A two-week hiatus in the blogger world is almost indefensible. The peeps want product, and they want it reg’lar, so the pressure is on to post every few days. But life gets in the way of leisure, and I can only proffer the usual lame explanation: I’ve been busy. But also I’ve been writing rather than blogging, having navigated a Caradrassin impasse or two along the way. It didn’t help that a sweet (20+page) chapter I’d completed suddenly and permanently disappeared from my Scrivener, so a prolonged sulk set in that dried the metaphorical ink in my metaphorical pen. But you can all take a collective breath now, because I’m back.

Today, as an aside to that aside, something a bit different. Reflections on a computer game I’ve played on and off for the last year or so called ‘The Long Dark’ which metamorphosed recently into a singleplayer campaign (at long last) which I’ve put aside for the time being to continue my sandbox adventures. 100+ fictional days surviving in the Canadian wilds after my plane went down during a mysterious geomagnetic storm. I know the story behind the sandbox is explained in the single player, but I don’t want somebody else’s explication laid out in black and white just yet. And please, oh please, no ‘white walker mod’ in lieu of the zombies that usually soil everything. So far, this is a thing of beauty.

I am immersed in this game because it’s all about fundamentals. You’ll die if you don’t eat, so how to procure food? You’re dehydrated and need water, so what about that? Your condition is battered by fatigue, so rest; it’s also reduced by exposure to the elements, by sickness and injury. You die, a lot. But every time you do, you die smarter. It’s not a game where (so far) frustration sets in at ‘not getting it’ such that you won’t try again. Because every time is different: no wolf is exactly where you encountered it last time; not every bear gives away its position by snuffling loudly while you’re still at a safe distance. You’ll find rifles and ammo galore in one game, none the next. Carrying the carcass of a rabbit you stunned with a stone then snapped its neck?  Wolves will stalk you. Because this is how it should be: nature, red in tooth and claw.

We forget what ‘it’ is about, don’t we. We let stupid sh*t take priority over what really matters. Work aggravates our mood, troubles our sleep, harms our relationships and ruins our health. We give our employers, our own businesses, more than they ever give back. Perhaps that was the deal we entered into way back then. But I was young(er) and hindsight is always 20/20. Things could be so much worse, I could be in a job about to be made redundant by drones. So what ‘it’ is about for me, increasingly, is protecting my health so I can keep working for the next 18 years, which will go in a snap. The years, I mean; not my health! Hence the veganism, hence the bushwalking and bike riding; hence the fantasy, kept safely at arm’s reach, of dropping into the wild with nothing but my wits and (hopefully) my Becker BK2!

In ‘The Long Dark’ there are a lot of things you must do, or die. Some of those things (like crafting clothing) are difficult, the product of a sharp learning-curve and much risk-taking, while others are mundane (boiling and purifying water). But everything builds on  fundamentals — like fire, for example. You can’t boil water to make it safe to drink if you don’t have fire. You can’t safely eat spoiled food without cooking it first. You’ll freeze to death unless you make warmth. You can scare off a marauding wolf with a flaming torch. So you’d better get that fire going because it is one of the fundamentals: do them all, or (at least, metaphorically) die.

So when I wake up before dawn tomorrow and it’s 1°C as I head out on the bike, what goes through my head is not a sulky ‘same sh*t, only the depth varies‘ but the sound that lives at the back of my brain–the susurration of the wind pushing through a pine forest–and a voice telling me that I need to ‘pick up sticks’. It might be dangerous at times, an inexorably boring grind mostly, but you need to get the fundamentals right to win through the long days and long nights of your life.

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