Quarantine Diaries – Day 11: The use of ravenala

by Catherine

Puerto Rican American poet William Carlos Williams said, “Time is a storm in which we are all lost. Only inside the convolutions of the storm shall we find our directions”. Our 336 hours in quarantine is a holding pattern that forces us to look backwards and forward while remaining grounded in the very real present.

I found a ravenala palm. Childhood memories flooded, made sharper with the sea breeze and sun. In the 60s, most Mauritians lived on the plateaux, electricity grids and tarred roads didn’t reach the coast. We only visited beach cottages, literally named camps, on weekends and holidays. Who remembers the hiss of an early morning primus stove, or the generator’s hum, its yellow light dimming into the evening?

The fleshy ravenala made ideal building material for campements along the bord de mer. It was readily available, cheap and flexible enough to sway rather than crumble in cyclones, and kept cottages cool and dark, handy when air conditioners were an alien invention.

Long Beach epitomises convenience and luxury, but I like its comfortable room and have grown used to the daily rhythms. I also enjoy the banter with temperature-takers and food delivery people, my only live contact.

After all the fuss, quarantine – however rickety – may be an unintended gift from the government to help us rethink our lives.

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