Alarming noises if you are not used to them, but if you are familiar, they are of great reassurance. In fact, it is more disquieting to not hear them.

This is the sound of heat.

It starts in shivery darkness when the house is shrouded in sleep. Perhaps its echo drifts into the fuzzy recesses of your slumber. But if you know the sounds, they don’t wake you because they are part of the everyday noises of home. You might even gauge the time of early morning by them if you happen to be awake already, and the slightest increase in room temperature helps you with that estimate too, without even opening your eyes or rising from bed to look.

“…Well, the heat is on….. it should be nearly time to get up…”

With the pings and dings comes comfortable certitude that the plumbing is working today and we have heat. Ours is a typical steam system dating back to 1931 – the year our house was built. Living here for as long as we have enkindles an appreciation for its appropriately named receptacles; our radiators really do radiate. From the boiler to the kitchen, then upstairs to the hallway and bathroom, through the bedrooms, back downstairs to the living room, diningroom, and returning to the basement – they apportion one beautifully simple system of warmth. There are few things as nice as sitting at the breakfast table on a cold winter morning with your leg against that blessed winter commodity as it rises through the house with the dawning hours.

Today, there was no ping, ding, or hiss.


That’s not good.

I better check the boiler.

But then – no.

I know what this is.

It’s okay.

Today is a marker – a delineation of sorts. Today is the first day in five months that the morning house warm enough for the heat to not go on.


We’re here again.

We have come around to spring in the northeast, and not only is the new season upon us, but it is starting to feel like spring, and sound that way, too.

Oh sure – there will be a few more percussive mornings yet.

But they will diminish as our days grow long,

and more and more, we’ll turn outside for that contented feeling of

radiant heat.

No pings or dings,

but wonderfully reassuring – just the same.

8 thoughts on “Radiant

  1. Spring! We had radiators when we lived in Jordan. I have lots of memories of winter with radiators, both the good and the bad. Your experience of waking up to the quiet had me think of how quiet it can be outside when it has snowed for the first time and everything is muffled. And of course the song “Steam Heat” flitted through my mind as I read. So many journeys you took me on with your slice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I thought this might be worth a slice because it is so familiar to me, but probably not to those in the southern climes. I don’t know the song “Steam Heat!” I will definitely check that out – thank you!


  2. This is such a wonderful post about the heat! I too live in an old (1929) house and the pings and dings mark cold mornings. Thanks for the noticing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congrats, you found a genuinely original way to celebrate spring! I love the focus on the noises from the heat, the appreciation of your heating system, not taking for granted something we don’t even consciously hear any more most days… until it is not longer necessary, for a time. Very nice piece.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Yes! I miss those discordant sounds of heat from old radiators! Your post perfectly captures the random, alarming sounds that become comfort when you know what they are. All the sound devices in your writing capture the experience of radiant heat. What a great perspective to take on the first warm days of spring.


  5. Lovely, I miss those radiator sounds but our furnace has its own tick tick tick as it begins the morning warmth. The metal expanding as the heat rises through the house. It feels a bit like breathing and release. Here in Minnesota we are still getting the early morning sounds but soon we will move to that warm of the sun only. Thanks for sharing this view of spring!


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