Saturday, January 07, 2006

Hot Tub Chronicle

Published 11-27-05

Sitting in the hot tub, I can see mountains and stars above them. Coyotes howl and yip in the swamp below, probably chasing down a deer, perhaps one wounded by a hunter earlier today. Occasional headlights show through bare hardwoods along the Shave Hill Road a half mile off and from Route 113 in Chatham further away to the northwest. My wife’s large, unintelligent dog growls at the distant sounds. There’s something charming about being immersed in hot water outside on a cold evening with snow all around. It’s best when there are no lights on in the house behind me and nothing to hear but distant, muted sounds that would not be audible but for the cold quiet around me.

Blinking lights of four passenger jets move slowly from star to star, two going southeast and two northeast. I imagine passengers crowded in those narrow seats and stewardesses pushing carts between them high above the dark mountains. Seems like a lot of planes to be over my lonely portion of northern New England at once; maybe because it’s the night after Thanksgiving and people are heading home. Though it’s quiet now, it was bustling in the house behind me the night before, as my grown children and their partners were here for turkey dinner. My daughter Sarah and her husband, Nate, announced they were expecting their first child - my second grandchild - next August. Life goes on. Bearing children is a sign of hope. Hope is good. I think it’s a girl. We’ll see.

With a barely-audible drone, one jet disappeared in the trees to my left as another appeared over the mountains ten miles away. The worn-down mountains have been there for hundreds of millions of years. Coyotes arrived nine or ten thousand years ago after the ice melted and humans around the same time, but jets have been flying over these parts for only about fifty years. I visualized people in the plane because I’m out in the quiet night alone with nothing else to think about, but it’s doubtful any of them are aware of me. Nobody knows what I’m doing except my wife, who scampered into the house trailing steam a few minutes earlier to sauté the asparagus and portobella mushrooms to go with baked scallops we’d already prepared.

I don’t bring the phone out to the hot tub and don’t play music either. I leave the jets off and I’m alone in the dark with nature, distant jets, a glass of shiraz and my own thoughts. Even a barking dog can sound charming if it’s a half-mile away or more away. In that melieu, it’s surprising what comes to mind. When the kids were little and we had animals, it was my job to feed and water them morning and evening. It wasn’t easy to leave my seat near the wood stove in the old house and trudge out behind the barn to break ice out of plastic buckets and add fresh water, but the animals were always grateful. Though I wouldn’t have walked back there in the cold if I didn’t have to, it was nice to feel the quiet and see the Milky Way above, smell the cold forest and animals, feel the air numb my cheeks and watch the moon rise over the pines to the east. I’d usually enjoy it for a few minutes before going back in. Sitting in the hot tub reminded me of all that. It was much the same except for the smells. Vaporous chorine scent replaced the fragrance of woods, but it wasn’t unpleasant, bringing back as it did memories of my mother doing laundry in the basement of my childhood home. The bleach smell was on clean sheets I’d lay down on Saturday nights after my bath - fond memories I didn’t know were still somewhere in my memory.

For fifteen years, my wife has wanted a hot tub but the idea of sitting in steamy water with other people didn’t appeal to me. It seemed like a yuppie thing. For two years in Massachusetts I was technically a yuppie - Young, Urban and Professional, but I didn’t live the stereotype. However, now that I’ve lived in rural northern New England for twenty-eight years and grown to middle age, I guess I’m a MARPie - Middle-Aged, Rural Professional and I’m not the only one around here. I don’t know yet what the stereotype for a MARPie is supposed to be because I just invented the acronym, but this one likes relaxing in a hot tub. Next time I’m out there, I intend to ponder the MARPie stereotype for part II of the Hot Tub Chronicles.


Anonymous said...

I remember hot tubbing on a snowy night in Montana last winter. It was absolutely beautiful, even serene, as you have described. My problem, however, began when the snow flakes splashed into the hot tub. You see, the flake would melt just before impact, therefore, when it splashed into the water around my face, the cold nipped away at my chin. I left with a chapped chin, albeit from a beautiful experience.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I still like it. Seems like it was a good investment. My wife loves it and she's in there much more than I am. It calms her down and that makes my life easier even when I don't join her.

It's wonderful to be in such soothing hot water when it's so cold outside. I have a slight odor of chlorine afterward, but no chapping so far.