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Lockdown Diaries: Volume 3 Day 11

It seems fitting somehow that Lockdown happens in our Autumn, the season when everything begins to slow, to settle, to rest , as we head towards Winter. Work continues as always, but without so much urgency. The leaves are changing to gold on the trees, the vineyards around us turning to burnt amber. Our farm never sleeps, and feeding out continues, but there is a feeling that time is slowing down now. I am lost in some kind of time glitch, the days melt together, and I am gradually surrendering to the fact that it doesn’t really matter what day it is, if it’s the weekend, if it’s a school day. Day light savings ending is irrelevant. Structure has evaporated and I have never been this still. Ever. I am completely unanchored, and it’s a little un-nerving. Combined with that is the sense that the lines between the past and the present are blurring. From what I can tell, this Lockdown is pushing us all back to baking, to sewing, to reading. There is a slow beauty in this boredom. I have discovered ( a little belatedly) the short stories of Russian author and playwright Anton Chekhov, and have gone down a virtual rabbit hole, reading his short stories where I can find them. Our garden has never been tidier, our vegetable patch never as well tended. Walnuts are being cracked. Pears are waiting to be stewed. Anyone will tell you I am the last woman to be called a domestic goddess, but there is a strange comfort in all of this. I even started a sour dough starter today. Kombucha before, yes. But sourdough? Never. But finding yeast and baking powder is proving surprisingly tricky, so needs must. Our beloved farmers market is closed for now, but we are able to get deliveries from one of our favorite growers, and I have set up a weekly subscription, which I will continue post-lockdown. How else will this event change us, I wonder?

We have been reading through a battered copy of the Canterbury edition of the Cyclopedia of New Zealand, which was published in 1903. The Cyclopedia was heralded as a snapshot in time of New Zealand, with photos of local residents and details about the towns and cities within Canterbury, its families, landowners and businessmen. The book may not be that historically accurate, as the people featured paid to be included, and chose what was written about them, so that it is more a rose-tinted record of (mainly) the well-heeled European men of the time, but it is interesting all the same. This was pre-WWI, and before the 1918 Flu epidemic, and I look through at the stoic photographs of New Zealanders at the time, and really, they aren’t that much different to all of us now. They would have had little idea how much their lives would change in a decade or so. When the Spanish Flu hit, the country was already depleted from the war, but their experience was similar in many ways. The country did go into a kind of lockdown, medical care was spread thin. Public places closed and events were postponed. There was concern over passenger ships, such as the RMS Niagara, bringing in the virus. The returning soldiers were not quarantined as they were in Australia, and the disease spread like wildfire, and so that pandemic taught us the importance of a quick Government response, self-isolation, quarantine and ‘flattening of the curve’ to ease pressure on our hospitals and medical staff. History repeats, but with expensive lessons learned and implemented so we can have a much better outcome.

For our children, in their innocence, this is a happy time. They have had their first ‘Zoom’ meeting with their classmates and teachers. Violet has been sewing, they have been collecting pinecones, and bags of walnuts and pears. They continue to build their elaborate and ever-evolving tree hut deep in the hidden realms of the hedge. They play with the puppy endlessly. Two and half years apart, they get frustrated and fight. Five minutes later they are best friends and playing soccer on the lawn, under the leaves of the ancient oak tree in the still-warm sunshine. Tonight is family movie night, and we will all hunker down on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and escape into a Pixar world full of predictable animated magic and inevitable happy endings.

Hopefully our children won’t remember the uncertainty of all this, but the Autumn when time slowed and they had nothing on their calendars to do other than to just be children, free to play and roam, all scraped knees and wild hair, and to let boredom fuel their imagination.

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