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– No fear

July 30, 2012

I know it’s the summer and we live in Andalucía but that’s no excuse for the extreme temperatures we’ve had of late.  Up to the mid 30’s it’s definitely hot, but acceptable.  Once it’s over 40 any sense of living normally disappears as everyone rushes around to get any necessary jobs done before midday when the heat begins to intensify.  Windows are closed, doors, shutters and everyone is locked away in the cool darkness of the indoors.   Air conditioning in offices now appears normal, I used to think it was an unnecessary luxury and a waste of electricity but in this terrible heat it would be impossible to work, not just because it is so uncomfortable but because I have realised that the heat fiddles with your brain.

In our case I’m not sure if it’s the necessity of being confined within our four walls or if it’s the sense that the sun isn’t the warm, yellow friend in the sky any more.  On these hot days it is a frightening, higher power which gives off a nasty, intense, white light and somehow seems menacingly closer to the earth and far more dangerous than our usual sun.  Everywhere looks colourless, the soil has turned to sandy dryness and plants that can’t stand it are fried.  Obviously there are periods of heat like this every summer and fortunately they don’t usually last longer than about a week but while it’s so hot, life’s balance sways and ordinary events take on a nerve wracking potential.  I don’t know why but it’s in this heat that the gradual construction of our little life here on the hill looks less possible, sort of temporary and fragile.  The heat plays with our minds, tormenting us with anxieties of the ‘what if’ type.  Like, supposing one of us fell and broke a leg how awful it would be to have to deal with getting to a hospital in the sheer blinding heat of the sun, intent on pushing temperatures past the mid forties.  Or supposing a forest fire crept over the hill in front of us and up the valley, destroying everything.  Would we escape?  What would we snatch up to save?  All these issues live with us in normal temperatures but the strangeness of the weather has made us feel less capable of dealing with anything.

It seems crazy that a few degrees of heat can have such an effect, but in a perverse way it feels sort of just, that our life is so tenuous, swaying and straining against the fine threads we have managed to secure ourselves with.  Definitely when the weather shows its power we realise that for all the comfort of our little hut we are really just one step away from living outside in a tent and nature here is definitely more powerful than we are.  Although mostly I feel sure that as time passes we will seize each new experience and stash it away ready to be dusted off when similar conditions come to torment us in future years.

Weird though, that fear should be so close and without our knowing it.  We had begun to feel brave after the initial worries of being here had subsided, those early imaginative concerns laid to rest.  And I think we have begun to accept a certain level of fearfulness is a part of this life.  We have even begun to understand that perhaps it’s necessary to let fear trickle into our lives just to gain the experience in dealing with it.  After all, scary things do exist and isn’t fear a valid emotion, just another to add to the many we’d rather not know about like sadness and worry?  Maybe we need the full set to make us complete human beings.  Needless to say that having realised this doesn’t make it any easier to calmly deal with fears when they arrive.

One of our biggest recurring worries is over our water supply which comes from a borehole.  It’s thirty metres down to where the water is and a pump brings it to the surface where it travels through a pipe to be stored in our water tank.  From there it either comes to the tap in the hut or to the watering system for all the young trees and plants.  In this heat imaginations can run riot over water or the potential lack of it and recently we did such a good job of it that, as if by osmosis, the water pressure dropped and we discovered that the tank was empty.  Our nightmare had become real.  Possible horrific reasons burned in our minds, the pump had failed, pipes were leaking, various electrical things broken or worst of all, the borehole had run dry.  Anxiety has its own special way of bunching scary things together and making a huge knotty ball of them, so that calm rational problem solving needed to sort through each possible answer takes a while to achieve, but eventually we got there and the tank is now full again.

Understanding and confidence seem to be the main defenders against fear, but each take a while to acquire.  Sometimes I worry that it might be possible to get through life without gaining either, especially when we are anxiously tackling some new horror.  But the upside is that having faced something scary and survived, it certainly feels as if you have added something to yourself.  As if the line between safety and fear has been rubbed out and redrawn a bit further on.  Well, maybe it feels like that for a bit before another of the menaces looks a bit bigger than before.  However, this time, while we’re still feeling shiny from coming through the borehole thing, we’ve decided to tackle another of our torments.  Our beehive, which is full of nasty, aggressive bees who are intent on attacking anyone who comes within fifty metres of their home.  The hive is dripping with honey so we have to get in there and remove some and put in new frames.  Hopefully we’ll survive and our new fear level will ease off a bit further, well, maybe.  And even though the temperatures, which have cooled off this last day or so will make it easier I’ll still be going through the whole thing having touched wood and with my fingers crossed because, however much we understand the theory of being daring, no one can deny that basic superstition is an important and necessary part of increasing bravery levels can they?

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