Christmas, and where is the tree, the presents in colorful wrappers, the laughter the excitement and the jolly dresses?
I'm in the deep end of argentine Patagonia, all I've seen of human constructions are the lighthouses, and the boats, all European, the crew all on the same voyage. All taking advantage of the natural humps and bumps of the country to hide from the south wind, or linger in the rough country.
As Magellan said, it is too rough here to live, the animals have taken to the sea. But we have our protection with us, our house, our food, our chains and ropes to secure it all. When it blows, we should be inside, watch a DVD read a book, listen to music, write what happens in our soul. We should cook delicious food and take lascivious naps.
As I said before, this place is like nothing I know. It calls upon the idea of death at every turn, every thought and so it calls upon life, as a direct link to the other thought, death. It is not a morbid idea of death that strolls in my head. More like the friend death, the one you know you shall meet, the one you know you should befriend yourself with, death as a companion, walking right behind you, watching your very step. Death makes life limited and for that very reason, makes life so exiting, so worthwhile.
We see cadavers on every walk, cadavers from every animal, we sit on whale vertebrae thinking they are the hippest seats you could ever find. We watch stranded penguins and have a closer look, guanacos blown away by the wind end up in very tortured positions at the bottom of hills, white boned or with the skin still there, tense, or hairy depending on how long they have been here. Ducks with their long twisted necks, huge beached whales that look like stones, shiny stones, then smelly stones, then like a cadaver from the big mammal at sea. In civilized areas the dead are picked up, for us not to have to be in contact with it, not to have to suffer the smell, the degradation, see our very own future... At first it upset me, I wanted to get away from it, not be contaminated by the thought, the sight, by the disease, wanted to stay well clear of it. Now it is part of me, and I see beauty in it, I look and see nature, I look and see life, if it smells bad, I run, but often the smell is discreet nearly appetizing, like salami or canned fish, dried cat cookies or fish oil. I know, it sounds gruesome, but it is not really, it is reality, reality here, in this sterile country.
Ah Christmas, where are your twinkle stars, jingle bells and pretty lights, your boring unchanging songs, where is your shopping mania and your nervous city center crowds. When is your warm family reunion, close to the open fire, the champagne and candle lights? I'm far from it, but never the less, Christmas is there.
Leaving Mar del Plata we stocked up for one week. Stay light we said, we'll be in Puerto Deseado in no time... so I go to the best fruit and vegetable shop I've met and buy away. The clerk drooling on me making sirupy comments on my beauty comparing me to the pretty apples and smooth peaches, I loath it and think of what to tell him to shut up his smelly mouth, but I find nothing in the tongue of Borges and instead transform myself into an iceberg but to no avail...
After 2 weeks we're still not arrived in Puerto Deseado and we'll never go, we ran out of carrots, apples and peaches, we ran out of garlic and potatoes, but more seriously, we're running out of water. How ironic, what adaptation... running out of water in a desert is really not that hard, even if we're floating on some. Hakan gets really pissy, turning on Mr. panic, telling me how we're going to miss the season of the Pacific and lose one year there. That is, if we don't die dried up here... We go for a walk to calm down, very contagious, Mr. panic seeps in me, in another form, I know at least one boat has a water-maker on board, at least one person has a few liters to spare, but the tension fills me too, what is it about the Pacific season we're going to miss. Hakan took a walk to forget, I'm here to get some answers... I scratch the thick layer of nonsense built by panic, I'm unnerved, Hakan admits the blowing it up a little. For the 5th time we fail to land our dingy at the other side of the cove.
I wrote: ''Father Christmas, this year I've been a good girl, I caught the speeding train that was to show me the world like I never saw it before. I adapted to my new life going from hating navigation to really enjoying it (at times). I have learned to communicate in Portuguese, found my Spanish in the back of my head, I've learned to take a shower with 2 liters of water, to stay warm unmoving in 12 degrees humid nights and for this good behavior, Father Christmas, I would like fruit and vegetables, and kind neighbors who would give me a few liters of water. Your sweet Sophie''
''My dear child, I will come to you with two boats, filled with all you desire, apples and carrots bananas and wine, and go to your neighbor, tell them I've sent you and they'll fill your jerrycans to the very last drop. I'll be there the day before Christmas when the sky turns pink, stay good dear child, and your wish will come true.'' was the answer I received.
Ok then, no need to panic, I show the letter to Hakan on the morning of the coming pink sky, we're both hung over for there was a birthday party the night before on one of the boats, wine flowing like a fountain, my glass continuously refilled. On the 6th attempt we land the dingy on the other side of the cove, we walk, bracing our head for it is still throbbing. We meet 2 sheep straight out of ''le petit prince'' from St Exupery, and I remember it is in these countries that he wrote this great classic, for all to read and re-read, to understand the true value of things.
We walk on the red stones, on the green beach, we struggle over the thorny shrubs and see the tide come up quickly, invading the tortuous rocks. The sky is orange, the clouds are low, afar a sail shows it's graceful shape, I lift my head, the sky is pink! A second sail on the horizon, it's Father Christmas, it is, quick quick, let's go back and help them moor, pull their lines ashore, greet them for they are here with our presents...
Olimir and Astarte are here, the 2 boats Father Christmas promised me, I'm not sure who's Father Christmas for no one has a long beard. December 24, at noon, we all go to Olimir, heaps of fruit and vegetables are packed in plastic bags, one for each boat, carrots bananas, apples oranges, lemons and onions. On Astarte, wine diesel and coke, loads of meat.
At 6 o'clock we'll all go to the beach make a fire, cook the meat and feast. 6 o'clock becomes 7 everybody has food, salads, lentils, porc chops and wine, we all sing songs in our native language, all melodies the same, we get tipsy, we don't feel the cold air, we don't feel the cold wind, for we're having a Christmas like no other, in the middle of nowhere, with presents falling out of the sky we celebrate birth in a place dominated by death.