Tuesday, March 19
I haven’t realised how extremely tired I was until my friend, the owner of the Magical Garden and the cabin where I am staying, left me alone. I texted Husby to tell him I arrived and everything was perfectly fine, then switched my phone off and sighed out loud “now I am offline”. This was the first surprise I gave myself.
I ate some bits and pieces, unpacked the essentials, used the gentlemen’s room, then left one lamp on and decided I needed real rest. So I went to lie in bed – there’s no door between the bed and the living space.
I sighed with pleasure as I stretched my aching bones, then decided the lamp was irritating me and I wanted the cabin to be lit only by the fire. I got up, switched the lamp off, then returned to bed.
I sighed with pleasure as I stretched my aching bones, then decided to get up and stop the toilet from doing that thing where you have to push the button again so it stops leaking indefinitely and making noise.
I sighed with pleasure as I stretched my aching bones, then shut my eyes. I opened them a moment later, alarmed, when I heard an odd sound – like a motorbike that’s going very fast, but the source of the sound was moving very slowly. It was an airplane. But the other noise, a louder one, was an owl looking for a one-night stand. I closed my eyes again and only then realised how extremely tired I’ve been.
In the last months, I’ve gone through a lot in my personal life, I ended up stuck in a legal dispute, and at the same time I am launching a book. If I had known earlier, I would have picked a different date, but the letter in which life was notifying me that it intended to get really intense must have gone missing. Coming here and getting off the grid for a week right before the book’s release date was probably shooting myself in the foot from the commercial point of view. But only now that I was able to rest have I realised how badly I needed it all this time.
After a while – it was still early – I decided to go for a short walk. To my dismay, I noticed some sort of brutal, bright light that made it difficult for me to do stargazing, so I turned… and faced the moon. It was so bright that I was literally casting a moonlight shadow. I gawked at the shadow, then back at the full moon. It was the only source of light around and no torch was needed.
I said hello to the trees and complimented them on how they’ve grown since the last time. I walked around a bit longer, but there was a massive craving gnawing at me.
You see, it’s not safe for some people to be left alone for a long period of time. Certain cravings that keep their head down when there are witnesses re-emerge from their caves. This one was triggered the moment my friend opened the fridge (which he stocked so well I didn’t really need to bring anything edible along). When I returned to the cabin, I could hear the song, the quiet hiss of promise. With slightly shaky hands I opened the fridge and stared at its contents. I told myself – this is ridiculous, after all these years, why would you do this to yourself? But I couldn’t resist for longer than a minute or two. I did it.
I drank a glass of milk voluntarily.
What is this sorcery?! The last time I actually wanted to drink a glass of milk was when for the one time in my life I was offered real milk, straight from a cow rather than straight from a box. I was quite sick afterwards – it was about 200% fat. You don’t get such strong liquor in a store. But this here was simply milk, as cartoonish as it could have been, and I craved it more than I craved anything else in the last few years… perhaps except for being here.
I didn’t allow myself to drink another one. This madness had end, and quick, before I had a chance to turn into some sort of milk-guzzling monster.
At some point I went to bed again, telling myself I just wanted to rest a bit, then fell asleep. I woke up 10 hours later. The last time I slept for 10 hours without help of strong medication or being very ill was *consults notes* never.
Wednesday, March 20
Those were, in order, my first thoughts of the day:
- Godsdamn aeroplanes!
- I should check my pre-sales.
- I should check my Twitter.
- I should check my mails.
- Oh, hang on, I came here to NOT be online all the time.
- But someone could be wrong on the Internet and then what…?!
I checked Twitter, found a message that was indeed important, responded to it, then took a quick look at the latest episode of Brexit. It had only dawned on me in the last days that Brexit was written by George R. R. Martin – you must admit that explains everything, including the reason why the last two books of Song of Ice and Fire are still not out. Then I remembered I came here specifically not to be online and that the news websites love nothing more than autoplaying videos (THANKS, all news websites, I am sure everyone loves those) which use tons of data.
I made a fire, had breakfast, some coffee AND tea, as I was feeling exceptionally decadent. I cast a quick look at the carton of milk, but the craving seemed to be gone. Praised be Gods. As Manic Street Preachers declared, if you tolerate this, kale smoothies will be next.
I took a long bath – an incredible luxury for me, as Amsterdam bathrooms tend to consist of a shower and an electric socket in a spot as near the water as possible. I took Pride and Prejudice along, because this sort of place attracts Austens and Brontës rather than anything vaguely modern or fashionable. Also, unlikely as this might sound, Jane Austen’s novels were an important inspiration for Storytellers, about which I will be writing sometime later…
I moved the big armchair to the fire and inadvertently turned into Gunnar, except 1) without moonshine, 2) or other medicinal additions to my coffee, 3) with a book, 4) not forging, 5) not owning a dog, 6) and not having unwanted lodgers with wrecked ankles around. See? My book is so not autobiographical at all… Five minutes later I realised that I got out of bed two hours earlier, but I was ready to go back to sleep. Apparently, this sort of exhaustion can’t be cured within one night.
There is a motorway nearby.
This is much less of a problem than it appears to be, as the motorway is very crowded. As a result, it provides some sort of humming noise that drowns in the background. In fact, during my first three visits to the Magical Garden I never even noticed there was a motorway until my friend pointed it out to me. Now I am only bothered by the fact of its existence, as if it appeared there to spite me personally.
I put on my lopapeysa (yes, I am pretentious like that) and went to get some more firewood. This made me ponder on why I wouldn’t actually like to be living in the 19th century (or the 9th, which I am writing about these days):
- I wear contact lenses.
- I like electricity (in a non-creepy way).
- I do have a certain addiction to the Internet Web.
- My back is too fucked up for me to be anything but a very mildly talented bard who should be forbidden from singing.
- Pizza with home delivery was not yet invented in the 19th century.
Two ducks quacked at me as I walked around. A bird I’ve never even seen before landed outside on a chaissez-longue, took a disapproving peek at me through a window, then departed. I smiled. The last time I came here it was very much a writing retreat – I spent the week writing, editing, writing, editing, writing some more. This time the point of the trip was to do nothing. The only thing I needed to do is upload the final_final_FINAL_withcorrections Kindle file to Amazon before Sunday. Still, being a planner, I resolved to make a list of things that had to be done:
- OK, some reading and keeping the fire burning
- And eating.
- Yeah, that’s it.
Speaking of eating, isn’t it nice that calories don’t count when you’re on vacation? (He asked, chewing on his 10th chocolate chip cookie within less than 24 hours.)
Thursday, March 21
I had a surreal experience yesterday. I briefly went online in the evening to discover I sold 17 books in one day, including two deluxe box sets and 10 hardcovers. I immediately panicked.
Impostor syndrome is a thing that is both very powerful and very illogical. If I hadn’t sold any books, it would be telling me nobody wants them. Since I have, it tells me instead that NOW people will find out what a crook I am, that I can’t even write “the” as well as literally any other person in the world! It took me until 2am to fall asleep, because both my brain and body were overheated. Since last night was cold, I built a very nice, big fire in the woodburner, then discovered that perhaps this night might become cold at some point, but at midnight it was still nice and at worst a tad chilly outside. I love saunas, but they are incompatible with the idea of sleeping.
I woke up five hours later, my teeth slightly chattering, put on the sweatpants and t-shirt I took off in desperation trying to fall asleep, wrapped a scarf around my face because the sun decided five a.m. was a good time to start the day, then dozed off for another three hours.
I don’t set the alarm when I am here. Normally I would be making sure I don’t miss the valuable time that I could spend, for instance, on being depressed, writing, melancholically listening to the fights at the bar downstairs, etc. This time I resolved to relax. Relaxing is hard work.
Today I had exactly one important thing to do: send photos from Iceland to a wonderful blogger, who asked me to write a guest post that was supposed to be about worldbuilding and accidentally ended up being about elves. I swear, elves are the worst. Not that I believe in them, as that would be silly. (Don’t tell them I said that.)
Spring must have been checking the calendar for once, because it started today – exactly as instructed. Freyr was reborn and so were the trees, the grass, the flowers. (And the owls’ libidos.) The blunt smell of winter was replaced by the green smell of life. For some reason this tends to be the time of year when I invariably sink into a depression that lasts for a week or two. I can’t explain why, as it’s my favourite time of year as well. The working theory is that my brain white-knuckles through the winter, then goes “aahhh… now I can stop” and stops. So far, though, I’ve been spared. This is not a complaint.
I’ve said this before and I noticed it tends to confuse people for some reason: one of my favourite things to do in nature is just be.
What I mean by that is that nature has no expectations to me. Nature is a whole, and I am a bit of it, but if I were to disappear, nature would still be here and would still be a whole. Everything and everyone gets replaced by something or someone else. This gives me a feeling of peace – that realisation that I am not essential to nature. Mother Nature never calls me, demands me to meet deadlines, criticises my clothing choices or tattoos, chides me for not eating healthy enough, tells me what to do. She is utterly indifferent. This is probably why I love horses so much as well. The only way I could upset a horse would be either spraying myself with tons of Axe deodorant (horses have good taste) or hitting it, and I would rather bite my head off and eat it than hit a horse. This is not to say I adore all animals, as two massive spiders found their death in the last days when I noticed their existence in my nearest proximity.
Someone needs to tell those owls to invent Owlr…
To be continued.