Lockdown’s Lessons

I need to say this quietly. I need to say this with the knowledge and understanding that for many this has been a frightening, heart-breaking and challenging time, but …

For me, lockdown was wonderful.

For the past thirty years I have dragged my whānau lurching from event to project to yet another one of my very good ideas. I would look at the calendar and assure myself and anyone willing to listen that after this particular commitment things would slow down and some roses could be smelled.

But it never happened. The phone would ring, the request made and the affirmation given.

And then everything changed. I was sitting in the carpark, Countdown Waipukurau, 1.30pm on a Monday in March. Jacinda made the announcement and we stepped into history.

In 30 years’ time school children will be writing projects on the lockdown. It will be THE LOCKDOWN. Upper case all the way. They will be interviewing my grandchildren and maybe even my children who will be elderly, unlike myself, who will by then have composted nicely.

Time stopped. We ground to a halt. Our gigs, events and obligations evaporated. I found myself glued to the 1pm news. Watching as the world imploded.

I have unwittingly been preparing for lockdown for decades. I would joke as the toilet paper mountain grew, as the four boxes of surgical face masks bought for 48c a box (same box now selling for $55 in a supermarket near you!) were tucked away in my groaning storeroom.

I became the joke. Facebook was my witness. The woman who couldn’t pass a bargain and had to shop in multiples. However lockdown didn’t become the justification I imagined. It made me realise that I was just contributing to the world’s potential demise. Stuff that cluttered, stuff that glittered, stuff that would end up in landfill.

Lockdown made me realise that pyjamas were comfortable day wear; that not showering every day was okay and saved water; that Zoom couldn’t replace hugs but could replace unnecessary travel; that for many Year 12 and 13 students, self-directed learning was positive; that it was okay for me to insist my mokopuna learned how to garden.

Lockdown seemed a kinder time. In a crisis we are good at saying hello and meaning it. I cried a lot. I cried when Jacinda told us that the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny were essential workers. I cried when people gathered at the end of their drives and stood in silence to honour the veterans. I cried at every act of kindness, every innovative decision made to help those who couldn’t. I lost count of the days and revelled in my garden.

How lucky was I to have a garden and a husband who was willing to dig trenches, cut down dead willows and transport said willow to my developing hügelkultur bed. I bored Facebook with daily updates of cow poo, leaves, vegetation, compost as I lasagne-layered my new 18-metre bed. Two metres in height this bed will reward us with vegetables for twenty-five years, no watering, no feeding. Magic in our Central Hawke’s Bay drought-prone home.

So where to from here?

I want to feel assured that my grandchildren and their children and all the children I will never meet will have a planet able to sustain and care for them. Papatūānuku has sent a clear message. Do we shut the planet down for a month every year, do we cut the working week and increase our leisure industry? Do we have a good hard look at our distribution of wealth? Do we investigate the basic income? Do we redefine the concept of work? What do we really need for a happy life? Do we look at more communal ways of living.

Traditional Māori structures could hold answers, the respect for whenua, the balance of what you take and what you return, the sharing of resources, the living together as whānau and wider whānau, the wisdom of tradition and kaumātua. So many questions, so little time. It is not on our side.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t leap back into life’s gallop. I’ve had a crack at saying no. It’s not too bad, but I did promise to write a play so must get on.

A heartfelt thank you to all our essential workers, to our government, for being lucky enough to live in Aotearoa and a special hug reserved for Jacinda. I thank all the deities and non-deities for this wahine toa.

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