The Memoirs of a Survivor
"that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny"
Doris Lessing won the Nobel Prize for literature this year. She has me shaking in my farmhouse over a cup of chamomile tea at 10:41 pm. An hour I haven't seen in a long time- what with waking up everyday at 3:48 am (a scant 5 hours from now). I just finished reading The Memoirs of a Survivor.
The only thing hopeful about this novel is the title. She Survived? She wrote Memoirs? Wasn't killed by the hoards of 4-year wild cannibal "kids."? Come to think of it at this late hour-- she probably was making some kind of analogy about how little kids can sure eat us up-- time, energy, emotions. Hmmmmm. I've got a few of those running lose around my house too. But in the book the hoards of subterranean wordless children actually kill people and eat them. They don't just confine them to playing Pinky Pie My Little Pony tea time with Hot Wheels action for the Little Ponies (when all I REALLY want is a nap-- because I've been up since 3:44 a.m.).
Ok-- so WHO told me to read this book? I forgot who you are but remind me why you said that this was a tale of hopeful survival in the face of collapse and apocalypse? Why did I rush into Borders to buy this book on your recommendations that it would buoy me in the face of the other apocolyptic books on my night stand? I know you are someone I respect because I bought the book immediately upon your suggestions. It helped that there was a new little "Winner of the NOBLE PRIZE in literature" sticker on the front. Please write me and let me know what you found redeeming.
The book wasn't really scary until the end-- until all of the people had left the city and the author (Doris says this is as close to an autobiography as she has written) and the young girl/woman character are left alone in the city with the cannibal children in the stories above them. It was them being alone in the city that scared me. It was even more frightening just now when I walked down my pitch black stairs looking out the living room window on acres and miles of dark, empty land. I knew-- just 10 minutes ago-- that I could not stay on this farm alone. I can't be here without Mike, Alma, Jens, and Lake. What would I do without Mike? And Happy. If Happy started to bark now I would be terrified-- not just scared. The other thing that scared me was that there was no place to escape to:
"...where would we be going? To what? There was silence from out there, the places so many people had set off to reach. No word ever came back.... And what of all those people who had left, the multitudes, what had happened to them? They might as well have walked off the edge of a flat world.... news from the east: yes, it seemed that there was life of a sort down there still. A few people even farmed, grew crops, made lives. "Down there"-- "out there"-- we did hear ofd these places; they were alive for us.... But north and west, no. Nothing but cold and silence"
Looks like I'll keep writing.... if interested you can click on Continue reading.
And maybe that is an analogy for my own escape from the city. Nothing but cold and silence. Both in terms of reporting back to my friends and in real terms with my surroundings. Mike reminded me in the mosquito free autumnal bliss of September to "hold that feeling through November." Perhaps he should have said to hold it through December or January. It is so quiet, so dark, cold.
I had to get out of the house two nights ago (inside for a few days with 2-3 sick people to care for-- flu, pink eye, etc...). Alma and I walked down the 1/2 mile driveway at night. It was so dark when we got outside the halo of the yard light-- so quiet-- so alone. Alma chatted happily holding my hand and skipping on the packed snow. I was wary, nervous. Stopping to listen, to look around. It was so alien to me to be so alone in the world. Nearest inhabited house 1.5 miles away. I saw the tail light of a snowmobile on the ridge some miles away and stopped in my tracks-- not comforted. Standing solitary with my little girl in hand out on the prairie-- without even reflective clothing in the dark. But it was more eerie than that. What are we on this prairie without our warm houses to run back into? What are you as a person, a mother, out here raw and exposed? There is not clan or tribe around me here-- I mean physically around me, around us. I stood there on this cold, dark (not even a star-- I longed to see just the light of a star), empty prairie with my little girl holding my hand. "Let's turn around now Alma." "No-- let's just go farther mom." She didn't know I was afraid-- we kept walking out into the darkness.
So back to The Memoirs. It is an illusion, isn't it?
"I had, in fact, often wondered if a certain family I had known in north Wales would shelter me. They were good farming folk--yes, that is exactly the measure of my fantasies about them. "Good farming folk" was how safety, refuge, peace--utopia--shaped itself in very many people's minds in those days."
That is how it shapes itself in my mind too-- this whole moving to the farm thing. Good farming folk. December is long and dark-- that is why, I guess, we gather for hymnsings and coffee at Eidskog Lutheran afterall. Why we light the night-- why we gather across the prairie miles to sing together. This is so typical -- I always leap to the positive (ok-- so the students in the Philosopy course will be surprised to hear that). That is not what I really meant to say. Enough on the hymn sings.
We (humanity) can't survive a collapse without community. Without each other. Alone on your farm is societal suicide -- like the vignette in The Road where father and son come to a barn and go inside to see three people hanging from the rafters. Those farmers, to my mind, could not bear to live in a barren and burnt world. We need strong communities- people who respect and treat each other as equals and share like equals. You need cohesion. Where does that come from?
When I talk about what I am doing out here it is to Resettle Big Stone county. I need neighbors. But it is more than that. And who knows-- maybe it is already here.
Time for a couple Tylenol PM and I'll take this train of thought back up in May or June.