A Moving Experience

A friend in her early nineties is moving into an assisted living apartment this week. Nothing unusual about that, except: unlike most of us, in her long life she has never before moved. When she was born, her parents brought her home from the hospital, and she never left. She continued to live in her parental abode after her siblings moved away and her parents died.

It’s not that she’s a shrinking violet. Creative and talented, she had a good career, is loved by friends and families, still socially active. But this business of never moving makes her exceptional. The U.S Census Bureau says the average American moves eleven times in their life. Every year, 14 percent of the population is on the move.

We move because we get a better job, we want a nicer apartment, we need a larger house — and then after a few decades, a smaller one. With each move, we’re anticipating something better. Despite the upheaval, we’re excited and happy. Until that last move, the one that says we can’t live independently any longer. You’d think my friend would be devastated, leaving the only home she’s ever known. But she’s approaching it with her characteristic combination of practicality and grace.

Just think of the moving adventures she has missed all these years: the scrounging for cardboard boxes in which to stuff your stuff, the trauma of deciding what stuff to go and what stuff to throw, the renting of the U-Haul, the drafting of friends to tote that carton, lift that sofa!

I’m above average, having moved fourteen times. Most of my moves have involved an extra element of adventure: a quarter-ton behemoth, my piano. Anyone who’s ever owned a piano has piano-moving horror stories. My worst experience involved a lovely man, with whom I was romantically involved, and three other fellows who hadn’t been able to come up with credible excuses when asked to help.

The four were jockeying the piano through the front door, my guy in the lead, when somehow they knocked the storm door window loose. It fell onto the head of my beloved, shattered, and rested on his shoulders, jagged pieces of glass pointing at his jugular and other vulnerable areas of his neck.

“Don’t move,” whispered one of the men.

“I don’t intend to,” answered my beau, barely moving even his lips.

I was inside the house. The piano, halfway in and halfway out, blocked the doorway. I flew through the living room, dining room, kitchen, out the back door, around the outside to the front porch, where my sweetheart and his buddies were standing, frozen statues. Gingerly, ever so slowly, I lifted the broken window from around his neck. The men set the piano down, and we proceeded to pick glass shards from his clothing.

He was good-natured about it, but it was the beginning of the end. I heard later that he eventually got married, undoubtedly to a woman who did NOT own a piano. I no longer own one either. I make do with a professional-level keyboard. If there’s a fifteenth move in my future, I’ll pack the keyboard –– all fifty-two pounds, eight ounces of it –– into its case and simply roll it away.


Intemperate Temperatures

When the thermometer tops out at a blistering 95 degrees Fahrenheit, I call it a welcome reprieve. Last week, a friend and I were eyeing the forecasts for triple-digit heat. Her phone predicted 106. My more conservative computer suggested 104. Are you really going to be able to tell the difference between the two, she asked. As it happened, I could not. I was hunkering inside my air-conditioned home when a high of 107 was recorded.

Intemperate temperatures interrupt one of my favorite summer activities: daily opening and closing of the house. The sun thoroughly bakes the Okanogan Valley all day, but when Old Sol drops behind the mountains to the west, the valley begins to cool. When I moved here from the milder, west side of the Cascade Mountains, my husband taught me how to reduce energy costs while savoring nature’s rhythms.

When you wake up in the morning, every window is wide open, allowing a cross-current of cool air throughout your house, which smells like all outdoors, fresh and Freon-free. You luxuriate in this natural ambiance until about mid-morning. If you’re paying attention, you can sense when the air is getting a “leetle” too warm. If you’re not as attentive, you simply wait until your air conditioner clicks on. Either way, you rush around the house, shutting all the windows tight, locking in what remains of the night’s natural air, letting it mingle with mechanically cooled air that’ll get you through the rest of the day.

As evening falls, you start poking your head outside –– or maybe you take an iced drink onto the patio –– and wait for the reverse situation, the point at which the outdoor air is cooler than the air inside. Reverse the morning’s activity, open all the windows, and you’re ready for a good night’s sleep minus the rumbling hum of an air conditioner.

It’s kind of like a liturgy, a ceremony, almost sacred. Last week, however, the essential nighttime cooling never happened. The low temperature was too high for opening the house. For the first time since we began the lockdown in March, I felt truly locked in, isolated. I could better understand the dilemma of city dwellers who live in climate-controlled apartments and have no way of connecting with nature. I sat at my computer, gazing out the window at hummingbirds drinking from my hanging plant and trumpet vine. Flying free, they cast an occasional glance at me, the caged animal in the zoo.

Of course, I have two dogs for companionship. Both are shedding so copiously it’s a wonder there’s any hair left on them. The air conditioner fan distributes the fur evenly throughout the house.

My isolation is interrupted, too, by watching flotillas of inflatables and kayaks drift downriver with sun lovers aboard. I know from my own experiences floating the river that the cool water mitigates the sun’s intensity. And, hey. It’s only a balmy 95 degrees!