In the midst of the drought-fuelled angst that has seized Cape Town, I found this meditation, following a flash storm in Cape Town in February 2017, refreshing. Even thought “Day Zero” may have been “defeated”, my prayer and commitment is that my family and I will not forget the many precious lessons that drought has taught us….
Ever since Cape Town found itself gripped with the prospect of being the first major city in history to run out of running water, I’ve found myself becoming a traumatized water ‘worrier’. I literally have to stop watching a TV show if the protagonist is taking too long washing their hands!
I’ve gone from blissful unawareness, to brutal awake-ness when it comes to miracle of water actually coming out of a tap. The closer we come to what sounds like the next Hollywood Blockbuster… Day Zero… I’ve been amazed to see how much I can achieve with just 37 litres of water a day. A full 50 less than the initial 87 litre challenge and 13 less than the current quota of 50 litres per person. We reuse, recycle and repurpose every drop in our house, and amazingly we still smell pretty decent.
Last night when the heavens opened – or should I say squeezed out a few hours of drizzle – I had a moment around midnight that I will never forget. We were both out in the rain, armed with buckets and jugs as we scooped out precious litres of rainwater being caught in large black storage bins under the two available gutters at our house. On either side of the house, we dashed with bucket after bucket to store it in our pool. (I have to admit that I was pretty excited that I getting a fully body work out in the process.) A rather classic moment, was mid scoop, looking up and seeing my neighbour in what can only be described as a flesh-coloured onesie – doing the very same thing next door. Capetonians definitely weren’t going to the let the rain go to waste!
With my arm immersed in water, scooping as fast as I could – I suddenly realised that this is actually how humans are meant to live. In that moment I was totally present. Totally reliant on nature and the gift she was bestowing on us. Totally involved in a natural cycle of life and using it to guarantee my survival. Instead of sitting indoors listening to rain while we watched Netflix, this drought forced us outside to make the most of the moment before it passed.
It made me think about the 42 years of rain that I have never appreciated. The oceans of water that have flowed off every roof I’ve sheltered under and not been harvested. The utter disconnect I’ve lived in, because if I want water, I just switch on a tap. And yet here I was, dressed like Bridget Jones on a very bad day, catching every drop that I could.
In the space of 2 hours and 8 binfuls of water, we harvested over 800 litres, and I can honestly say it felt like one of my most notable accomplishments. And that is what got me thinking…
Since this crisis started unfolding, I’ve watched amazed at how quickly people make a plan to not only thrive, but survive. There are gutter socks to channel water to your pool. Water from air machines. Filter systems for groundwater. And crazy people like us using what we have to catch what we can with what we have.
The conclusion I’m coming to is that convenience not only robs us of creativity, it makes us complacent and it makes us unaware. The inconvenience of Cape Town running out of water has literally woken people up. Woken them up to water as a resource. Woken them up to how much they waste. Woken them up to ingenious ways to save it. The inconvenience of this crisis has woken us up to our creative potential to solve the problem.
Now that makes me look at my life in a whole new light… Maybe I should be avoiding the convenient options now that I understand that they potentially rob me of being fully present to my life? Ready-made meals disconnect me from my food. Easy entertainment robs me to actively contributing to my own fun. Quick fixes, stop me from building lasting solutions and learning new ways of doing things.
The opportunity life is now offering me is to actively seek out inconvenience. To say no to plastic bags and remember to carry my own where I go. To choose loose vegetables rather than ready packed ones and actually have a moment to interact with my food choices before mindlessly throwing someone else’s selection in my cart. To graciously decline a straw and pull out my own travel one that I keep on hand when needed.
My midnight on my knees in the rain, water-harvesting escapade, seems to have woken me up to the gift that inconvenience might bring to my life. I know they say that necessity is the mother of invention, but last night I learned that it also is the mother of being in the moment. That leads me to believe, that the more ‘inconvenient’ I make my life, the more creative and connected I will be in each moment. The more fun I’ll have working out how to stock my home packaging free. The more inspired I’ll be to see how to inventively make every drop of water count. The more creative I’ll be in planning fun and connected moments in my day, rather than clicking a button so that they can be done for me.
When our dams are full again, and this crazy time is hopefully a distant memory, all I can hope for is that never again will we forget how precious water is. I hope that we’ll keep saving it and cherishing it, and each actively playing our part in taking daily responsibility to have it in our lives. Because if we continue to treat resources like they are expendable, one day they will be. But, if we find small ways to inconvenience ourselves with the things we take for granted, then all going well, we’ll keep being creative in protecting precious resources this planet gifts us with.