It’s almost midnight in Paris and it’s my last Saturday night fully locked up. Little by little, the apocalyptic sensation of the beginning faded away into a new kind of normal. But somehow nature decided to send us a message to let us know that nothing is normal, that nothing is really okay. As we prepare to phase out of lockdown, tonight we are experiencing one of those memorable storms. The kind where the rain is pouring so loudly that you can hardly hear yourself think, the kind that lights up the entire sky. It’s a good night to be home. It’s as if an ulterior force was telling us to stay in.
I’ve gone through many different states of emotion being locked up: sometimes euphoric because I was able to take back control of my time (even though I feel this is more because I am not working), others melancholic reminiscing of sunny days with dear friends at the park, and so many just being terrified by the minor sneeze or headache. Yesterday, on my walk around the neighborhood I experienced a new one: nostalgia. For the first time in many days I walked up to the edge of the canal that runs next to my house. The normally lifeless water had grown into what I considered to be quite a magnificent little ecosystem with all sorts of plants and algae in so many different shades of green, with little fish enjoying themselves as they swam through them. And so it hit me, despite the infinite number of initiatives pledging for a better tomorrow, I know that as life goes back to what it used to be, the chances of survival of that little ecosystem are so slight that it breaks my heart.
The state of emergency that we have been living in has worked miracles for those sorts of little ecosystems. I will be forever humbled by the ways in which people organized themselves in order to help each other out, the ways in which restaurants left completely out of business started to find ways in order to cook free meals for the people in need. Will these little ecosystems survive this new phase? A new phase where the race to relaunch a life-and-nature-destroying economy will be so fierce that it might end up being worse than the pandemic itself? It made me realise that as we step out of the security of our homes to go beyond the barriers that have been imposed upon us, we will have to choose a side.
Where I live, the rhetoric used to speak of this pandemic has borrowed most of its terminology from war. There was a war, a frontline, heroes… it has made it all feel even more like a science fiction novel. Curiously enough I feel like if there really is a fight, then it starts now, and it’s time to pick sides. Will it be the system as we know it… or will it be the little ecosystems?
As I thought about this, I thought about what I feel are the good outcomes of this situation, for me at least. After two months locked up, what did I harvest during my quarantine?
The day I locked myself in, one of the first time-passing activities I took up on was planting seeds. Over the weeks I have seen them grow into a beautiful little windowsill garden. So, if that happened to them, then what happened to me? How did I grow, and what did I harvest? Once again, I think this might be more about the fact that I’m not working, but I definitely harvested the joy of organizing my time in whichever way suited me best. The joy of always being there when my cat wants to play and cuddle, the satisfaction of never missing a dance class. I harvested the beauty of relocalising my consumption, and most of all of reducing it to what is really necessary. The happiness of only eating home cooked meals and experimenting more than ever in the kitchen. The reassurance of knowing my people are all there for me, just a video call away, but also the reality of sometimes needing to disconnect and be alone. It was a good harvest and even if I am longing human contact, I admit that I am grateful for having been able to live through this phase in such privileged conditions. My harvest was rich and healthy, and I will try with all my strength not to let it go to waste because I know that I want to go outside and fight for the survival of those little ecosystems, because I know that they ressemble much more the world that I really want to live in.
My baby plants then and now (march-may 2020).