I’ve been spending far too much time dealing with mold remediation issues for much of the last year. Too much time, because it has taken me several months to find the source of the allergens that have been making life pretty uncomfortable around here. We have a crawl space under our house. When we bought the house, the person who inspected it somehow managed to not notice that the condensate pipe leading from the air handler to the outside had to go uphill, as well as having a kink in it, all of which was causing the condensate to back up into the air handler. Consequently, for the last seven years, and probably a lot longer, water has been collecting in the air handler and rusting out the bottom of it. And the condensate pipe had also developed a leak at the location of the kink. So water was leaking into the crawlspace constantly whenever we were running the air conditioner which, in this part of the world, is most of the time. And the air handler had become all moldy and rotten.
The crawl space has a dirt floor, so all of the water that has been leaking into it has been creating a very damp substrate under the house. Whenever the air conditioner was being used, water would condense on the outside of the air handler (it has some insulation on it, but not enough to prevent condensation, apparently), and also on the ducts very close to where they joined the air handler.
I have discovered that a lot of the health problems I’ve been experiencing the last few years are associated at least in part with all of the bad stuff that was accumulating and growing under the house. We have mitigated this problem to some extent by getting a new air handler, having a condensate pump and a new condensate pipe installed, sealing off all of the crawl space vents, and putting a dehumidifier and a humidity sensor down there. Before the addition of the dehumidifier, we were getting humidity readings up in the 80s some of the time. A crawl space should not ever go above 60% humidity. Now it stays well below 60%, mostly hovering between 46 and 50.
I still have a lot of work to do, though. I need to remove all of the insulation under the house, clean the mold off of the joists, spray them with hydrogen peroxide, and encapsulate the crawl space with plastic sheeting. This will make a very big difference in the quality of the air in the house. I am currently using an air filter all of the time when the windows are closed, but it still would be better not to have any mold, even dormant mold, in the crawl space.
Ever since I accidentally swallowed that piece of broccoli that was too big to go down, and I have been unable to swallow any solid food, I have been wondering what the purpose of this experience has been. I have learned in the last several months that a lot of the swelling in my throat corresponds to exposure to things to which I am allergic. My guess is that my throat developed a sensitivity to allergens as a byproduct of the trauma that was inflicted on it as a result of the broccoli accident. So the throat problems are linked to the allergy problems, which are intimately linked to the quality of the air in the crawl space. Who would have thought?
So here is where it all comes full circle and begins to make some kind of sense in a cosmic kind of way. Ever since we moved into this house, I have had an aversion to going into the crawl space. I don’t have a spider phobia, or anything like that. I just have had a very visceral kind of aversion to going down there. There was some junk in the crawl space when we first moved in and for a few years afterward. Last year it was all removed. So the junk, while I thought it was part of the reason for my aversion, really wasn’t. To some extent, I have felt a bit claustrophobic about going under the house, because it’s a pretty tight space. Most of it is barely high enough to sit up in. But that’s not all of it. It’s very hard to convey a sense of the feeling of dread I had associated with the idea of being in the crawl space under the house, but it was very strong, and difficult to set aside.
So here we are in the present time. I understand the problem. I understand the solution to the problem. The solution is for me to spend many hours working under the house. With our current budget, there is no other solution.
I spent a few hours under the house preparing a place for the dehumidifier and installing it. At first I was pretty grossed out. But after a while, I started to feel good about cleaning up the crawl space. While I’m not looking forward to the many hours of work I have left to do down there, I don’t dread it. I no longer have any profoundly awful feelings associated with doing that work. It feels good to be making the bottom-most layer of our living space clean and healthy – to be bringing under control something that has been out of control for a very long time, and to be making our living space more supportive of our health and wellbeing.
There was a lot of hype in the media and in popular culture about 2012 and the world supposedly coming to an end. Of course, the Maya didn’t predict the end of the world, despite what people were saying. They just created a calendar that had an end to it. Nevertheless, a lot of people believe that a shift did take place at the end of 2012. A paradigm shift. I entered 2013 with an open mind about that, and I didn’t have an opinion one way or another about whether or not this was the case. But in the last two or three weeks, a shape has been emerging in my understanding of the current state of things that strongly suggests to me that a paradigmatic shift did in fact take place.
When we move from one paradigm to another, all of the old paradigm has to be cleared away, and the new one has to emerge in its place. It is necessary to allow all of the old to clear out, while doing the work of building the new. But this time, it’s not just the remnants of the old year that need to be cleared out, but the remnants of the entire old paradigm.
It looks like, for me, the crawl space has a metaphorical relationship to the foundational elements of my own life. It feels to me like the work of clearing out the remnants of the old paradigm is linked to the work of clearing out the remnants of the physical reality created by the malfunctioning technology under the house. It feels to me like when that is done, then the process of building my relationship to the new paradigm begins. All of my throat-related health problems make sense to me now, and I understand them when I view them in this light.
I have noticed a sense of alienation to old ways of doing things, both in myself, as well as a lot of other people. It seems that there is a lot of re-learning that is necessary at this time, and a lot of patience because of the potential for frustration as we find things not working as they’re supposed to, or at least, as we think they’re supposed to. This is something that I noticed beginning several months ago, and I commented upon it then. But this feels bigger and more sweeping in scope. We were in the process of moving in the direction of where we are now, but we hadn’t got there yet. And now we are here, and finding everything in a profound state of flux.
I don’t expect to know or understand what needs to be done from this point on, other than to get the crawl space cleaned out, and take the new directions that become apparent to me as they become apparent. This year I expect to be trying out a lot of new methods in the garden – essentially revolutionizing my whole approach to my job as facilitator in the garden. But I have no sense of how the whole picture will look once it is put together. This is ok, though. It is a process, after all. A process that unfolds each stop along the way and makes itself apparent one step at a time.