I used to be very house proud and always made my home beautiful when we had visitors, flowers from the garden and clearing the space of all the every day clutter so that the beauty of our home and the incredible vistas could shine through. One of the hardest lessons from losing our home to fire was seeing all that beauty destroyed and the time, energy and love undone, reduced to a pile of rubble that was the biggest mess I could ever have imagined and completely and utterly overwhelming to tidy up. Completely and utterly. So the mountain of rubble sat for a long time and hibernated while I processed our post fire journey and gathered the strength to tackle it. It made me think of one of my favourite Swahili sayings – ‘pole pole’*, slowly slowly you climb Kilimanjoro or else you get overwhelmed with altitude sickness, said even better by another Swahili idiom, the kind written on the colourful kanga cloths, each one with its own meaningful saying – ‘Haraka haraka haina baraka’, – Hurry hurry is no blessing.
And so through time taken slowly emerged one of the greatest learnings of our trial by fire – the importance of separating what we see as useless rubble or waste, because as one mixed up pile it seemingly has no purpose and yet the re-use of a mountain of rubble is far greater when separated into its parts. I wonder how many burnt homes on the Garden Route were simply demolished and dumped, where were they dumped? What purpose are all these mountains of rubble serving now? So we started, ‘pole pole’, slowly slowly to separate the rubble into useful parts, all the broken crockery was put to one side and I’ll be making a mosaic splashback in my kitchen with all my grandmothers’ and other memory filled porcelain. Glass was separated out, some incredible warped wine glasses and jars to be re-used creatively and the rest sent to recycling. Everything made of metal was gathered together and besides keeping a few pieces to make an interesting mobile for our new home, made of cutlery and cookie cutters, burnt jewelry and kitchen utensils, all the rest has been sent to recycling. Bricks were cleaned up and have been used in the rebuilding of our home to create beautiful feature walls and the rest of the brick and mortar rubble will be used to stabilize our driveway and road. Burnt trees were stockpiled for firewood and some branches of the burnt Milkwood, for example, will be used for feature balustrades and railings. Burnt rainwater tanks will be neatly cut and used as gravel reed beds for filtering greywater and as a natural filter for our plunge pool. Anything with an organic base like pieces of sisal carpet or cane basketry will be added to the still-to-be-created compost heap. Half burnt wire cabling was also taken to the recycling depot to be be stripped and re-used as was copper water piping. The only pile, and it wasn’t a big one, that we took to be dumped was all the burnt plastic, buckled rainwater gutters and the melted bottoms of children’s gumboots, we could find no purpose for these and it’s a stark reminder of how we should reduce our use of plastic because it is one of the few things that becomes truly rubbish.
So I’ve learnt how really important it is to separate separate separate that which we think of as waste into its useful parts. And slowly slowly you tackle the mountain. But this applies so well to our everyday lives, our homes and our kitchens. That which you think of as rubbish can be separated into its useful parts, kitchen scraps are a smelly nightmare when added to your rubbish bin, but if separated out for compost, bokashi bin
or chicken food they become a rich and useful resource. Small bits of plastic can be tamped into eco bricks
and used to build and of course paper, plastic, metal and glass can be re-used and ultimately recycled. And if you want to go the whole way then join the zero waste movement
and don’t have a rubbish bin at ALL, just remember ‘pole pole’, slowly slowly we’ll tackle this mountain we’ve created called rubbish.
* pole pole pronounced poh-leh poh-leh