Sunday afternoon, Sept. 16.
Diane (my wife): “Are we gonna watch some ‘Outrageous Fortune’ tonight?”
“Outrageous Fortune” is our favorite TV show, which we watch on Netflix. It ran in New Zealand from ‘05 to 2011. It’s about a family of petty criminals from West Auckland, which makes it about as escapist as you can get for a couple church kids from the Midwest.
The title is from Hamlet’s famous soliloquy:
“To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them.”
I’m the suffering type. Diane takes up arms.
Brett: “I gotta write a column, and I have nothing to say to anyone.”
Diane: “You could write about making salsa! Or cutting wood! Or our 21 years of marriage!”
We never would’ve made it this long if it weren’t for Diane’s sunny optimism, so I generally take her advice.
Chapter 1: Salsa
Our marriage has lasted 21 years in part because I like to cook and Diane likes to do yard work. In the spring, while I’m making hummus from dry garbanzos, she’s planting tomatoes. In the fall, while she’s pruning the plum tree, I’m pruning the plums in the dehydrator and simmering salsa on the stove.
Without me, she’d shrivel up from forgetting to eat. Without her, I’d be lost in a forest of creeping charlie and wild cucumber.
Chapter 2: Cutting wood
They say “He who cuts his own wood is twice warmed,” but I’ve learned that he who cuts his own wood with a chainsaw is only 1.5 times warmed, and he who cuts his own wood with a 14-inch McCulloch is about 1.75 times warmed. I shouldn’t dis the Mac. It’s 20 years old and fierce as a wolverine.
Here’s another adage about cutting wood: He who works with a partner cuts thrice as much.
I hate chainsaws because they’re loud, stinky and dangerous. Every time I pull the cord I imagine sawing through my femoral artery or slipping a disc.
When you have someone to put the log on a good surface and hold it steady, it’s safer, faster and easier on the back. Another reason to marry someone who’s not afraid to get dirty (in the clean sense).
I also hate cutting wood because I know how many weekends it takes to cut enough to heat your house for the winter. Diane doesn’t know, but she’s determined to do it to save money.
So we drove the pickup down to the river and found hardly anything. Lots of rotten basswood, but not much dry ash or maple. Still, by the time the weekend was over, we had a month’s worth stacked against the house. We celebrated with an Australian shiraz and a New Zealand dramedy.
Chapter 3: Anniversary
We both forgot our anniversary until the day before and were reminded by Aunt Audrey’s card. She never misses a birthday or anniversary.
I sent Diane an email with a picture of flowers because she took away my credit card so I couldn’t order any. Actually it was a picture of a plant from the Messenger office with a couple fake flowers jammed into the dirt. Her coworkers were not impressed, but Diane didn’t care.
“Normal people don’t get it,” she said.
Which pretty much sums it up.
This column was published on Sept. 19, 2012, in the Mille Lacs Messenger.