Ways of seeing: Gentle heat provides pleasing winter thaw


During the beginning of the month, when it wasn’t below zero, I lost heat. Sitting at my computer, not moving around the house or yard, my hands were icy.

Last year and the year before I had heat pumps installed (two each year) and thought it was brilliant to have one blow right on me as I sit at the computer. And the room temperature was plenty warm last year. This year I couldn’t tell what was happening. The remote for the heat pump said 72 degrees, but the room temperature was 64 degrees. Sixty-four is not warm enough to for me to type. And the heat was inconsistent. Sometimes I could feel a little heat. Other times I couldn’t. I played with the remote. It seemed to turn on but the temperature did not budge from 64 degrees. I tried using a remote from another room. Nothing changed.

I made tea and held my hands around it. Turned the living room heat pump off so that it wouldn’t blow on the oil burner thermostat. Turned the temperature on the thermostat up so the furnace would come on. After the gentle and consistent air of the heat pump, the air from my registers became too hot and too cold. I could smell a faint noxious petroleum smell, even though the oil company had recently checked the tank.

One space heater was left in a spare room even after the heat pump installations, but I never needed to use it last year. This year I brought it out and set it beside my feet, but the temperature also was inconsistent — too hot and too cold. I was spoiled by those heat pumps.

Sometimes when wrapped up in writing, I ignore the practical aspects of winter in Vermont. My thoughts emerged from my writing enough to become clear that I needed to do something — and then even what I could do. Call the heat pump company and ask for help. I spoke to an office person who called the original installer, Tom, and he called right back and was here early the next morning. He opened the top of the heat pump inside unit and politely mentioned that I could wash the filters. I looked at them for the first time.

There were two coin-sized spaces. I asked, “What are those holes?” He said, again politely, “Those are the spaces where there is no dust.”
I washed both of the filters. They were plastic and easy to clean. Meanwhile, Tom pressed the ON button on the remote and heat poured out. I dried the filters and he watched to make sure I put them in right. It was so easy. I felt ridiculous. We talked for a few minutes. When finished, I asked, “What can I give you?”

Tom, with an angelic look on his face, answered, “You don’t owe us anything. I should have done a better job explaining about keeping those air filters clean.” My shoulders relaxed as he put his shoes back on and opened the door to leave.

What a difference having even, gentle heat makes in a winter.

Sas Carey keeps her connection with Mongolia by writing about it when she is warm enough and answering the phone when calls come through FaceTime from her reindeer herding friends.

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