seasons change

The house my brother and I grew up in was a big brick kind of rambling, drafty old house in central North Carolina. Back then we had cast iron radiators for winter and an attic fan for summer. It never seemed to get hot enough to need that fan often. We kept all our windows open, up and downstairs, and when my father turned the fan on it clicked several times before revving itself up to begin drawing in the cooler outside night air.

Central heat and air is a godsend when it works. Not long ago I came home from a morning volunteering at a local public garden with other avid gardeners, some master, some amateur, all compatible and happy. In our element. Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu greeted me with robust enthusiasm and joy and after a shower we settled in to a quiet afternoon.


Noticing I had become restless, Lily was incessantly panting,  I realized it was quite warm, so wandered over to the hall thermostat.

Blank. Just lines on the screen. No numbers. I randomly pushed some buttons. Nothing.

I have lived here for two years. The central air unit was a year old when I moved here so I pretty much figured it had not died. That first summer I was still unpacking and storing things in the very small attic floor space when I noticed water in the pan under the unit. I retrieved my little carpet cleaner vacuum and suctioned it out. Probably between 2-3 gallons of water. Then I called the air conditioning repair people. They came and suctioned out more water, flushed the system for clogs. This happened two more times that summer.


Last summer nothing happened. Refreshing cool air, ran fine all summer long. No trouble at all. So after the storm the service person came out in the fall to inspect and service the system. All clear, all systems go.

But the blank screen again this summer. After the service call visit where they checked the system, cleaned out the pan of water, cleared the lines, flushed for clogs I climbed those rickety steps and poked my head into the stifling hot attic to check that pan every couple of days. Dry as dust.

Until today.

So though I’d love to blame things on anything else I will never really know. I do not know anything about air conditioning units. I understand something about condensation but nothing much about why a system develops a clog. My dogs are long-haired but they would never go up those rickety pull-down attic stairs. I am told we have here on the coast a chlorine-resistant algae that is fond of growing in air conditioning units. I regularly change the filters in the ceiling. That is all I know to do. So when something goes wrong I do what I can but it is only alleviating the symptom. I need the root cause eradicated.

Maybe I could start a new career….


And so for now I am heading back up into the suffocating attic to suction out that pan. But I have a repair call in for this week.




Except for the mountains of limbs, sawed pines and hardwood trees, leaves, other debris the part of town I live in is more or less back to normal. County employees went back to work this week, libraries opened, schools will resume October 1, most parks have reopened, power is restored, roads are cleared, stores are open.

So having had basic repairs– roof, fencing –made I looked to normal fall maintenance chores around the house.

There are no leaves on the trees. They all blew off in the storm. I have already raked up what was on the ground, three 40-gallon trash bags. There is a section of rain gutter that got dinged when my neighbor’s tree fell on my garage so I got out the ladder to fix it.

Not a hard fix, but while up there I saw where all the rest of the leaves went and got down off the ladder to get a pair of gloves to clean out the gutters.

IMG_0656.JPG           very few leaves on the trees

This is normally not a difficult job but these houses in this neighborhood are very close together, maybe 15 feet apart, so getting a ladder angled to rest where I can climb up and reach the leaves is not possible in some places.

I am over 60 years old. Getting creative to clean out gutters is no longer the adventure  challenge it once was. One side of the house is far from the house on that side so it was no problem. The other side afforded no possible way to set the ladder against the house except almost vertically. I eyed the root-hardened ground where I’d likely fall and decided against it. The neighbor’s 8-foot privacy fence however had a four-inch wide cap along it which I was able to climb on and reach the leaves. Not optimal conditions but it worked.

And those gutters were full. There was a small tree growing in one spot.

I don’t mind doing small home maintenance jobs: replacing refrigerator gaskets, changing air conditioner filters, repairing doorknobs, installing ceiling fans. Saving money has always been something of a game to me, to see how much I can do at the least expense, but climbing around on ladders 12-15 feet off the ground may be beyond me at this point.


Rescue dogs Lily and Lulu stretched out on the fresh, green grass in the sun while I climbed up and down. They always stay close by when I get involved in a strange project. I think they know I must need to be watched. Should something happen I have no idea what they’d do about it, but they would at least be there to see it happen.


Fortunately this afternoon, nothing happened.

IMG_0657.JPG  a very pretty flower bloomed

“Consider how the wildflowers grow: They don’t labor or spin thread…”  –Luke 12:27





My father loved clocks. I don’t know if this gave him some sort of illusion of mastery over time but he enjoyed their mechanisms, workings, tinkering with them. We had a dear friend who owned a lovely and very old grandfather clock in constant disrepair. Whenever our families visited at their home Dad would spend considerable time with this clock. He usually fixed whatever was wrong but invariably it would need attention again, prompting another visit.

He once built a clock, my mother needlepointed the face of it, a blue bird and a cardinal, Roman numerals. This clock chimed every quarter hour and somehow never woke the household during the night. I loved hearing its chimes and the graceful sway of the pendulum. My brother and I would take turns pulling up the weights to rewind it.

Some years after my brother and I finished college and had left home another clock appeared in my parents’ home. Dad told me it is called a kitchen clock. It has a cast-iron body sculpted with Hummel-like figures over its face. The color has faded some but you can still tell what they are. He said it was his family’s when he was growing up and over the years the glass front has broken so the clock face and pendulum are exposed but I love this clock.

I found the clock in Dad’s attic when he passed away. It was lying on its back on the attic floor, abandoned. I did not know if this was because Dad had no place for it, or my step-mother didn’t like it, or it reminded him too much of his home with my mom, but I gathered it in my arms and carefully put it with the few things I was taking home. It ran well for a year or so, then stopped. I lived in New Mexico at the time and a coworker told me of a clock maker she knew so I took it to him. He repaired it and told me some of its history: not of great value, it had been made circa 1858 by W. S. Johnson, N.Y., the cast-iron front made by N. Muller and was considered to be what then was known as a kitchen clock, as Dad had said.

Again, after a year or so it stopped running. Now I had moved home to North Carolina and found another clock maker that many people recommended. He wanted to know how I had come by the clock. I told him of its history as I had known it, and that it had been repaired not long ago. After about 3 months he phoned to let me know I could come and retrieve Dad’s clock.

It runs at a 6-8 day stretch and needs winding with a key. The past few weeks have found it needing to be wound every 3-5 days. Then I would have to restart the pendulum several times before it would pick up momentum on its own. One recent morning, in a hurry to leave I wound it too tight and heard a terrible sounding crunch! I wanted to cry. I knew I had done something awful and found a clock repair person nearby.

He arrived one afternoon to look at the clock. I told him what I had done and he said it likely was the mainspring and gave me an estimate for what it would cost to replace it and clean the rest of the clock. I watched as he carefully carried it away to his car, his promise of its return in about 3 weeks.

My house is now silent. No friendly tick-tock greets my day. It’s like a heartbeat has stopped. Oh, the chimes stopped working long ago, but the ticking is what I really miss. As though it spoke to me, marking the minutes and hours of my days with me.

My father loved clocks, I suppose because they represented something of such great value to him: Time. He made the most of opportunity and everything life presented to him. He was intuitive and decisive, a combination which afforded him the best of everything he was and did. He often said no matter what happens, even in mistakes, you can make them work. And it’s not that you bite off more than you can chew, you just run out of time to chew it in.

He never ran out of time, but it did run out on him.

Miss you Dad. Looking forward to getting that clock fixed.

“Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight…”  ~Elizabeth Akers Allen