What have I learned from two months of lock down? I find myself much more connected to my apartment and neighborhood. As life has slowed, I’ve learned to identify the true value of “neighborhood.” It’s not just a place—it’s a state of mind.
An appreciation for windows. Inspired by the title of this project and website, I’ve been thinking a lot more about windows. Particularly the ones in my apartment: these portals to the outside world have brought me moments of calm and moments of joy. In the mornings, I find myself looking longingly out my kitchen window. It’s where I choose to have my coffee and plan my day in the grey light. On warm and windy days, I open all the windows wide to let the spring air whip through my small apartment, rustling the pages of magazines and rattling my house plants. Sometimes I climb onto my fire escape, and find myself on the other side. Perched here, I can admire the color of the light through the newly sprouted tree leaves. It’s an electric yellow-green. I watch the sky often; That’s not something I used to do before.
I don’t live in New York City anymore, I live in Eastern Crown Heights. My walks take me to the local grocery stores and bodegas, and to the post office a few times. When I’m not motivated by an errand, I’ll stroll down brownstone-lined streets on the surrounding blocks. On one magically warm night in early April, my girlfriend and I decided to attempt a jog down President Street. As the sun set, men of all ages began to emerge on front lawns, patios, and stoops, sporting the conservative black garb and wide-brimmed hats associated with the ultra-Orthodox community that lives here. Hebrew song filled the air, and joyous chanting surrounded us as the neighborhood began to celebrate Passover. Our hearts pounded in our ears as we sprinted down the street, smiling and laughing at the unexpected acapella accompaniment to our jog.
What makes “neighborhood” a state of mind? It’s been over six weeks since I set foot in Manhattan, which used to be the center of my weekday focus. Cutting the workday commute from my life has most dramatically altered my sense of place. The subway in fact seems like a distant memory. Has it been months or years since I’ve been down there? With a new groundedness in my apartment and neighborhood, I have found moments of magic and of mindfulness. There are new rhythms now that are no longer punctuated by the deafening screech of train breaks. My senses are attuned to nuanced patterns that in the past would have gone unnoticed. I listen for the mail being delivered, signaled by the clanging of the mailbox, I watch as people enter and exit the building and speculate on their activities, I sit for hours with the sounds of the neighborhood children playing, birds nesting, and the rustling of garbage in the eddies of the breeze. When you focus on the small details you feel more connected—it brings a sense of cocooning and calm in an otherwise uncertain time.