I swear I was born swimming laps. I have always craved the water. Arlen Wise (our resident astrologer) will tell you otherwise. She says I have more Taurus in more houses than anyone she has ever seen. Which shakes my inclination to believe in astrology.
Taurus is associated with the earth. And yes I like to garden. And yes I like touching dirt. And yes I love when the results of my minor labor manifests into string beans and morning glories. But I need water. I used to say I need cashmere until my wise husband pointed out the difference between need and want.
So this lap pool thing is a want that hangs at the end of every one of my emotional sentences like a wet dangling participle.
I went through all the proper channels for the permit, knowing I had three years to work on the husband.
However, the problem is manifold. I am married to my own personal energy czar. He trickles the shower water, he uses small towels (because it takes more energy to dry big ones) and he drives a Prius. He makes me turn down the heat and suggests wearing an extra sweater (not cashmere). He is so happy that fossil fuel is ruled a no-no in our town and renewables are required. We have wrestled with this issue for as many years as I’ve pretended we could actually afford a pool. But once, in a weak moment after using my argument about what a waste of gas and wear and tear on the vehicle it was to drive all the way to Vineyard Haven to Mansion House simply to satisfy my swim fix, he came up with a pellet stove heater idea and actually sat down, did drawings that we brought to the town hall and got the big okay.
It isn’t just oil and water that he doesn’t waste. Squirrels have been eating my bird seed. At first I thought, well, maybe we could live in harmony with all sentient beings. But not only did they take advantage by bringing their extended families to my feeder, but they hang there just chowing down. They don’t take a tidbit here and a tidbit there and then run away. They grab on and hug the plastic tube and celebrate the all-you-can-eat buffet. And now they glom way more than all the birds put together. It turns out they are not sentient beings. So my husband, the guy who won’t go shopping, can’t buy new stuff, refuses to succumb to the newest online gadget, has been jury rigging every contrivance possible to keep these fuzzy rodents away.
He tells me to swim in the ocean, the biggest lap pool around. And I tell him to make a really big pellet stove and put it at the bottom of the Atlantic and then I’ll swim in April.
He tells me the cold is invigorating and good for circulation.
I tell him they make squirrel-proof bird feeders. And they sell them at SBS.
When my toaster broke, the man took it apart the way a surgeon would open your heart to put in a pig valve. Hours leaning over the thing. Toasters don’t cost that much, I told him. I can fix this one, he insisted. And of course he did. We owned the same lawn mower for 29 years and it came used from Bill Smith for $25. Finally, when it was even more of an antique than it was originally, I tricked him into a trip to Home Depot where a lineup of shiny new red ones at almost the cost of dinner for two on Martha’s Vineyard forced him to capitulate. We bought a used dryer that he has welded together and given renewed life to more times than I care to report. The only way I got a new refrigerator was a friend bought it as a house present. My husband’s response to the offer was, as long as I can fix it we don’t need a new one, thank you though. When our patron saint of iceboxes pointed out the inefficiency of the old one, Joel had to bend. So are you getting the picture?
This is a man who needs to make something out of whatever already exists. He’s a tinkerer, an inventor and the ultimate recycler.
The fact is, it’s the fixer I fell in love with.
I guess I can frame the permit for our grandchild, since it will be proof that his Poppy tried to save the planet.
Meanwhile, l’ll see you at the Mansion House in lane one.
Nancy Slonim Aronie is the author of Writing from the Heart: Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice (Hyperion/Little Brown) and teaches the Chilmark Writing Workshop. She is a commentator for NPR.