The Clicking of Heat

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The Clicking of Heat

By Robin Mills

Lying in bed in the early hours of the day, I hear a clicking sound. I know what it is, but what it does is to throw me back to a previous home where the thermostat nudged the heat to come on, making a click clicking as it did. That for years served as my alarm clock. That nudging started the huge monster of a gravity fed heating system that lived in the basement of my 1926 craftsman bungalow. A furnace so large that two grown adults on either side, outstretched arms trying to hug it like a big tree, could not join hands around its massive body. Maybe braise fingertips at best. I had never encountered gravity fed air before. No moving parts. Just rising heat tumbling into the cavernous vents that snaked to the various corners of the house.

No matter the time of year, there was always a slight singed smell with the onset of the heat. The first few times turning it on at the end of summer and early days of fall, it was dust burning off. That became the smell of fall into winter, cozy in its own way. But even after those first few days, the mornings always had that burnt smell.

Various people over the years encouraged me to replace the massive beast. Modernize. Get something new. But it wasn’t broken. There was nothing to break. Just hot air rising. What could be simpler. Yes, not the most efficient, but with the flick of a switch I could have warm sweet, singed air engulfing me.

In my new home, electric, with a heat pump and radiant floor heating, I can’t mandate immediate heat. It takes hours to warm the house. But, in the early hours of the day I still hear the clicking of the heater, and I smell the singed heat. But it isn’t there, only in my memory.

Robin Mills lives in Petaluma California. By day she is an American Sign Language interpreter. Her non-work hours are spent writing, swimming, hiking, photographing the world around her, traveling, playing in various art forms and swing dancing.

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