Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Diving into the Equinox

A swimming pool is an absurdity in NJ. There is no resale value: otherwise identical houses with and without a pool sell for the same price. Homeowner’s insurance will cost more on account of one. Maintenance is constant, the operational expenses are excessive, and the local climate (cycling between icy and hot, sere and wet) couldn’t be better tuned to damaging a pool structurally: walls push, coping stones crumble, tiles shatter, pipes separate, pumps rust, coatings peel, and covers disintegrate. Let’s not even talk about autumn leaves and spring algal blooms. In the winter, pools become wildlife traps: I’ve had to rescue three deer, including a scarily upset eight-point buck, after their sharp hooves sliced the cover and they fell in. All this for only four months of suitable swimming weather – just two months for the timid.

Yet, I have one. It wasn’t my idea. My parents wanted a pool. When their home became mine, the pool became mine too. Given the trouble involved, however, I’m determined to get as much value out of it as I can. May through September I go in the water every single day, even if the temperature is bone-chilling, as it commonly is. (It doesn’t matter if an outdoor pool is heated: solar cannot keep up in the cooler months while gas is too ridiculously expensive to use regularly.) I’ll enjoy swimming no matter how painful it is.

I jest – sort of. As long as the in-ground vat of water is out there anyway, I really do look forward to opening it in May. I really do go in every day even when very very cold. Also, I’m saddened when the season comes to close it. The equinox is upon us and the season has arrived. The pool was treated and covered today – after my (cold) morning swim.

The passage of the seasons, an inescapable metaphor for the waxing and waning of an individual life, is utterly entangled with the human consciousness and sense of the world. Robert Graves believed that all poetry had a seasonal aspect, whether obvious or not. (His analysis was much more complex than that – see The White Goddess – but seasonal awareness was part of it.) Without this aspect, you could have wordplay but not poetry.  Such awareness was far more intense in the past when people were more exposed to the elements. Today we drive climate controlled cars into heated parking garages and take the elevator in climate controlled buildings, but nonetheless we are conscious of the passing year. The autumnal equinox, signaling the end of summer and the growth of darkness, is an especially portentous marker in the year. All ancient people made a fuss about it. In ancient Greece it was when Persephone returned to the underworld for six months, thereby depressing her earth goddess mom Demeter who expressed her depression by letting crops and forests turn brown. In Japan the Buddhist holiday Higan is a time to remember the dead. According to Julius Caesar, who described the practice in his Commentaries, some Celts would burn a sacrificial victim in a Wicker Man.

I closed the pool. Somehow that doesn’t seem to measure up to burning a Wicker Man, but it resonates with me in its own banal way. Goodbye summer. Welcome fall.

Death Cab for Cutie: Meet Me on the Equinox


  1. I enjoyed the Wicker Man, but never saw the remake, which I've heard is entertaining at least on a bad level. I have a friend that has a pretty small pool in Austin, which last time I spoke to him presented the dilemma of either restoring it, which he didn't want to do, or filling it with dirt or cement. I don't know if he's done either yet. Austin has a lot of codes and laws so whichever route he goes, it'll have to be per code. West Texas would probably be a great town for a pool, but where I lived there was an Olympic-sized pool down at the university. I used to love going there in the summers.

    1. The original “Wicker Man” (1973) is such a classic of fairly low-budget camp horror that, if you’re familiar with it, the remake is hard to watch. Besides, the original has Britt Ekland who is…well…Britt Ekland. (I got to chat with her once at a Chiller Theater convention.) Meantime, the leaves hereabouts, while still mostly green, already have red and yellow patches. Couldn’t Persephone delay her return to Hades by a month?