"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Friday, August 10, 2012

Hot Fun in the Summertime

So, ahem, August is half gone and I've not checked in since May.  Nothing has been keeping me away, unless it is the convenience and mindlessness of posting on Facebook instead of making the effort to create a blog post.  Something sad about that, maybe.  Maybe not.  Maybe spending time on the computer, either way, is a stupid way to spend our limited time on the planet.
Not withstanding the drought that has been so awful for farmers, ranchers and people who survive by working with the earth and sky, it has been a heavenly summer, from my perspective.  To my surprise, the older I get, the less I mind the heat so long as I can come inside from time to time to cool off.  I used to see the baking late July/August heat as something to be endured, avoided, cussed and defeated.  These days, despite the string of particularly hot, dry summers, I find myself outside much more often, marveling at how stupendously our semi-arid acclimated plant life and animal life roll with it.   As I age, the notion of endurance is becoming a much more appealing trait than just being pretty. 
I was reading, recently, about how people managed to survive the awful heat during the dustbowl and it struck me how things have changed.  The practice in sunbelt/snowbelt regions, today, is to create an enclosed, steady temperature, artificial environment so we don't have to adjust to our climate.   In terms of energy use, you can't help but cringe at the gluttony and waste involved but it is so commonplace, most of us don't think in those terms.  I, personally, tend to take it for granted.   The elderly and frail are particularly susceptible to extreme temperatures and thank goodness we have AC for them.  And I am not even going to suggest that we don't need furnaces up north (of course, the wintertime, traditionally, is a period when people retreat indoors, sleep longer, have shorter days, rely on blankets rather than central heat, etc.). But, fact is, for most of human history, we didn't have AC and still managed to adjust, in various climates.  Strong people did, anyway. 
I am beginning to wonder if reliance on AC may be one of the single biggest things that has severed modern man from his previous intimate relationship with the earth and understanding of the rhythms of life (artificial light would be another such contributing invention).   I've read some people - even the nonreligious - claim that man creates his own environment so he is not like other animals.  Candidly, I don't believe that.  I think we are simply taking man away from the natural world, locking him inside buildings away from the natural stimulus and rhythm of life, and that there will be a price paid for that, down the road.

In contrast to modern times, during the scorching thirties, people would often sleep outside on porches, often on the west side of the house so that they could take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures for longer, more restful sleep.   They'd regularly wet down their sheets (and clothes) to cool off.  On the one hand, that strikes me as barbaric.  To be so desperate to be cool that you wet down your sheets seems  nearly unbearable - and pretty gross. 

And yet - on the other hand, it actually seems sort of sensible. 

Why try to create an energy guzzling artificially controlled indoor environment multiplied by millions upon millions of households when you can work with your climate in small ways - like a wet shirt or towel?  It isn't that a wet towel or sheet doesn't work (because it does) that horrifies me.  I think what really is mind bending is that we have become so accustomed to living in controlled environments that we are horrified that perfectly reasonable, environmentally friendly solutions which actually work would be necessary in the first place.  It is telling, to me, that most of us think being hot or cold or uncomfortable is unnatural.  But, actually, it isn't.  It is the opposite of unnatural.  We can rail against it or we can shrug and say, "HEY, it's summer/it's winter."
I'm learning the same thing about my health - sometimes, a cool rag on the forehead is a much better remedy for a headache than popping a pill.  We keep trying to get ahead of, and control, relatively minor discomfort instead of just treating the symptoms or ignoring harmless and minor aches and pains.  And in doing so, I think we are being less and less adaptable and resilient.    It isn't that I am against modern medicine - not by a long shot.  But I am starting to be a bit troubled at the lengths we go to keep from experiencing lowlevel, common effects of life, weather, age, etc.  And at my age, I speak, primarily, for myself.  The new aches and pains seem "wrong" if I decide they are.  But most of the time, they're not.  And there is nothing less conducive to peace of mind than to be of a notion that things are not as they are supposed to be.  Sometimes, the cure is worse than the problem it is supposed to solve.

As an early morning riser who heads straight for the backdoor with my coffee - and straight to bed from sitting on my patio in the evening - I notice there is an enormous difference in rhythm of life when you live outdoors vs. what we typically do, today.  For example, I can set my thermometer to a steady 73 degrees, stay indoors, stay up late reading, squint at the sun from within the house, windows firmly closed, and look forward to the day when the outside temperature drops -  not so much because it will make me more comfortable, but because the electric bill will be lower.   It is as if I am working very hard to shut out the changing seasons of life other than what I see outside my window.  And, frankly, much of the time, the curtains are closed. 
Contrast that to the pre AC days when people often suffered during the day, their misery increasing as the sun rose and positively baking until the sun set.  And they may have been hot but they didn't waste much time worrying about it or thinking it was somehow "wrong."  It's hot in the summer, after all. 

And yet.  I know from staying outdoors in the morning and evening that the moving air from natural breezes is healing.  There is a world of difference, comfort wise, between 72 degrees in the still, indoor air vs. 72 degrees in the living breezes, outside.  

Being outdoors makes us much more aware of creatures that share this earth at a level we would never achieve from television or a book.  Being outside connects us to the earth and nature in a way we simply can't accomplish locked indoors.   And the more I am outdoors, the less it seems uncomfortable, at least in the range of temperature that isn't death defying even when it is far outside the 72 - 73 degrees we've become used to.  I mean, if you have a breeze, it is quite comfortable ten degrees higher.  And if you have a sweater, it is perfectly comfortable fifteen degrees lower.  And yet, in that range, we frequently run our AC full throttle and huddle indoors.
Back in the days of the Great Depression, someone sleeping on the west side porch would surely endure brutally hot summer days, but chances are, as compared to their modern day sisters sleeping under the AC with the windows firmly locked against the oppressive heat, they would actually end up sleeping (for a few hours, anyway) in cooler, often 60 something degree night temperatures with a light breeze and the steady, white noise of the cicadas.  And lack of restful sleep is one of the biggest woes of modern man. 

But let me just say this - I keep on the AC.  I have big fluffy dogs not meant for this climate and a husband who loves the AC.  And just last week, we set an all time high temperature of 113 degrees and it only got down to 82 degrees at night.  That was brutal during the afternoon. 
But if it were just me?  Most of the time, even this time of year, it may not even get to 100 degrees and it frequently dips to the sixties, at night.  As I get older, I can't help but wonder if the millions upon millions of people creating these controlled environments and retreating from the natural world is pure insanity on several levels.  And the really crazy part of it is the mindlessness of it.  I'll find myself still running the AC clear into October when the temperature isn't even getting out of the 80's and it is sometimes in the forties, at night.  It won't run, nonstop, of course, but as long as the AC is on, there is a tendency to stay indoors as if outside is as dangerous as it is in early August, windows shut and and AC making sure we keep at a steady 73 degrees in case it - heaven forbid -  creeps up to 75 at mid day - and even nuttier, we don't open the windows and let in fresh air BECAUSE the AC is on.   
Pearly continues to do well with the auto-immune problem that attacked her eyes.  She is on 5mg of oral prednisone, daily, and 50mg of azathioprine on alternative days.  She also takes several eye drops, twice daily.  She seems to have all her vision back, her eyes are quiet and since we dropped down to the latest prednisone dose, her tail hasn't stopped wagging.  Last month, the eye doctor checked her out and was absolutely delighted.    She goes back to the internist in a couple of weeks and will have more labwork done.  If all goes well, they may reduce her prednisone, further.  I hate prednisone but it is a wonder drug. 

Evelyn has also had some health issues.  About three years ago, her coat started getting brittle and she stopped blowing her coat.  A year or so ago, she developed bald patches on her hips and a nearly bald, dinner plate size spot on her right side. The skin, beneath, turned thick and black. Around Christmas, I took her to the vet and had her thyroid checked but it came back normal. Her skin was not infected, thank goodness. We put her on thyroid medicine, regardless, but after four months saw no improvement so took her off. Then, in June, I took her in for an upset stomach and the substitute vet took one look at her and ordered a Free T-4 test that they sent out to another lab. That does a more thorough job of checking her thyroid function. Sure enough, she had very low thyroid function so they put her on a dosage more than twice what we'd tried, before. In about three weeks, I started seeing dramatic changes in her coat and energy level. She started blowing her coat and the bald spots looked even more bare.

The following photo were taken that shows the dark pigmented spot on her side.  The hips were worse:
Here, you can see the pigmentation getting lighter but she still has sort of nasty, matted hair that just wouldn't let loose.  I couldn't wash it out or brush it out without hurting her - it clung to her like glue:
A week or so, later, I could see the pigmentation lightening up, her hair started blowing out all over her body and she began getting baby guard hairs.  I could finally brush the coat and tease out some of the mats: 
After 8 weeks, I can see baby undercoat coming in and the spots seem to be filling in. These photos were taken a couple of days ago:

The skin has gone from tough, black and thick to pink spotted and thinnish.  The new guard hairs are getting more mature and the undercoat is filling in.  She is blowing out her coat in areas she hasn't, in years, so we are very pleased.  Mr. Wonderful got two full handfuls of hair off her JAWS, earlier this week.   She goes back for a recheck in another month. 

Grandson Charlie and his family braved the record breaking summer heat and visited last weekend:
Okay, is he not a living doll?  He is starting to talk and at one point wanted me to look at something so he shouted with exasperation, "GRANDMA!!"  I thought to myself, "That sounds just like he said Grandma!."  My husband was standing there and, without prompting said, "Well, that was certainly clear."  Since I am a long distance grandma, I think it was all the more thrilling.  My son is such a love - he often facetimes during the week just so I can watch my grandson grow. 

I've been working on a number of quilting projects - some I can show and some are "secret." 
Here are a few I can share:

Here are a couple of wallhangings I'm pretty pleased with:
I wanted to focus on the summer sun in the one, above.

I then made a sister wallhanging for autumn, using the same general design but the tree is bigger because I wanted to focus on that and the fall color.  Here is a photo before I bound it:

My next design in that series - although I haven't started it, yet - is going to be a leafless tree, bent in the winter wind, perhaps at night with stars.  I haven't sketched out my ideas, yet.  Now that I've figured out machine applique and fusing (always felt that was cheating, before), it has opened up a whole new world in art quilting.

I'm planning on doing a few more baby quilts in the next few months.  I'm also just about decided to take in longarm quilting, professionally. 

Stay cool.

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearly


Florida Farm Girl said...

Well, AMEN to that, Sister!!!!! Also, AC is a major cause of the lack of community, along with the disappearance of the front porch. Course the porches disappeared because of AC!!!

I grew up in the south in an un-airconditioned house. Attended a school without AC. We did survive.

I do find, however, that I'm guilty of hiding in the AC too much, though.

Glad to "hear" from you. Lovely quilts and wall hangings. You've been busy. And, yes, Charlie is adorable!!

Anonymous said...

One of the other things that people did before AC was to build sensible houses for their climate -- not only porches, but upstairs sleeping porches (had one in a Victorian house and moved our bed out there for the summer,) thick walls (especially in the arid south,) windows directly across the room from each other so as to catch any breeze. We've ceased to build that responsibly and I, for one, am sorry for it.


. said...

Sally and FFG, I agree with both of you and thanks for pointing those things out. Stout houses built to accomodate their particular climate coupled with onesthat enhance community ties have often gone by the wayside when people are building for profit rather than homes they are actually planning to live in. I realize people have choices when they build a new home but many nonsavvy homebuyers underestimate the value of those types of things.

terificreations said...

So glad to see you blogging again. I love reading your thoughts on the sensibilities of life.
Happy Quilting!