One surprising outcome of the pandemic is that I have forsaken a pretty cottage for a man cave. Man caves are in vogue these days but let me assure you, new age ones have nothing in common with the underworld I inhabit.
Modern man caves are equipped with gadgets and fripperies, according to The Gentleman’s Journal. Must have features include crystal whisky decanters, chesterfields, wet bars, sporting memorabilia and luxury grooming products.
Now I must state that the above bears no resemblance to my new habitat which is…errr… it is a err…sort of a CAVE. And there is a big beardy bloke in it, with booming voice and disdain of conversation. A CAVE man type.
Life here is paired down to the bone, away from familiar faces and genteel society. Primitive elements, fire, food, circadian rhythms, rule our descent into winter. Rats roam the perimeter (plastic models not real ones) strategically placed to discourage visitors and mania of the outside world.
Axes, a shovel, a heap of rusty nails and a black cat glow by the fire. Black hands rummage in the tool box by a stack of items waiting for repair.
Living here is an adjustment, especially when you consider my previous dwelling, a charming cottage, with flowers bordering a path to a red front door. These worlds are yin and yang, polar opposites. I crave light and growth while my fellow cave dweller yields to entropy.
The Greek myth of Persephone springs to mind. In the story Hades bursts through a cleft in the ground to snatch her away to the gloomy underworld. Mother Earth goes into mourning for the loss of the goddess. Growth and harvests cease, the world goes into endless winter.
Finally Zeus steps in to to avert disaster. A deal is struck to let Persephone move between the two worlds. A surprising detail of this story, is that Persephone chooses to make the underworld her winter residence for six months of the year. This decision is symbolised by her eating pomegranate seeds offered by Hades.
It has always puzzled me that she did this. Why would she want to hang out with gloomy old Hades when she could return to eternal summer on earth?
The story accounts for changing seasons, masculine and feminine and the transactions and bargaining that must be done for extremes to coexist. It describes loss, change and transformation, compromise.
These days I live in myth, biding my time until spring. Lockdown keeps me here this winter. I’m missing my garden and female friendship. No woman has set foot in this place for a long time.
This is an entrenched male domain. Blokes arrive in pick-up trucks to swap chain saws and borrow trailers. They tramp about in boots shouting greetings. I have abandoned attempts to make a mark here.
Talk is discouraged but it’s warm and not unfriendly. Black cat pushes soft and persistent against my shins. “Awwwww look how sweet Bob is.” “The wee bastard just wants fed,” cave man roars back crushing foolish sentiment.
If this was my demesne I would be scattering my energies, making a home, sowing seeds, putting down roots. But souls in the underworld don’t age or change or lead any active life because the idea of progress does not exist.
Inertia is peaceful. There is relief from intrusive neighbours and a dodgy landlord. My mind is more settled than it has been in a long time — so I can write this.
Pomegranates are in season. I bite into the tart pink juicy flesh — and decide to like it here.