It's been a while since I posted and there's a very good reason for that. I kept starting and stopping. All over my desktop like some literary car crash lie little bits of tatty writing, the remnants of my multiple attempts to inform and entertain. I wasn't sure what the problem was until today, but the answer made me happy. The answer, as the name of this post suggests, came from a popular archaeology program and the need to replace my wood supply.
Let me explain. You may recall that I met my neighbour Sabina even before I moved into Das Boot. She lives in the farm that can be seen from my balcony. She's become a valuable ally and source of information, always willing to help despite having four children and a plethora of cows. As you may also recall, I have a wood-burning stove and therefore I need wood -- wood which is a foot long or less. Some time ago I asked her where I could get more wood and she wasn't sure. You see, wood arrives in 1 meter lengths and if you happen to be a Slovene you're probably all geared up to make those bits of wood shorter. I, as you know, have a computer. It's rubbish at sawing wood.
I asked other people and tried some compressed sawdust blocks that are available locally, but they're expensive and not visually satisfying. The people at the hardware store were manically helpful and gave me the phone number of a man in the next village who might have wood short enough to go inside my wood-burner, and I promised myself that at some point I would try phoning him. And then Sabina and her husband Igor swooped to my aid. She said they had enough wood to spare and they have a saw of such technical magnificence that it wouldn't take her husband long to saw each 1 meter piece into 3. She quoted me a price for a cubic meter of wood which was exactly what I was expecting to pay, and these new neighbours of mine made me happy in a way that was oddly personal; the kind of happiness that comes from making connections with new people in a new place.
That feeling of happiness became lost in the background of this new life because on the very same day I headed off to my first downhill ski lesson with Andrei. I have my skis, boots and poles and for 4 hours I was sliding down slopes and being pulled back up again by mysterious mechanical means. I left Tyson in the apartment on his own for several hours and he was ok. By the end of the day I had the prospect of warmth, I had tried skiing downhill for the first time and Tyson had proved to me yet again what a good and dependable dog he is. It was a perfect day. The best day yet in many respects.
I set about telling the world of my first skiing experience and nothing I wrote did the day justice. Surely I could write about my first day of skiing in a way that would dazzle and amaze? and yet nothing worked. I didn't know why. I gave up, oddly defeated by it.
Last night I watched one of my favourite TV shows, Time Team. Time Team is a British program which shows a group of archaeologists using their skills to uncover the story behind a buried archaeological site in only 3 days. They use geophysics and aerial photography, old maps, and finally dig a few select trenches to unearth the truth that lies buried beneath their feet. I, as a non-archaeologist, always imagine that gold, silver, magnificent and precious finds would be the thing that gets the collective pulses racing, but it isn't. They get excited by pieces of dull pottery and changes in the colour of the earth they dig up. Seemingly mundane things thrill these people. Dull things. Brown things. I never fully understood why but then it hit me. It is the non-sparkly things that tell them the true story of human activity. Sparkly things are nice, but the shape of a ditch or the presence of a post-hole speaks volumes about what was really going on.
I finally knew what to write. I knew what was important in the story of me being here. Skiing is the sparkly find that isn't really important. Anyone can go skiing, as indeed millions of people do (even me, as it turns out). But how rare and important it is to discover that I have made genuine connections here among the local population. You can't do that by simply choosing to, it has to happen somehow. Andre and Alinka will teach me how to ski but they will also help me in the everyday task of living. Sabina and her husband were willing to put themselves out to solve a problem for me.
Today I got my fuel. Igor drove his tractor to the front door of the building then Sabina, Igor, Clemmen, Marco and me ran up and down the stairs with piles of wood until it was all stacked neatly on my balcony. It was a major act of cooperation that is so much more important to this story than the thrill of the ski slope. Skiing was great fun and I'm looking forward to the next lesson with Andrei, but it's not the important part of this story. It's why the skiing angle didn't work as a subject for this post. It's why archaeologists don't just look for buried treasure (at least, not the buried treasure that the rest of us look for). They look for human activity. They look for human interaction, and they find it in the everyday evidence of the communities they built.
I'm feeling very lucky today. It's going well.
[ps...Have you tried the Armchair Detective Challenge yet?]
Slovenia, writing, other things