How did Margaret Atwood know my clothes dryer wasn’t working? There has been much written, in recent months, about Atwood’s “prophetic vision” and her ability to be eerily “prescient.” That’s because her book Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth was published just before the stock market free fall and mortgage meltdowns. (Before that was her timely theme of female suppression in The Handmaid’s Tale, and Oryx and Crake, her dystopian novel that collided with the SARS outbreak.)
Either Atwood was born under a lucky star or she really should be moonlighting from a shady storefront with a sign that says “Palm Readings: $25.”
All this explains why I was so interested in a recent fundraising event. Up for auction was a crystal decanter, which held five predictions for the future, written by none other than . . . Margaret Atwood. I immediately predicted I would be the highest bidder (by predicting I would not spend any money on shoes for the next three months). My prediction was right! I walked away with the decanter!
“Do I have a crystal ball?” Atwood recently asked an interviewer. Her answer was no, but I’m not so sure. After kicking off my high heels (I had predicted that my feet would be swollen by the end of the event. Right again!), I climbed into bed to read her predictions, my heart pounding as if I had just got back my LSAT scores. In my hands, after all, was something no one else had read.
Atwood’s predictions were scrolled up in orange tissue paper and tied prettily together with string inside the decanter. I carefully unravelled the five sheets of paper. “Five Areas Of Prediction,” read the title. What followed was five pages, typed single-spaced. (I worried a little. The pages had the look of crazy stalker letters.)
I read Atwood’s predictions in their entirety, savouring every word. At first, I’ll admit, I was a little disappointed. She started off by saying that for her “five areas of predictions,” she would be sticking to themes relating to energy, laundry, clothing, connections and communications, and health and religion.
Truthfully, I had been hoping more for something along the lines of “You will travel far and wide,” or “You will receive an unexpected surprise”—yes, okay, fortune-cookie kind of predictions. But this was Atwood. Not the delivery man from China House.
Still, Atwood did seem to be on to something. How was it possible, for instance, that she knew my dryer broke down three weeks ago and that, though all my clothes were still getting washed, they were all over my house hanging to dry on towel racks and staircase banisters?
Let me explain. In “The Laundry” area of predictions, Atwood, who is clearly very interested in energy consumption, writes about the return of the drying rack and “clotheslines of all sorts.” (See? It’s eerie that it’s happening right now—at least at my house.) She also predicts a diminished use of fabric softener, which, I guess, without a working dryer makes fabric softener less of an issue anyway. Another of her predictions is the return of the clothespin apron—my mother would fall over if she saw me in one of those!—for the masses of us who she thinks will soon be hanging our clothes out in our backyards.
Atwood is, admirably, clearly obsessed with conserving energy. She also talks about “solar fabrics.” Atwood predicts industrial hemp (not the drug . . . sigh) will be legalized in the United States within 10 years. She predicts there will be clothing that heats the body, cools it, and recharges itself. She says to look out for sun hats with rechargeable batteries—she calls them “solar toupées”—that have small fans inside to keep you cool, and suits that, like an electric blanket, heat the body while you’re wearing them. (Perhaps Atwood can lead off the “solar toupée” trend?)
One area that I, as a mother, quite appreciated was her “Health” predictions. She says to look for “Forest Bathing,” which is a Japanese term for “walking in the woods.” She also writes about “Nature Deficit Disorder,” which she predicts will become an “official” condition. (If it does, I predict many mothers storming into doctors’ offices demanding, “Does my child have NDD?”) According to Atwood, if children are deprived of the experience of nature, they will suffer from developmental disorders. So get them away from their computers and make them go walk in the woods. Walking, she says, will help depression. Atwood also foresees an increase in outdoor classrooms—already well established in Europe. Other predictions include remote surgery, tables with foot warmers, and taxes on buildings that keep their lights on at night—oh, and increased attendance for theatre and opera.
Atwood threw in a last prediction. “I will be wrong about something, sometime. But what? And when?” she writes. In the meantime, given Atwood’s track record, I’m a believer. Can anyone tell me where to find a “clothespin apron”?