Its been one month at Drylab. It feels like we’ve always been here- born in the desert to hot days, little water and this weird little family we’ve created. Only soon this will be as much a memory as the days before water privatization, drought and war. Soon indeed. The group has already begun to part: Moso left to meet her husband. Saf and Na.Ru moved on too. Who knows where BCC: will go next but we hope to hear her voice on the radio again someday.
Our initial calculations had us staying at Drylab 30 days at 4 gallons each/day but we used our water well and have enough left over to sustain the rest of us for at least another 29 days. For those staying behind, we’ve agreed on a new way to manage the water: our remaining supply will be completely communal and we will take only what we need each day. No personal vs. communal allotment, no banking extra water for future personal use. We will be 100% accountable to each other and our ability to stay here are long as possible.
Perhaps our initial decision to allot 3 of our 4 daily gallons to personal use was a result of being raised in a capitalist culture and it felt safer or just easier to manage it individually… easier and safer to be accountable to ourselves rather than each other who we barely knew. Now however, we’ve worked out our systems for limited water use and we know how much we actually need. And perhaps more importantly, we have formed a community- a deep caring for each other’s well being. Maybe it is these things that have loosened our feelings towards sharing a limited resource? Maybe now it doesn’t matter how we allot the water? Maybe it is these things that will take us through our new reality? This remains to be seen.
I spent a month in the desert and I don’t know why. It’s easy to say there’s a reason, an explanation, to create a synthesis of my experience, but it would just be words.
I imagine it will be years before I truly know the impact of Drylab. What I do know is that I was set. I knew who I was and what I was doing. I was vaguely dissatisfied with life, it was traveling along its merry way, buffeting my in its wake, but I knew that and I was alright with it. Then I was given this assignment. I fit the criteria, though exactly what that was, I don’t know.
And I spent a month in the desert, on desert time, no clocks, no screens, no scheduled life, just myself, the other women, and the landscape we dwelled in for that short time. We had our own agendas, our reasons for being there. We were very different people, but we managed to live with each other. Truly, exist with other people, without distractions or the filters we usually experience the world through. The strength and give of our minds was the filter.
And we lived.
I walk along the road side. Cars pass occasionally and the sun scorched my skin. I have gallons of water strapped to my hips and I refill them when I am able. The cold at night chills me. I sleep in ditched among refuse, wrapping sun-bleached scraps around me. I keep walking.
I will find the new me. It will take some searching and some time, but eventually, I will be able to greet the person I have become, to shake her hand and hug her and laugh at the harsh moments we experienced. And a few years after that, when I have had other encounters and been to other places, I will recognize the person I have become then. I will embrace her and we will look forward to meeting all her sisters yet to come.
The women each taught me about themselves, how they move through the world, and how they manage to live sustainably. I still cannot fathom how excessive our lives were before the war. It feels hopeless still that our standard for living was so harmful to our bodies and to earth. I used to worry that I wouldn’t be able to make it with less; I would miss the good life too much. I still think that sometimes, but I know that if I practice gratitude and open my heart to the world and to humanity that I will empower myself enough to survive and cultivate meaning and worth in my life.
I left the group to return home. I don’t plan on remaining long, I just need to gather my family and get them ready for the trek to the Pacific Northwest. I hear there are an abundance of water and a culture of sustainability an activism still going strong there. Since Washington became an independent state, people have been able to enjoy sanctuary and live with more peace.
I used to write off places like Seattle and Portland as privileged white bubbles twisted with classism and racism. I realize now that I must forgive the cities for their shortcomings, assume positive intention, and be the force of progressive humanity that I envision is best.
I used to think that all of the work that Seattle was getting done (the pollution tax, the waste reprimands) was irrelevant and miniscule until the rest of the country adopted those practices. I realize now that pockets of progression like the cities have been models for real change, and it is very important that they exist. Large scale and widespread change is crucial, but society doesn’t work that way. We are going to crash. We need to be resilient, and people are usually resilient.
I will carry my family with me, discussing with them and teaching them the methods that I’ve learned this month. There are many checkpoints and militias along the way, but we must try. We will travel at night, walk, and hitch rides if we find people we can trust. I have heard of networks of people who help folks like us, like Harriet Tubman’s underground railroad. There’s enough on this earth for everybody. We cannot manage ourselves with hate and alienation. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.
MOSO: I have known for some time that I do not like the city, and I have been waiting for my chance to escape it. Drylab gave me that chance. I have left drylab to search for my husband and have returned to the city before venturing northeast. It has been no easy transition. I don’t wake with sun. In fact, I don’t see how I could, my room is so dark. While there is the relief of air conditioning inside, I find it discomforting and prefer to spend my day outdoors. But there is no breeze to cool my skin and the only noises I hear are cars and police sirens. A wall blocks my view, and if it were not there, another home would still stand in the way. The sky is a dingy gray and purple haze at night, and only a few stars are strong enough to shine through. I don’t think I will ever fully transition, but hopefully I won’t have to.
I am staying with a friend of a friend for the time being, a home equipped with running water. The toilets flush. The sink turns on full force. Water falls from the showerhead. The first time I turned on a faucet, I panicked. I quickly shut it off and felt a tinge of guilt. All that water in a mere second, down the drain. No basin to collect it for another use. During my last few days at drylab, when things were running smoothy (outhouse was up, graywater and my own water storage were at a surplus), I felt myself begin to relax. I treated myself and took a two-gallon shower. But to what gain? That extra gallon could have sustained me a day longer or helped a friend in need. Now I find myself back where water runs freely, but there is still a cost. And today, it is too great to waste a drop.
It has been a month now, I have gotten used to idle time. I have finished four books and write regularly. The people in the café have really opened up to me. I guess it is because I am there all the time. I would even say we have become friends. I had even invited them over for dinner the other day and our group made a huge feast, only two people showed but we were still happy to break bread with new people. The heat still makes us lazy, at the hottest part of the day most of us do not do anything it is just too hot to handle. We lay there and let the sweat roll off us. I have finally gotten used to being dirty, sometimes when I get wet from doing dishes or something, the dirt starts coming off and it’s a little awkward if I wasn’t intending to clean up. We all have gotten used to sleeping outside every day and that is how I deal with the heat. What I like the most is our routine, we have gotten in kind of a process that we know the same way every day, people have broken off into groups, naturally gravitating towards like-minded individuals. The day is broken into three parts for me, making breakfast, waiting for lunch and cleaning after dinner. The only activities I partake in fit between these three-time units.
I use less than a gallon of water a day, I created a surplus, in fact, I have the most surplus of the group and thus plan to stay longer now that I am able. I don’t know where I will go next. I thought that the USA would be the answer to the drought but it seems that they are suffering too. It does not seem likely that I will be able to find a surplus of water that I could share with my family. I feel that I have failed in this mission, perhaps though with this new-found wisdom of living lighter and off one gallon a day, I can go back and practice it. After all, these were the ways of my grandparents, and now that the modern is going extinct, I must go back to relearn the traditional ways that will save us from this situation. Living here has taught me how to live lightly, work towards a circular life cycle for consumption, and how to cook food made from real, raw, ingredients instead of that processed food that we strived so hard to eat back home so we could look fancy eating Western food. I think of water differently now, I can no longer let it go down the drain, I must catch it and use it again. Round like the earth, it is the natural way of things, things were meant to be reused again on this finite planet
Our projected month is coming to an end. Though we were smart with our water usage and saved up to stay longer, many feel it’s their time to go.
As per usual we are split down the middle, 4 are choosing to stay, 4 will go.
Estranged. Will this be like my last group?are we meant to move through the world replacing one with the other?
I look at the relationships we’ve created. The bonds that were made.
Will we stay in contact and if so, how?
I made a friend at the market, she has invited me to spend time at her property.
I don’t have much to offer in exchange other than time and labor.
She lives a simple, sustainable life. She very much so understands the scarcity of water.
She has running water and a flushing toilet. She offers me a shower and I accept.
Running water scares me. Where does it go? Does it only have one use? Why does it move so fast?
Survival. To survive you think past A.
You think past turning on the faucet to wash your hands, brush your teeth, take a shower, rinse a vegetable.
You think past using two gallons of fresh water to flush the toilet.
How can I collect this? What else can this be used for? What is my order of actions, wash face, then my body, then my clothes? Are the ingredients found in my products (body wash, shampoo, detergent, etc.) safe for my garden?
What can I do with the running water while it comes to temperature? Too cold to rinse my body, but not to rinse my hair.
How have we not created systems that address these issues. Why are we still flushing the toilet with fresh water?
Like minded, my friend and I discuss changes that can be made and systems that can be fabricated.
I finish helping her with a project and the topic of “what’s next for you Skip” comes up. I don’t know.
For now I will return to Drylab while I still can. My time is not done there and I must rejoin those who are left of my family of odd kins.