How to Survive a Summer in a Desert without Air Conditioning: Year in Review, Part III
The summer heat gave a sweaty, suffocating embrace the day we arrived in Grand Junction. Our morning routine became getting up at about 6:30am, making coffee, and walking the 100 yards to the gas station to use the toilet, fill our jugs with ice cold water, and grab a bag of ice for the cooler. At which point, we would have breakfast, and decide what to do once the temperature rose.
Most days, we would spend hours in the climbing gym - bouldering, lifting, showering, and/or reading. We were unemployed for about 2 1/2 weeks, and then I was left unemployed for about 4 more. When Cody went to work for those weeks, I maintained our previous routine, but added cycling, yoga, and writing for an additional several hours to fill my day.
With the heat, and added activity level, we both trimmed up pretty quick. It is easy when the only way to stay cool is to be inside of a gym for hours at a time. Not much else to do but climb. It's a highly recommended existence, aside from the debilitating 95+ degree temperatures we would have as we laid down to bed at night around 11pm. Sometimes you really don't know how dependent you are on power until you're lying in a sweat pool, sobbing with the knowledge that there is nothing you can do to bring the temperature down.
During one of my several weeks of unemployment, I built a swamp cooler. Fan, cooler, ice. It was the biggest fan I could find that was under 400 watts - the limit of the solar generator we have. It would also drain the power reserve within about 2 hours. I triumphantly turned it on as we were laying down to bed, only to realize that there was no hope for a even mildly cooler evening. The cool breeze was only detectable within about 6 inches of the crudely cut vent hole. I turned it off, laid back down on the radiating bed, and writhed.
In that moment, I experienced a feeling of both helplessness and determination. I thought about kangaroos in Africa, and how they lick their arms to stay cool in the heat of the day. Now, it happened to be the middle of the night, but our bus retains so much heat without circulation, making evenings far from a reprieve. I grabbed our only washcloth, soaked it in water, and added a few drops of eucalyptus oil. I then wiped down my legs and arms, and rested the open cloth on my chest for a few minutes - repeating this process every five minutes or so, until I was either comfortable, or at least comforted enough to drift off to sleep.
We went a summer in the desert without air conditioning or a fan, and made it work. Cody tolerated the heat in ways I couldn't possibly duplicate. It would be months later that I would discover my capacities for cold tolerance far surpassed his - thus completing the ying yang of temperature grievances we experienced the first year in the bus. The suffering must at least be balanced. (Be sure to continue following along, so you can learn how to go a winter without heat - as we did.)
Experiencing a lifestyle of impermanence is a mind opening experience. There is a reason landlords require year leases, and some jobs have 2 year contracts. People innately dislike struggle. And, it generally falls to our obligations as the only means to keep us from walking away. These obligations come in many forms, and successful marketing campaigns utilize this human quality in order to remain relevant. Bit of a tangent, yes, but I'll try to explain.
Let's begin with a basic obligation - debt. Easy to understand, we all have experienced it in differing degrees. Debt is universal, secular, and is the foundation for our entire society. It keeps us working, in our homes, connected, clothed, and mobile. My experience with college debt has been quite simple. It is a crushing burden, that keeps me productive in our society. The academic knowledge has long faded, and the resulting career path was not nearly as predictable as the degree field implied. But, it has been the single reason for me to remain in a job that I cannot stand, resulting in anxiety medication, increased consumption, and thoughtless, indulgent spending as the only means to make me feel that my life is within my control.
I do not know what my behavior would have been without college debt, but the nearer I get to paying it off, the more my mind has a propensity to think of fleeting exploits, travel, dabbling, and a curiousness about experiences in jobs I would have otherwise deemed "unprofitable, and valueless." But, but, the ladder, growth, expanse! Nay, the further from debt, the smaller I wish to be. My debt-free dream job would be that of dedicating a year dabbling in the many different opportunities this world has to offer - farming, pottery, music, construction, wood working, basket weaving, architecture, shoe making, theatre, aviation - a different experience every year for the rest of my life.
But, it isn't about me. It is about the greater good. And since we are in a secular society, I have no moral obligation to commit to the social order, but instead must adhere due to financial obligation. Now, all that is to say, as we sat in the climbing gym parking lot, sipping our post work, post workout beers, and discussed the possibilities for the future, there was no talk of obligations, debts, or commitments. We had no property tax to consider, or lease to break. This left only our desire or interest in something new to consider as we discussed what to do next. And that, for a society, can be a very unprofitable, unpredictable thing.
As the temperature began to dwindle, and the days grew shorter, Cody and I did in fact leave Grand Junction, Colorado. And, we headed back West. As the heat taught us the value of improvising, the impermanence gave us permission to follow our desires - contrary to our customary response of stomping out the fire, with the delusion that it is necessary for our own sake.