Screen door lets in smells, sounds of summer Breeze: Some Baltimoreans revel in the opportunity to let the season's fresh air in.

August 01, 1998|By Jacques Kelly

ONE MORNING this week, I was out for a walk hours before the mercury started getting frisky. On my route through the streets about a mile from my home, at the hour when people have their toast and coffee, I spotted wide-open front doors shielded only by a summertime screen.

I thought to myself: Fear of crime must be down, way down. People are believing in the power of screen doors again. Isn't this what a good, old Baltimore summer is all about?

One of my great satisfactions is to open my screen door early on a summer morning, let the fresh air in, and get the house cooled down before everything has be locked up tighter than a steamer trunk.

There aren't many times during the day when people are at home anymore. We're always at work or out on the road somewhere. So those hours we spend at home enjoying the simple pleasures are all the more precious. And what better summertime pleasure is there than opening a door?

The screen door tells a lot this time of the year. It says we're enjoying not being in an office. It says the living is slow and easy. It's all about being in Bermuda shorts and enjoying fresh peaches and blueberries and iced tea. It's about saying we're too hot to do anything we don't feel like doing.

Screen doors are works of art these days. They can do double duty as storm doors and security doors -- if you can figure out how to change the panels from glass to wire mesh. And thanks to improved hardware, they don't slam and make the noise of the old-fashioned, flimsy wood models of my youth, the ones with the rusty metal spring.

The springs have disappeared, along with the hook-and-eye latches of an earlier era of security. People who use screen doors lock them with real locks.

I am sure the people with the opened front doors have an air-conditioning unit here and there, but I still like a house where you can feel and smell the summer. That means opening doors and windows at scheduled times of the day.

These are all part of the daily rituals of mid-summer. Each morning when I open up my house I water the container plants because they'll croak a lot sooner than the stuff planted in the garden. Then the day's iced tea gets made. Then it's time for a walk and the chance to see what's new and different in the neighborhood.

It's a funny thing about leaving the windows and doors open. You might think this would expose your personal environment to a lot of unwanted street noise, but it doesn't.

This is one of the most quiet times of the year -- if you don't count the return of cicadas in the evenings. The heat seems to drive commotion underground. Even though I live in a dense city neighborhood, it's not noisy. Baltimore settles in and enjoys its summer -- or flees town and leaves the rest of us with some peace and quiet.

I compare the late July-early August lull to a snow day, when extraneous noise is muffled by six inches of cottony white powder.

And speaking of the seasons, I like to think of my screen door as being the hot-weather equivalent of the fireplace. On a January evening, I love to stretch out on my sofa and stare at the flames in my old hearth, watching the wood crumble and turn into ash.

In the same way, I love to open the doors and windows and live like a tropical planter for 12 weeks of the year.

Pub Date: 8/01/98

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