Ah, summer! We are on our annual camping trip. As twilight falls, I crouch on the shore of a beautiful lake in the Sierras. Before me is the cooking pot in which I made mac and cheese, and it’s very messy, with pasta and congealed cheddar sticking to the bottom and sides. How to clean it? I find myself thinking of the characters of my novels, all of which take place in antiquity, without—of course—any modern conveniences. In most of my stories, my characters have had to survive under very primitive circumstances. How did they cope with a dirty cooking pot? To be sure, they didn’t make mac and cheese, but a greasy stew, where some of the meat stuck to the bottom, would present much the same problem. Perhaps they too crouched on the shore of a lake or stream and used what tools nature provided. I dip my fingers into damp, coarse sand and begin scouring. I can easily imagine the heroines of my stories and their real-life counterparts doing this same chore in the same way. The thought transports me to another world—their world.
The cleanup is surprisingly quick. The sand as an abrasive is not only very efficient but good for the environment as well—no detergent needed. (Note: Do not try this with a non-stick pan!)
Night has fallen. With my clean pot I walk back to my campsite, not using a flashlight. The darkness hones my night vision. I treasure occasions like this where my mind can leap across millennia to commune with the people of ancient times who walked through forests and mountains guided by the sun, and made their way at night without artificial light, aided only by the moon and stars.