Open Windows

This is the time of year in Florida when we get to keep our windows open, or at least we open and close them intermittently. Last night, for example, it got down to 41 degrees (30 if you factor in the windchill), so I found myself shutting them again at 7 a.m. and turning on the heat in the house for a while. And the other night it started raining hard, so my happy, comfortable sleep as I listened to the light patter of drops on a few leaves turned to a panicky 4 a.m. rush for the windows to keep from being drowned.

But the mostly-open windows let me hear things I wouldn’t otherwise hear, like the neighborhood roosters who delight in crowing at night, or the Northern Mockingbird–Northern Cardinal–Blue Jay trio who give me concerts almost daily.

Yesterday I opened my bedroom window quickly and surprised a squirrel who was apparently in the hibiscus bush just outside. He made a gray blur as he dashed to a nearby palm tree, where he proceeded to loudly chastize me with a suprisingly varied vocabulary for a good fifteen minutes.

My neighbors are mostly quiet, but that’s only because Tony’s wife didn’t make an appearance this year. My neighbor across the street, Tony, is a good man, a genial and exceedingly good-looking fellow who is unfailingly helpful and kind to Bill, the infirm old guy who lives next door to me. Tony’s one of the people who have made this area feel like a true neighborhood.

Every November for a least the last decade, a large U-Haul has pulled up at Tony’s home. A houseful of furniture is unloaded; a wife and long-haired miniature dachshund appear. Within three months she is screaming at the top of her lungs, slamming doors, cursing. The U-Haul returns; wife and dog disappear. It’s been an annual holiday tradition. Last year, wife and dog appeared a little ahead of schedule, in October. The dog was a little fatter, and she had stopped dying her hair (it was a mousy brown and gray instead of the brassy Clairol Nice ‘n Easy #103B Natural Medium Champagne Blonde that it was in previous years), but her voice still echoed for blocks.

This year, no wife, no dog. So no Christmas lights either, and no Inflatable Snowman Family, who tended to lose air so they always looked like they were melting. Not a bad effect for Florida, but probably not what the manufacturer intended, and certainly not what the wife wanted, as Tony was screechingly told on a daily basis. Dunno if Tony and wife finally parted ways for good, or if we’ll see yet another attempt at living together later in the season, but it hardly felt like the holidays without their yearly drama.

As a result, the neighborhood is quieter. I can hear wind chimes, the occasional dog barking, the birds. I like open window season in Florida. Even on the occasional frigid morning.

Thoughts? Comments?

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Categories: Humor, Nature | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Open Windows

  1. indigo bunting

    Ah, yes, the quiet in which to hear birds. The open windows. Sometimes I open my window in the middle of winter if I think I hear an owl or coyotes. But just for a quick listen.

    Brassy Clairol Nice ‘n Easy #103B, Natural Medium Champagne Blonde? What, are you gay?

  2. Me, gay? Perish the thought! (That is, unless you have a hunky guy you’d care to introduce me to.)

    As for knowing the hair color, that comes from buying some for my mother recently. A different shade, though same brand.

    Frankly, I think Clairol should start a new line of dyes with dreadful names like Trashy Ashen, Beer Blonde, Plebian Platinum, or Raunchy Red. I’m sure they’d be huge sellers.

  3. indigo bunting

    I love these names!

  4. Ya know, anytime can be open window time. If you want it bad enough. And you dress for it.

  5. True, though an open window in summer (which lasts for, like, nine months in Florida) would require perpetual nudity, and while I’m certainly not averse to the idea, I’m pretty sure my neighbors would be.

  6. Jennie

    Craig,

    I really must protest.

    You’re giving everyone a false impression of my beloved birthplace. Summer here doesn’t last for,like, nine months.

    It lasts for ten, at a minimum, with only the odd week of glorious, clear, cool (70’s) weather here and there to throw it into sharp relief, seasoned with about ten or twelve days of nasty, damp, cold, drizzly, overcast gloom, and two or three freezes spaced two weeks apart to send us scurrying to cover the plants, uncover them when the temperatures are in the nineties two days later, and then re-cover them again.

    Leaving the windows open at home year-round here doesn’t technically require constant nudity. It does, however, require a screened-in swimming pool, a grill with the capacity to be used as a complete outdoor kitchen, and, most importantly, a water-resistant laptop, which I haven’t, as yet, seen for sale. A new market, perhaps, with the planet heating up?

    🙂

    Jennie

  7. Yes. I remember growing up in Florida and no one I knew had air conditioning. Really. It wasn’t till I was in sixth grade that the schools started to get air conditioning. I remember that first window unit at our house too, the one where all the cold air leaked out of the jalousy windows about as fast as the machine could spit it out.

    Nudity is certainly practical, but a pair of running shorts or a sarong works well too. Add the outdoor cooking, the pool or beach, a hammock in some shady trees to hang out in during the hottest part of the day, frequent cool off showers, fans, well ventilated houses, and it’s not all that unpleasant. You sweat a lot, and drink lots of water, but then both of those are rumored to be healthy. Plus, the house doesn’t get that stuffy stale smell it gets from being closed up all the time. And the electric bills are lower.

  8. Jennie

    Yup.

    We didn’t have air conditioning until I was eight years old, but we had a mid-nineteen sixties concrete block and stucco house with terrazzo floors, screens on all the doors, and huge windows that opened all the way, and my parents had the good sense to plant jacarandas and camphor trees around the house, so we had lots of shade in the summer (and passve solar heating in the winter month, but nobody called it that in the sixties. Back then, it was called “common sense”.) I remember vividly the delicious feeling of sprawling on the cool, polished terrazzo clad in my still-damp bathing suit, reading away summer afternoons. TO be fair,I also remember falling asleep to the sound of the electric fan that was set up in the hallway leading to the bedrooms, because the night air was almost always still and stifling without it.

    Houses built only ten years after the one I grew up in were built for AC, not for the climate. The windows were much smaller, and instead of opening all the way out, many were either picture windows or sliders, really designed more for lighting than air exchange. Gone were the vast expanses of terrazzo, replaced with carpet over either concrete, or, heaven help us all in this climate, plywood. Trees were mowed down to make construction of cookie-cutter tract homes easier. A lot of the 70’s and later houses aren’t even masonry. Cheap stick-built houses proliferated, particularly during the 30-year cyclic downturn in hurricanes. Thermal mass was replaced with air-tight windows, insulation, and a big AC unit, a poor substitute indeed, as many folks belatedly found out when their power was out for a week or more with the hurricanes.

    So even though we lived here without AC growing up, the people who are here now, living in the newer houses that have sprung up like toadstools in a cow pasture, have a much harder time living in harmony with the climate because their structures don’t support it.

    It occurs to me that we could cut greenhouse emmissions by boatloads if we would just live in houses that worked with the places we live.

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