We are emerging, blinking, into the light. Groping our way out of the dark, tentatively confident, following a 48 hour power cut. We daren’t blow out metaphorical candles, lest we chase the electricity away. My grandmother stubbornly refused to bring the washing in off the line when a storm threatened in case we scared precious rain off. I am reminded of her as I write.
There wasn’t any laundry on my line though – when the rain came down, heavy and soaking and black; my washing machine has been languishing idle for most of the week.
And I have tried not to.
I have to try to pin my softly malleable Outpost days down. Define within them some sense of direction, a purpose. Or they will slip between my fingers and escape beyond my reach like the slippery yolks of freshly cracked eggs. And I shall have nothing to show for them.
What shall I do today? I ask myself when I rise.
It is harder when there is no electricity. The house comes lurching to soundless standstill so that the encouraging prompts of text messages and music and the internet are muted as power leaches from the vehicles that transport them into our muffled far-away isolation. And in the absence of lights to cast a friendly glow upon a room made gloomy by storms outside, it seemed cold and unfeeling.
That silence and the dark rendered the Outpost especially trying this week.
I sought to follow my small daughter’s example. I battled to keep as busy as she. I sat on a floor with her and made gift tags for presents which we later wrapped. We sourced last year’s Christmas cards and cut and pasted and coloured with felt tip pens. In the almost total absence of anything remotely festive about our geography (no Christmas Carols emanating from non existent malls, no decorations in the absent supermarket) I have found my little girl’s determined persistence to infect me with her excitement touching and, in the end for how could it not be, contagious.
But this morning when she awoke after a bad night of dreams that torched and flared her sleep so that it was not deep, she was uncharacteristically tearful. She had no energy for Christmas, she said. I was especially glad, then, that she had worked so hard to communicate her eager anticipation to me.
Let’s make biscuits, I said. Once, perhaps, once when I had a life, a busy one with friends and school runs and commissions and places to be, I might have thought baking biscuits an indulgence. Or dismissed it: too Earth Mother, I am more important than that. But now, now when I know that a single task, no matter its apparent banality, might be the only thing that stands between me and insanity, I try not to think of the life I used to have.
And so we did. Make biscuits. We pummelled soft dough with floury hands and rolled it on a board and cut it into hearts and moons and stars which we decorated. And I think Hat’s day was better after that.
And I stuck my tongue out at the Outpost and thumbed my nose at it. my little girl is bigger than you are. For in spite of its trials, it did not beat me this week. I’m not unscathed. But I am still standing.
And I have a tin of biscuits to prove it.