And so it has begun – 4+ weeks of being locked down at The Outpost. It’s just me, my partner Richard, 19 ducks, 4 chickens, 4 cows, 3 cats, and a bunny.
This new world is surreal. Even here in the middle of nowhere, there’s a noticeable lack of helicopters and planes during the day. And the state highway that usually provides some background noise is practically silent. But among the weirdness and anxiety of this pandemic, I have gratitude.
To be honest, it’s not too different from our ordinary lives. In ‘normal times’, we only leave the property once or twice a week anyway. We are both huge introverts, so isolation is pretty much our normal. The main difficulty is we are now physically cut off from family, but that’s a boat everyone is in. We’ve seen most of them recently, so I’m grateful for that at least.
We have incredible privilege here. I think of some of the places I’ve lived in my life and what lockdown would be like there, and it’s a scary thought. My heart goes out to whoever is currently living in those places. Here, we have 15ha of open space and native bush to potter in without ever leaving our boundary. I can take a decent walk by simply wandering out to the back paddock. Our bubble might only contain two people, but it’s a gigantic bubble.
We have a freezer full of food and a garden that’s feeding us every night. We have supplies, and neighbours looking out for us. We have internet, and connection to mains power. We’ll be happy sitting tight and just nipping out for supplies each week. It’s not really that different from our regular life. In fact, it’s slightly better than regular life. I am feeling more connected with friends and family now we’re all making an effort to be connected.
This week we’ve eaten eggs, lettuce, herbs, microgreens, tomatoes, mushrooms, beans and garlic grown on this property. The seeds I sowed last week are already germinating. Our potatoes are flowering. And there’s more than enough tomatoes on the plants to keep us going through winter after I preserve them.
Unlike my grandfather, I’m not being asked to get on a boat to go fight and kill people. I’m not fleeing war like those in Syria or sitting in an Australian detention centre. While this situation is surreal, it could be (and is for so many people) so much worse. I’m being asked to sit on my bum and watch Netflix. To read a book. To kill some weeds and create some gardens. I just can’t nip down to Mitre 10 for supplies when I need them.
The truth is, I’m coming to realise that this situation – a society-wide shutdown – this is genuinely my worst nightmare. This is it. I happen to live in such an idyllic situation with the skills and possessions I have because I have been afraid of this exact thing for most of my life. I’ve always dismissed it as something I wasn’t ever likely to face – a boogeyman in the closet. But here it is. My worst fear. In real life. In my head though, it goes so much further. It’s way darker in my imagination than it looks right now in reality.
The reality for me as a New Zealander in the first week of lockdown is looking to be a much more positive outcome than I imagined. I am so, so grateful our country is strong and proactive. I’m grateful for the leadership of Jacinda Ardern, and in absolute awe of her strength in times of crisis. I have confidence in our government. I’m grateful for our essential workers who are keeping the important things going at risk to themselves and their own families. These things are keeping us all calm, and holding back the calamity I am truly afraid of – for now, at least.
I want us to squash this arsehole virus. Sitting comfortably here in my little piece of paradise doesn’t feel like much of a contribution or sacrifice. But it’s one of those things where all the contributions (large and small) from all of us could add up to a momentous result. I’ve got a bit of experience with that phenomenon, and I’m optimistic it’s an achievable goal.
Life is going to look different on the other side of this, but I’m still hopeful we’ll all be able to nip back to Mitre 10 for a bag of compost soon.