The day had a dream-like quality to it.
A week of snow has interrupted all of our usual rhythms and routines, and food and play have been uppermost in our minds. I keep trudging down to the little shop to buy more milk, because hot chocolate and rice pudding require so much of what is usually just dribbled out for cups of tea. (Building igloos and snowmen is hungry work.) Tonight we will have an apple and walnut crumble, and thus we must have custard. This afternoon, the shop was packed with people who would usually be at work or school. Hats obscured faces and heavy jackets steamed as the snow melted in the sudden warmth. Everyone bundled up -- all of us preparing for a siege, apparently. It doesn't take much to bring out the hoarding instinct.
Sigmund says that in Surrey, only an hour's drive away, the snow has turned to rain. It is hard to believe that; hard to believe that it is actually warm in other places. The snow has obscured every other reality.
I have been lost in a fictional world, too. Last night I began Elizabeth's A Fortunate Child, and utterly absorbed, I read late into the night. Much of the story takes place in World War II, and it follows two women -- one English and one German, one waiting for the war to end and one displaced by it. Most of the story is told in first-person, and the voices seem so authentic and true -- they get right into your head. Sigmund was up in London for the evening, and I felt obliged to stay conscious in order to will him home safely. He did eventually arrive, but by that time it was 2 am and I had drifted off . . . dreaming of Gisella's hard scramble to stay alive in the harsh German winter of 1945. I had just fallen into a deep sleep when he woke me up again, talking of strange things: visiting Churchill's Cabinet War Rooms, down in the basement of the Foreign Office. It was rather surreal, actually. Did I dream this conversation, or did my involvement with a story swamp the present-tense of my life?
The mundane world and a more fantastic version - at times, the line between them is so wispy-thin.
Beyond the left border of our house, and just up the hill a bit, is a small farm. From our garden, we can just make out the large Georgian brick house, with its two substantial chimneys, and the collection of barns and outbuildings. I have been to this farm, and like most others it is slightly shabby, with hay on the ground and odd abandoned tools of the trade and the pervasive smell of animals. Yet from a distance, and shrouded in snow, it looks like a fairy-tale farm . . . from a child's picture book or an oil painting. I know it is fanciful of me, but in the glow of winter's pale setting sun, it seems less real to me than the book that I have just devoured.