When I was little, I wore shorts and sleeveless tops and played outside a good share of the day, screen door slamming behind me as I hustled out the back door. No worry about sunscreen, no discussion about how hot and sweaty I might get–it’s summer. If I got hot, it was expected–it was summer, after all. And I could always get a glass of ice water and sit in front of a fan if I wanted a break from playing–or, at times, sitting outside reading. Surprised? Not if you know me.
Now, I’m sitting here debating whether to turn on the air conditioning. It’s a bit over 80 degrees in the apartment, but I have windows open and a fan going. In fact, I spent part of the afternoon putting the screens in the doors and rearranging the minuscule living room so that I would have a better cross breeze. I like fresh air and all that.
But…my hair is hot. Sweat is trailing down the back of my head, dripping onto my t-shirt collar. My feet are hot, too. My socks are a bit damp, and my ankles itch. Maybe I should take a shower. Maybe I should buy a pair of shorts. Or…I could turn on the AC and be comfy cool, thumbing my nose at Mother Nature’s hot flash. Summer–ha. No reason for us to be anything but cool as Kerouac.
Being me, this isn’t a question of personal comfort (or Beth’s comfort, either; she can deal). If I turn on the AC, am I perpetrating a system that creates soft, weak people, people who are disconnected from nature and the natural rhythms that our foremothers honored? My Cherokee and Iroquois ancestors survived in less hospitable surroundings than I’ve ever encountered (well, except for my junior prom. No native ever braved that–but I have faith they could have). Am I buying into a consumer mindset that is creating unsustainable expectations about the pampered quality of life I should have?
The personal is the political. Think globally, act locally. Both true. Both cliches I believe. This is a moment that tries men’s souls, the summer patriot, etc (Yea, Tom Paine is sticking out his zombie-tongue at me). I do believe that I should not turn on the AC, that a good person–one concerned about the environment, one interested in connecting with nature–wouldn’t mind the rivulet of sweat trailing from her ear down her bra…but right now,….well…I’m going to go sit in the Lotus position under my maple tree, decide what Thoreau would do.