I’ve been told to stop talking about the apocalypse. Kayaking the Hudson, I used to wonder aloud what Newburgh or New York City might look like, once all the people were gone. It was sociopathic, husband Joe informed me.
So for awhile, I restrained myself from commenting on how the news reads like a too-obvious dystopian novel. What is there to say, anyway, except oy vey?
I’d just stare mesmerized at images of typhoon-ravaged Tacloban, with dead bodies in the streets and desperate survivors sprinting for air-dropped bags of rice. In the mothers carrying naked babies out of the wreckage, I’d see myself and wonder: Would we make it?
Then I took a hint from pop culture. Apparently, just by adding the word “zombie,” the apocalypse becomes a completely acceptable topic of conversation. You can get into all sorts of detail that used to be too morbid for mixed company, like who you’d want on your zombie apocalypse team, how you’d get out of town, who’d get picked off first, who’d be the last man standing.
In that last category, my ultimate Frisbee teammates nominated me. That’s no huge achievement since most of them are city slickers. Plus, once the subject had been green lighted, it began to dawn on me that all the while I had been tiptoing around the mention of the apocalypse, I had been training for it.
It wasn’t a conscious thing. I was just doing what I felt like doing — moving to a farm, gardening, canning, learning to forage, raising animals, working out, cooking in a solar cooker, using only the power of the sun. But all of those activities also happen to be useful as preparation for a zombie apocalypse, whether the “zombies” come in the form of a drought-induced food shortage or a meltdown at Indian Point (in which case, the plan is to flee north by car, bike or foot.)
If I were to lay myself down on a couch and start psychoanalyzing, I’d say my preoccupation with that grim topic — you know, the future — really took hold around the time I had my daughter. Since her arrival 14 months ago, I find myself wondering: If the grocery store ran out of food next week, would we be able to feed ourselves?
It’d be slim pickins, that’s for sure. But with each additional growing season under our belts, we’re producing more food and putting up more. Foraging is my new drinking at the bar. I’m addicted. Every free moment finds me climbing on fences to pull down bunches of wild grapes, hacking away at a hillside for Jerusalem artichoke, or trespassing in search of the mother lode of hickory nuts. The baby is my foraging partner. I show her the thing we are searching for and I swear she gets it. I’ll look down at her, buttoned up in my sweater, and there she is looking like the Joker with grape juice all over her face.
Even the weekends I spend away from the farm playing ultimate Frisbee, which were particularly hard to justify this year, can be seen through this lens as mission critical. Okay, I know it’s a stretch, but strength and stamina are the building blocks of apocalypse preparedness, and playing that silly sport definitely keeps me in shape. Look at Tacloban: kids lugging 50-pound bags of rice back to makeshift campsites, adults carrying their elderly parents to safety, piggy-back. Whatever zombies eventually slap us out of our comfort zone, they will leave us in a world that is no longer navigable by the click of a mouse.
If the zombies attacked tomorrow, we’d probably suffer a fate similar to the first white colonies to settle in America, like the Lost Colony of Roanoke, which didn’t do so great over the winter. Sometimes, after spending a morning shelling dry beans, which would cost a couple bucks at the store, it can feel like we’re just puttering. Like we’re cheerfully marking time until we get wiped out by some modern variation of the colonists’ cold winter. But enough puttering adds up: the fruit trees we planted when we moved in should start bearing fruit this summer. Our chickens are laying eggs, and we’re hoping that our goats, who’ve been getting frisky, will have kids and then give milk in the spring. In the meantime, we’ll be banging out reps on the pull-up bar.
And if the zombies march this way, come on over. There’s plenty of room at the farm.