Last week, Tom Rademacher of the Grand Rapids Press told the story of a Michigan couple, Kelly and Ingrid Fleming, who saw the central air-conditioning in their home break down in May and decided to leave it unfixed. And despite this summer’s record-hot conditions, they have enjoyed the summer more than they usually do:
“We’ve spent more time out on the back deck in the last two months than we have in the last 10 years,” said Kelly, 54. “The lack of air conditioning has opened my eyes.”
In taking to the backyard instead of an icy environs within, the Flemings started sprucing up their outdoor “room,” starting with a rehab of their patio furniture.
They scrubbed the frames and bought new cushions for the chairs. At a big-box store, Kelly purchased a canopy that almost completely umbrellas the large deck on the east side of their home. A string of Christmas lights was hung against one wall, and tiki torches were installed. A weather-resistant rug was placed beneath the gathering table, and Ingrid trotted out little tabletop screen tents that allowed her to put food out without worrying about pests.
Neighbors began to notice that the Flemings were starting to spend more of this summer outdoors, and they came closer. Soon, Kelly was raising one of the tiki torches extra high on a post a la Paul Revere, to signal to friends it was time to commune, and neighbors like Jim and Lois Rainero and George and Shelly Wetzel starting drawing near, for everything from suds to cigars to conversation…
And for the first time in two decades, the Flemings are sensing things they didn’t know their backyard even offered.Hummingbirds, for one, lay siege to the bulging Rose of Sharon. They’ve spied a family of wild turkeys, and hawks overhead. One recent evening, Kelly was minding his own business when both a raccoon and an opossum helped themselves to the deck.
I’ve heard similar stories many times now since Losing Our Cool was published. America may finally be learning that immersion in industrial “comfort” is not the only way to enjoy the summer.