Mornings seem so easy to fill, with drowsy attempts at keeping eyes open, stirring cinnamon and sugar into a white oatmeal bowl, reading a chapter from a book, re-reading a note from a friend, and turning on the day's music. Even now into the afternoon, The Decemberists are enjoying a strong, non-stop monopoly of sound in the house. After listening to their NPR live concert, I wasn't ready for Colin Meloy's voice to stop, and tapped into itunes for their songs I had waiting at the click of the mouse. It's the right kind of December day to be listening to the month's namesaked band. Some of their lyrics are eerie enough to send the skin a good goosebump or two, or perhaps an odd shiver of recognition, and shivering is undoubtedly what this month has been marked by.
I've written about the cold here in Mexico's high plains before, but that was the rainy season chill, and for someone attuned to the nuances of nippy temperatures, this decembery cold is quite another thing. It hovers inside our house in highs of sixty degrees. I bless the person who brought space-heaters into the Mexican market; we can, at least, keep one room at a time in a state of comfort above seventy.
Granted, this cold lacks the winds that will buffet a bare face in New York. The lack of it, keeping the smog over the city like a sinister sister cat of Carl Sandburg's "Fog," is a happy advantage to living within a valley. And though the outside temperatures don't often drop far below those thirty-two degrees, houses aren't much made for fooling the skin of its freezing force.
The majority having been built of concrete, brick or cinder block walls, insulation is merely a dream and central heating even less than that. And so many in the mountains to the north and to the west are constructed of materials even less able to keep the cold at bay. The weather may not be North Dakota cold, but holding off a thirty-five degree night with a small stove and a drafty set of walls is a yearly losing battle for the very young and the very old and the respiratory health of them both. Patricio and I are fortunate enough to have that small heater we can move from room to room, an electric blanket in the night, small luxuries of heat when our fingers begin to feel a bit like ice.
And these decemberist cold days have led us to ideas much less chilling, hoping for a day to come when Insulating Concrete Form (ICF) technology would arrive in full force here in the high Mexican plateau, inexpensively allowing residents to build strong homes that feel more cozy than cold when the calendar reads December. It's humanitarian architecture, something viable and desperately needed. And it's a tune I'm sure we'd all like to sing to.