Somebody says, ‘I couldn’t do what you do’.
They mean sit in the Outpost, detached, distanced. Lonely, mostly.
The assumption being, of course, that that is what I do: sit. Just sit.
But I don’t. Sit. (I mean I do: but never for long).
They gesture the pool, ‘do you ever use it’.
Every day I say. ‘I swim nearly a kilometer every day.’
I should swim, they say, I need to get fit.
I don’t swim to get fit. I swim to keep sane.
And I don’t sit still for fear that staying in one place for too long might mean I become rooted to the spot.
Finding your niche is good. Getting stuck in a rut isn’t.
So I have found a peculiar kind of groove in Outpost life. One where I keep moving for fear my demons will catch me and gobble me up.
Do you read much?
Yes. But never during the day. Only late at night.
Do you watch the television?
Yes. But only after dark.
I sound like a control freak. But I don’t care. I’m not disciplined. I just know that direction is the only thing that keeps me going. Keep moving. Forward. Towards the light.
Hat and husband ask, ‘have you written your blog lately?’
Not much, I reply, ‘I don’t think I have much to say’.
They don’t argue the point.
They live here too.
But they prod my conscience. You can’t just give things up in the Outpost or you might give up altogether.
And so I help Hat make doughnuts. We roll and cut dough cool from the fridge.
We watch it bubble satisfactory and dance a jig in hot oil.
‘Always be very careful when you are deep frying’, I tell Hat, because it seems important to use the exercise to teach her something she didn’t know. (Because sometimes the worry festers: should I hold her captive here?).
And I don’t know why. Except that it’s very hot.
‘Because it will give you a nasty burn.’
We scoop golden doughnuts from carefulitdoesn’tburnyoufat and drop them onto sheets of newspaper and dredge them in icing sugar and Hat say, ‘look, like a snow storm’.
And then we eat them. For tea.
And we put one aside for her dad and when he comes home he will applaud our small act of warm domesticity because he knows how hard it sometimes is to put one foot in front of another when you’re not entirely sure where it is you’re going.
The garden has yielded a crop of leeks. Feathery-sage-strappy leaves atop cottonwhite bulbs.
I harvest a handful to accompany a roast chicken for supper.
I slice them into fat pennies and toss them into a pan with some herbs.
Sautéed leeks, I think.
And then I get distracted. By an email. By something Hat says. Thumbing a text message. Because I can’t sit – or even stand – still and patiently sauté.
Until I smell smoke.
And I look into the pan and the leeks are near charred.
But leeks from your own garden are too precious to chuck out. Especially in an Outpost.
So I serve them up with a flourish: caramelized leeks I tell my little family.
And they eat them with relish.
My accidentally caramelized leeks.