On eating mouldy vegetables and the challenges of trying to balance spiritual pursuits with the practical realm.
I’ve been on my own here on our island for 5 days, Leah comes back tomorrow. It is day 5 of trying out living without a fridge. We thought that we would be able to use the fridge that was in the house when we bought it. It got left outside all winter while the building works were being done. When we came to take a proper look at it with a view to putting it in the house, we found that the previous owner had left a mouldy Tupperware in the freezer compartment for god knows how many months/ years and the seal around the door was all mouldy. It’s already a little traumatic scrapping that fridge, without considering the consequences of buying a new one, which will eventually be scrapped. I remember a dream I once had years ago, when in my early 20’s. A beautiful mountain village, the little buildings made out of stone. And in front of it: a big pile of broken fridges and washing machines. I remember because it was so vivid that I drew a picture of it. This is the state of things. It has been for decades. Fridges get shipped elsewhere so they don’t stay in front of the village forever, but they do go somewhere. You occasionally see them on the edge of olive groves, or along the side of the road, the “waste disposal” systems here not being as “efficient” as getting stuff out of sight and out of mind as they are elsewhere in Europe. Our house is so dinky it would just seem like having a fridge in there, making noise would just be too much of a strong presence. So Leah and I bought a couple of large ceramic pots to make an “old style” fridge out of- you have one pot that’s smaller inside a bigger pot with a layer of wet sand in between and a lid on top. Admittedly we still haven’t got around to putting the sand in and doing it all properly. We were using Leah’s parents’ fridge up until we left on our last trip. Transitioning takes time. It is not made easy.
So when I arrived back on the island a very kind new friend picked me up from the ferry port and took me to a greengrocers, so I could get some veg to tide me over for a few days. When I got back to the house I put them in a cotton bag and put them in the ceramic pot downstairs, figuring it was cooler downstairs. I cooked myself a couple of dinners, which served as lunches as well and so there was no real issue with stuff going off.
I’ve been having a wonderful quiet time on my own here these last few days. I meditate/ journal for two hours, I paint for 3 hours whilst listening to incredibly inspirational talks online (we finally have internet!), then I go to the gorge in the late afternoon sun for a walk and a cool dip. Then I come back to the little house, have dinner and write/ play music. If I didn’t need so much sleep I could fit in a run as well. As I’ve said to Leah, when I spoke to her on video call the other night: it’s been like my kind of perfect day. We joked, singing the song Oh it’s such a perfect day… I’m glad I spent it… on my own.
This morning I sat down to my meditation and I could feel inside myself that I was incredibly anaemic. Energy draining fast. Nearly that time again. I think of how I may be low on iron from eating just plant food the last few days. The sensation induces a mild panic, as I worry about whether I am looking after myself well enough. I have intermittently had this panic about whether I am able to look after myself ever since I left home at 18. I think it’s partly because my childhood was so medicalized, so many hospital and doctors visits, that when I got discharged from it all as a young adult I was left wondering: well, how do I know I’m ok? There had been so much worry about me not being ok, and so much measuring to check I’m ok, that how do I know if I’m ok now without all that? Also, my gut flora probably got shot from years of preventative antibiotics. I resolve to go to the restaurant to eat some meat for lunch after the meditation. I had been trying to hold off on going to the restaurant until Leah got back tomorrow. I’m trying to control my salt intake: that is difficult at restaurants.
I was able to put into practice some new techniques in my hour- long meditation and had an incredible experience in regenerating my energy levels. I make some quick notes then head down to the restaurant. They are packing up, the season is over! No tables, no chairs, just a lorry having stuff loaded onto it. Nooooo! Shit. Crestfallen I wonder what I will do instead. What’s the back up plan? The village is 5 kilometres away, stuff will be closing for lunch soon and I don’t fancy treking down there in the heat while feeling anaemic. Not going to be able to buy any meat, unless I call someone. I know there are people that would take me somewhere at the drop of a hat, but not necessarily in the village. I’m going through a hermit phase and I don’t want to call anyone for help. If I were here for longer on my own I would have to learn to do that. But not yet. I could possibly trek down to the village later when it’s cooler, if I get some food in me first.
I go back up to the house to check my stocks. There are a few veg left in the pot, but the bag has gone mouldy where it rests inside the pot. Veg breathe, you know. They create humidity. Probably would have been better just to hang them outside in a cool spot, like they did on the course with Lynx. I live and learn. But, after 3 full days of bliss and creativity, the practical realm has caught up with me and I’m not sure I have I done what’s necessary to plan for my basic survival needs. It’s not easy re-adapting when you are so used to having everything you need so close to you, you know, city life. If Leah had been here she would never have allowed this situation. She would have been straight down to the restaurant as soon as we got here so as not to miss out. She would refuse to eat veg out of a mouldy bag. There would be heated words exchanged. Maybe. I wash the veg off to see if they will smell of mould after I have done this. They seem to smell ok. The mould was mainly on the bag, rather than the veg. I decide to make a coconut curry and I go down to Leah’s parents house to borrow some spices. As I arrive down there, starving cats swarm around meowing loudly. The restaurant is closed and there are no more tit bits from there. They are panicking about their survival too. We are out of cat biscuits. But they are a sorry sight and sound, so I think… I can maybe give them some canned fish from the cupboard here. Then I remember- ah-ha I have some canned fish in my stocks up there too, that I can eat! Only canned octopus, down here. I open a can and dole it out, a little piece for each of the cats. I return to my little house with some spices and make my coconut curry with my mouldy veg and a bit of fish on top. It is delicious. Maybe a bit of mould once killed someone, or maybe on a few occasions. But I don’t think it will kill me this time. We’ll see…
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Fine artist, writer, musician Abigail McDougall, based in Thassos, Greece and Bristol, U.K.