Woodgate February 3, 2020
It was a palindrome day, but I only found that out later.
I woke to find that the power was still out, and so were the coms. No cellphone network because the tower batteries had died, no electricity for Wi-Fi. Thankfully I’d filled up the water tanks the night before – the pumps don’t work without electricity either. It was a hot day and when the horse trough ran low I filled it from the rainwater tank at the main house. That uses gravity. It’s slow.
So while you wait you do other things.
When the usual things stop distracting you, you flow into the rhythm.
(I know – a month later and I’m still on about rhythm but this was the most perfectly balanced bubble in my life.)
Natural cycles and circles and all just flowing perfectly into one another.
The chickens and the horses getting fed.
Watching dragon flies on the dam.
Making food without opening the fridge so as not to let the cold out.
There was load shedding scheduled – stage 2 – but this was bigger than that. A fat cable in the nearest town 200kms away compromised and they had to truck in cable from wherever. It would take past midnight, they’d said the night before.
It will take until at least four, they said the next day.
Then not until 11 at night.
I was asleep when the power finally came back. But that day set up a rhythm for the next, of put-the-phone-down-and-don’t-wait-for-the-expectant-beep. Don’t jump up from whatever you are doing when it goes because curiosity killed the time cat. Just do what you are doing, stay in your own mind, and be busy.
Watch videos about maths and think about mandlebrots which are other things entirely.
Or are they?
We could be the only people alive. This could be my book come to life.*
If not for the sound of the big trunks on the distant highway, we wouldn’t know if the world had just ended.
But the world outside the bubble still carried on, not quite normal, or maybe more so, old-fashioned normal, when people greeted in the shops and looked one another in the eye around the dinner table because their devices were disabled.
I was looking forward to dinner but I was called away with the supper fire just lit. Peter arrived on his bicycle in the grey evening with lighting renting the sky behind him. His wife Grace had just been discharged from the maternity hospital and was waiting on the side of the road in Knysna with their two-day-old baby in her arms. She was only supposed to be out tomorrow. But it happened today – with no cellphone coms for her to tell him exactly where she was. She’d had enough battery to get hold of Peter’s brother in Plett (where there is a coms bubble because the towers still have battery); he managed somehow to get Peter the message.
Peter got on his bicycle and sped the 10kms from his house to our farm to ask for help.
So I found myself driving through the darkening night with Peter to the next town over, where Grace was waiting on the side of the road outside the hospital – except that she wasn’t.
We drove back to Peter’s village, but she wasn’t there either.
So we drove the 20kms back to the coms bubble so his brother could tell us that she had definitely found a lift home. Except when we got back to his village she still wasn’t there. So where was she? With her two-day-old son and no cellphone contact and a dry storm forking the sky and winds gathering. It was wild out there. Where was Grace?
Back and forth and through the village we drove, weaving between people, none of them Grace, and finally I left Peter at his home to wait in faith that she would get there. Which she finally did at 11pm, when the power came back on. I only found this out at 2am when the message came through that she was safe home.
They named their new son Israel.
A few hours after coms started working, people started complaining on Whatsapp.
Admittedly a few said how amazing it was to spend time with family and connect and talk without the intrusion of electronics and social media.
Others complained about their meat going off.
And it struck me, as I started taking the few ripe things from my own fridge (vegetarian except for cheese) just how much electricity is needed to keep cow-produce cold. Milk, meat, cheese – these are the things that will go off. If you are vegan you gave none of those things and your fridge will not smell at all. I’m getting there.
In fact perhaps you don’t even need a fridge, but could survive on what my dad talked about from his youth on the farm ninety years ago: a box made of fly screen – two layers filled with charcoal. Six sides. Pour water over the charcoal and it will cool down whatever you put in the box.
But we have fridges and CFCs and meat, and all the power (loadshedding notwithstanding) that it takes to keep it ‘fresh’, from slaughter to store to your home. This in addition to the methane the cows let off while they were munching, probably not in a pasture-fed free-range environment, sadly for them. And if not, then also the energy of producing the fodder. The energy cycles getting used for fertiliser – oil-coal-plastic.
That was one of the ‘aha’s: How much less energy we would need if we cut meat out of the equation. I’m not a UFO watcher but it struck me that cows might be the perfect takeover-vehicle should an alien from another planet decide to colonize this one by first compromising the homosapiens that seemed to be so very busy doing stuff.
Get them addicted to cattle.
Maybe the aliens are methane-breathers and are really looking forward to inhabiting our scorched earth.
Welcome, little Israel, to our crazy, bifurcated world.
(* The Wolf Siren, coming to your favourite bookstore soon.)