New Zealand went into their second Level 4 lock-down last Wednesday 18th August on only my second day at my new job as assistant gardener at a retirement village. 'What an opportunity' I thought to myself. Here I was in an isolated cabin halfway down the property tenant's jungle of a backyard garden, a writing desk, a kitchenette (double hotplate, fridge, basin, jug), and time on my hands to continue writing Dim Day.
One of the tenants visits the beach every morning here in Paekākāriki which was great non-verbal encouragement for me to do the same - most mornings I have. Once lock-down arrived I chose to be a lot more discreet about it, running approx. 3km up the coastal trail, checking out how deserted the beach is before finding an unoccupied spot to wade in and feel the rush of winter salt water washing over me before jogging back to keep up my warmth. Occasionally the debris lapping in on the morning waves has left me less clean than when I went in, so on my arrival back I pop around the corner of the cabin out of sight and have a hose-down. A minimum of 21 press-ups, 21 "leg-ups" (lying on my back and lifting the legs up and down) accompany the morning rising from my bed, or the return from the sea, occasionally I do straight-leg sit-ups with my back as straight as possible. The abs aren't quite showing yet, but that's probably the fault of that packet of Toffee Pops and Whitaker's Artisan Chocolate I bought last week (...and the yoghurts, and the salamis, and the cheeses I bought many times before that as well!). But still, as I said to our new flatmate ("resimate" as I refer to the house dwellers on the property (i.e: Residential Mates)) when she expressed the fact that at her current mid-50s age this is the healthiest, both mentally and physically, that she has ever been, I concurred and was able to relate - in my 44 years this is also the healthiest, mentally and physically, that I have ever been. There is a photo of me from 2010 with quite a puffy face - years of Burger King, Burgerfuel, and heavy protein and carb dinners that weren't being worked off. Since moving into my car and living on the side of the river from 2018, all that unnecessary fat has been shed; with a much more consistent approach to physical body toning without any obsessive desire to build muscle, a massive reduction in food focusing on one good meal each day and only snacking (at most) (mostly nuts) beforehand (and coffee with honey replacing sugar) adding up to an average of 1.5 meals a day, I have consistently weighed-in at less than 67kgs for the past four years. There is no guilt should I choose to eat some Toffee Pops, some licorice (unless I eat them all at once, which I have done *shakes head sadly*), because I know that their energy source will get used rather than be stored (I mean, mostly - like I said, my abs still aren't showing *grumpy face*).
Anyway, enough about me. Dinners are coming along just fine. As you can see, tonight I made a crushed Pumpkin and Sunflower Seed curry with mixed beans on pulse pasta instead of rice. A very tasty meal for this lone red cabin dweller. But this is not a lone lock-down bubble (though I would have no problem if it was). Every day of the week, the five of us take turns cooking for one another in the house (back of photo, extra sleep-out to left), and have ranging conversations from gardening (everyone's a gardener, except me - total newbie!), to books, to music, to covid, to "can we trust the authorities???" - it's all up for discussion, and makes the evening over a glass of wine that much more enjoyable.
But what about Dim Day? Yes, what about the novel I've been trying to write since 2009? I have reached 48,000 words with only 5-6 scenes left to either write or finish off, which I expect the total word-count to be around 60,000. This is a good amount, as there has been a bit extra world-building going on, which I am cautious about. Why? Is not solid world-building the goal? Yes, but this book was never meant to describe a 'world' as such; it was only ever meant to describe a place. Imagine walking into a theatre to watch a play, seeing the curtains rise you know that the props in the background are not real, but you suspend your disbelief and invest in what the actors portray. This was always my intention, and I have tried to keep that world-building to a minimum so that the reader doesn't get distracted, so that the reader only knows what supports the story directly related to the characters. This is not science fiction, this is not mainstream 'genre' fantasy, I wouldn't even call it magic realism; there is no magic, there are no monsters and strange creatures, no technology advancing and changing society other than what characters may project with limited knowledge; what there is instead are animal and plant variations that inhabit their own ecological niche, there are people who act and feel like us living in a similar past, but there is only this place, similar, but very different, and the story that unfolds from one dim day to the next...
A steel-string acoustic trickles down from the speakers in high corners of the cafe-restaurant, sultry hushed vocals whispering notes of longing and wonder. Chatter across the seated tables ignore the minute contemplations spent on remembering love.
Amy busies herself with the chicken burger dripping soft avocado, cranberry and Camembert across the plate, a knife and fork is employed to quarter and then dissect until bite-sized pieces will fit in her mouth.
Clouds have greyed out the often blue sky requiring a two bar heater to help keep the customers warm inside, puffy jackets and wool scarves not enough to ward off the striking cold whistling down from the Kahurangi hills. Escape swirls the cranberry sauce up with avocado, holds on with some freshly cooked soft bun, and launches the sweetness at her tongue. Escape remembers that love is broken sometimes, and musicians are there to remind; songs will invade the quiet and calm in sultry whispers, breaths that fade into chattering voices.
A bus load of school children stop at the intersection outside, last day of term, homeward bound they run. A blonde girl looks in at the customers, raises a hand and waves. Amy is not sure if it's her the girl is waving at - child eyes are peering through a layer of glass doors, see-through canvas that squares off the café’s sun area, and the bus's own dirty and unwashed window. And Amy knows there are customers behind her.
But she smiles, raises her own hand, twinkles some fingers and returns to her burger, sopping up more spilled cranberry and Camembert hoping to avoid any embarrassment if the girl on the bus had in fact been waving to someone else. But Amy is sure she caught a smile out of the corner of her eye as the girl returned to looking forward and the bus moved out of sight.
The smile imbued the cranberry and Camembert with satisfactory sweetness.
Dimlight bathed the clouds in a bright silver glow that reflected rays on everything below, intensifying and radiating the silver blue of ordinary dim days into every crevice and knoll.
“We are children of the mist, our ancestors used to say. But I think they were wrong. We are of the earth, like the animals; for us to return we must end up burnt; so we commit ourselves, to this death inherent in life, to let our bodies die when our children have only just reached maturity ready to take our place and repeat the cycle.” Meridule paused, looking forlornly into the fire that burned and cremated the house that had been destroyed as the sinkhole beneath it had given way. "But we come here this evening to remember the lives of Sauel, J'nifer and their newborn lost far too early to this tragic event. Their hard work lost to the community, but the memories we have of them live on and set the example of what we ourselves must live up to - working for the community, helping raise children when called on, and friendships that never faulted. They go with the winds to settle in the lands somewhere else and be a part of the world again from where we all once came."
Jansuell glanced upwards as fire rose and shone orange against everything. This Dim Day made light again. But upwards with the flames would go the bodies that lay in the pit below, the wood floors, walls, beams and window frames, charring up and rising too with each spark that flung out, each wraith of smoke that billowed; all of it rising and dissipating outwards eventually to be a part of the clouds above and then depart outwards, away from land.
...away from the land. Like clouds drifting across the skies to coalesce into the mist.
Maybe the ancestors were right. We are of the mist. And my parents just wanted to know where we came from, or at least, just what was beyond. The same worlds as ours? The same neighbours growing the same fruit, farming the same crops? Why is everyone else so happy to just shrug their shoulders and say “It’s just mist. There’s nothing in it, there’s nothing beyond it.”? There are other people beyond the hills in the opposite direction, there must be other people beyond the mist. Surely. Why can’t we get to them?
Why can't we be like my parents and just try?
Some updates to keep me updated.