heavily on the hydrating magic of Sister Water. It’s OK to seek out the cooling magic of Brother Tree. It’s OK to take in the calming magic of Sister Flower’s delightful perfume. It’s OK to admire the resourcefulness of birds and cows and toads and badgers and horses and butterflies and all of our non-human animal siblings as they rely on nature’s own gifts to stay comfortable and safe in the midday heat. It’s OK to live in solidarity with those of our human siblings who do not have the means to manipulate their environment mechanically.
Blessed are they whose circumstances will not let them forget to give thanks for an incremental drop in air temperature, for the tiniest of breezes, for shade, for rest, for the hoped-for change of seasons.
As summer starts to ponder the idea of sliding into autumn, I find that I am increasingly able to offer thanks for, rather than complaints about, my lack of control over the magnificent workings of the universe. I give thanks for the mellowing sun of evening; for the cool diamond stillness of night; for the tentative, optimistic chill of dawn; for the sweet, enticing certain uncertainty of change. I give thanks for being fully aware of my place in the Great Canticle of Creation.
And it’s all OK.