I’d meant to be blagging more here while mostly home, really I had. Despite the slow reopening here in NYC we are still mostly home, though home has been compressed some with the restart of our small renovations stopped in March when everything stopped, suddenly. The non-normalcy of the apartment over these pandemic months has been frustrating, for sure, with even less space than usual for us all to be here all the time. But in a small, quiet way I’ve been grateful for the non-normalcy, too — things are not normal, and likely won’t go back to normal either.
I hope that the new normal is more just than the old normal. I’ve been to two protests, feeling sometimes strange about being around so many other people, though grateful that most folx are wearing masks (with the notable exception of the police, who are mostly not that I have seen). I’m on tenterhooks as I imagine many of my fellow NYC residents (and especially my coworkers) are as we wait for the city’s budget to be finalized, mentally cheering on those at Occupy City Hall as I catch their updates on Twitter. Will we all know more next week, once the new fiscal year begins?
And still wishing I knew what was going to happen.
Pretty sure this is the first spring in two decades without a visit to the botanic garden. Yesterday we decided to walk around the perimeter and see what we could see from the sidewalk.
Peering in through the driveway gates we saw some tulips in the distance. Also a b/w kitteh snuck across the driveway, clearly enjoying the lack of crowds on a gorgeous spring day.
Someone had left a bagel on each of 4 tree stumps along the way, why? (Some of these are from trees lost during hurricanes and that weird tornado in the early teens).
Looking down at the tracks for the S train, used to stand at the back of the children’s garden for ages to watch for trains when the kid was small.
A lone red tulip near one of the administrative buildings, we never realized there was a path along this side.
Hard to see the tiny purple flowers amid the yellow flowers at the base of this tree with an interesting trunk, but trust me they’re there.
Pretty witch alder against that super blue sky.
The cherries are past, but the esplanade is still pretty. (Also grateful for the lovely cherry tree at the end of our block for our pink snow fix last week.)
I liked these very bright green borders up near the north entrance.
The park just next door has a view down into the azaelas, tho I accidentally focused on the fence rather than the flowers.
Light pink azaleas, plus the edge of a new cement structure in an area that’s been under construction for a while.
A closer look at the new structure. Can’t wait to see it for real when we can visit again. /fin
I’m generally pretty cynical about positive psychology/self-help advice, and my inner crank often resists the encouragement to practice naming and noting the things I’m grateful for, usually can’t quite convince myself that practicing gratitude will help. But it is helpful, actually, once I can quiet that crank down.
I miss doing so many of the things in the city that I want to do. The past few days I’ve been reminiscing about a visit I made with a few old friends last fall to the Thain Family Forest in the NY Botanical Garden in the Bronx. It’s a beautiful old-growth forest (within the city limits!), paths through trees and the Bronx River meandering through. That section of the Garden is kind of fusty, not as flashy or manicured as other areas, and when we visited it was uncrowded and quiet and lovely. Of course NYBG is closed right now, but wow after 9 weeks mostly in the apartment I would like to walk through that uncrowded quiet forest so, so much.
Back to gratitude, though. It’s also true that I’ve sometimes felt weighed down by the very enormous number of things in the city that I want to do. From expensive to cheap to free, there are so many places to go and see, so many places I haven’t yet gone and seen despite having lived here for my entire adult life. It’s not a contest, there’s no checklist or award for Doing All The Things in NYC, and as I’ve stayed inside I’ve been grateful for the lifting of that particular, small weight.
“I wish I knew what was going to happen” tweeted a friend of mine a couple of weeks or so ago. (Insert what has become the usual time has no meaning in a pandemic comment here.) I am wishing that, too. As a person who has always preferred to plan, to be in control, to know, this is a hard time. And still: grateful it’s not as hard as it could be, me and mine still healthy and safe and employed and able to buy food and wine and toilet paper.
Some views of our surroundings look normal, try to convince me that things are the way they used to be. There’s the shelf at the front of our apartment with the tv and games and records and the very neato paper art given to me by a good friend last December. But turn my head to the side to reveal the not-normal, a box of supplies for a stalled renovation, quarantined postal mail on the shelf near the door, waiting for a day or two to pass before reading and filing, just in case. The sewing machine out on the coffee table for weeks as we perfect our sewing of masks out of my stash of fabric. Who knew my hoarding keeping old plaid pj pants and other odd cloth bits would have come in so handy? And I am apparently a genius for keeping a couple of pairs of spent tights, which as it turns out are perfect when sliced up for mask ties, soft and stretchy and comfy.
We are trying to get out when we can, lucky to live near some big green spaces, though many many other people also live near these spaces. I try not to fixate on the still not insignificant numbers of people not wearing masks, especially the runners/cyclists who can be hard to avoid when they come from behind. Mentally high-fiving fellow mask-wearers, trying not to visibly stink-eye the mask-avoiders. There was a time not long ago when I was so much less judgmental about my fellow park-goers, I hope I can get back to that again.
A couple of weeks ago (for real!) we realized we hadn’t driven the car in a long time so drove out to the beach at Riis Park. I’ve been to Fort Tilden a few times about a decade ago but never to Riis Park. I think it always felt too far away and too crowded and too solely-beachy — beaches are not my favorite thing, and at Fort Tilden there’s a fun short hike to get to the beach which was pretty empty the times I’ve been. But our drive down was fast and easy, traffic very sparse, the same all over the city as many (most?) people are staying inside, saving lives, flattening the curve. The neon signs flashing those messages repeatedly all along the Belt Parkway made it feel like a disaster movie, the joy of no traffic cut through with the anxiety of disobedience. Does being in the car count as inside? Did our drive and socially distanced mask wearing beach walk unflatten the curve, even a little bit?
I have found it difficult to read beyond checking the news and state website 2x/day, really trying to keep the endless scrolling in check. So many books all around me (physically and digitally) but attention in such short supply. I suddenly noticed that the New Yorkers had been piling up on the side table and indulged in a Saturday afternoon spent mostly on the sofa to try and work my way through them. The oldest dated from March 3rd, and so it was an archaeological read through the changes happening in this city and the world, from just before things closed down to things beginning to close down to now (-ish, I’m still a couple of weeks behind). Admittedly it was a bit of a wallow, thinking about the last (and second to last) restaurant we ate in and the last movie we saw. It’s hard to believe that it’s been as long as it has, even as we don’t really know how long it will be until things change again. I wish I knew what was going to happen.
I haven’t been on the subway in 16 days, haven’t physically been at work in 9 days. That last time into work was just to check on a few things and grab some stuff from my office; I’m close enough that I could walk in, and with campus closed it was easy to stay at least 6 feet away from the few people I did see. We are all settling into our new work and college and working at a college from home situation, 3 people in (thankfully) 3 apartment rooms mostly online (though some of us are in zoom rooms more than others). The adults in the house have been fairly busy with work the past few weeks, actually, and while I do cast longing glances at my pile of unread books, I’m grateful that we are healthy and employed. We are so lucky.
I’ve found myself saying in several conversations this week — mostly proffered as one of the many reasons we are all so exhausted right now — that the cognitive load of this situation is incredibly high. It’s not just that we’re all washing our hands constantly and not touching our faces and trying to stay in as much as possible. It’s not just that we’re all suddenly working remotely, adapting to new methods of doing our work and collaborating with colleagues as well as new “office” space(s). It’s not just that the pandemic is evolving and changing so quickly while efforts by the federal government range from useless to dangerously misleading. It’s not just that we can’t travel to get to family or friends out of town, if anything were to happen to them. It’s every single one of those things at the same time.
While I consider myself to have a fairly robust tolerance for change, I am also fairly dependent on routines and habits. But while I continue to eat the same thing for breakfast Monday-Saturday, that might be my only routine that hasn’t changed recently. Every other routine and habit has gone out the window. I miss it all, even the parts I didn’t like that much, that I grumbled about or rolled my eyes at.
It has been a lot, it is still a lot. This weekend I’m trying not to work (much), and instead seeing if I can bring some focus to establishing new routines. The drastic reduction in physical activity is one of the things that’s hit me hardest. I’m no athlete but before this I did go to the gym a couple of times each week and do a ton of incidental walking and stair-climbing (like so many of us in NYC), and my body is very unhappy with the combination of less movement plus my somewhat less ergonomic workspace setup. My karate teachers are teaching our class online, and now that the weeknight session is a bit earlier than when we’re in person I can do that one as well as the weekend session. I need to figure out some other ways to get more movement into my day, and find a relatively uncrowded time for taking walks around the neighborhood or park. Maybe I’ll get my bike out and try to work some long rides into the week.
I’m going to have to let go of many of my preferred ways of doing things, because they’re just not possible anymore. I guess we all are.