I’m not sure whether I’ve ever mentioned this, but I can be amazingly visually unobservant. When I’m walking around here in NYC, I’m conscious of things like cars and the foot traffic of other pedestrians, but I don’t frequently notice things like architecture or foliage.
I’ve become aware of this trait only by noting how different my orientation is from that of other people. My mom, for example, sees everything, from the shapes cast by shadows on the sidewalk to each and every new budding flower and leaf. She remembers the exact color of peoples’ eyes, the color of their hair, outfits they’ve worn. She’s an artist, so I guess this makes sense. An ex of mine would notice every single dog on every single city block, down to the breed and demeanor and characteristic tail wag. I have a friend who’s especially conscious of style, and he can spot a smart outfit in any crowd.
Me? I couldn’t tell you all of my own friends’ eye colors if I tried. I never seem to notice when people get haircuts. I once walked by a giant tree that had been felled by a windstorm on my own block—which, by the way, was surrounded by police tape—and didn’t notice that anything had happened.
When I mention this to people, they often ask whether I have a sensory capacity that’s disproportionately heightened to compensate for my lack of visual alertness. Maybe taste? My love of food would suggest that, but I don’t think I’m a super-taster, and palate isn’t especially refined. My sense of smell is average. I’m sensitive to loud noises, but I don’t think I hear more than anyone else. The only real explanation I can settle on is that I’m not very visual to begin with, and I live in my head, which sometimes keeps me from taking in the physical world around me.
Funnily enough, the fact that I’m wandering a lot less than usual seems to have made me a little more observant when I am outside. With a much smaller radius as my orbit—ten blocks in any given direction, give or take—and only short, socially distanced walks each day, I’m stopping far more often to look around. My mask allows me to breathe, but it makes me feel a little muffled, and it takes away my sense of smell, so I’m suddenly more aware of, and reliant on, my eyes.
I’ve always thought that NYC is organized into micro-neighborhoods, as well as neighborhoods. I’ve been in the same neighborhood most of my life, but I’ve many different 10-block radii home within it. They’ve all had a character of their own. In the last four weeks, I’ve really observed the buildings, trees, and flowering plants that make my current micro-neighborhood special.
These include: the potted tulips on the northeast side of my blog, a beautiful contrast of bright golden flowers and rusty brown pots. The stained glass hanging in the window of a neighbor across the street. The flowering tree right outside my front stoop, which I’ve recently watched transition from bare winter branches to bright green buds to lush green leaves. The nearby building that is almost entirely covered in ivy. The gentleman on my block who perches himself on the front steps of his brownstone nearly every day at twilight to play his banjo for a few minutes; he’s doing it with his mask right now. The bed of daffodils in the park that’s only a half block away.
That park has been such a refuge and gift during this difficult time, and I the comfort I take in it makes me chuckle at how seldom I’ve used it as a resource until now. That’s sort of what’s happening as I take more time to observe: I realize how much beauty I take for granted every day, every season. I won’t be outdoors as much as usual as spring arrives this year, but it’s possible that I’ve actually seen and registered more of the change of seasons than I ever have before.
The theme that I keep coming back to lately is that of finding fullness and contentment with what’s here, under my roof, and the idea that I’m fortunate enough to have what I need. This week, I’m conscious of the fact that I not only have what I need to survive this time, but also that my suddenly smaller world is full of sights and sounds that I’ve never noticed before.
I’m wishing you a few first-time sightings or new discoveries within your own quarantine worlds this week. Happy Saturday!
A great looking potato fried rice that’s quick cooking, too.
I like the looks of this nourishing chickpea and eggplant stew.
Some fresh and beautiful plant-based sushi rolls!
I’d love to be noshing on Thomas’ vegan chicken nuggets right about now.
1. Need a lift for the spirits? You can read about—and watch heartwarming videos of—patients who have recovered from COVID-19 being discharged from hospitals with applause.
2. I loved this essay about how a couple kept their daughter well-nourished and upbeat as she recovered from the coronavirus with fourteen days of beautiful, home cooked meals—arranged on a tray, room service style.
3. An interesting consideration of how the current pandemic might reshape US hospitals.
4. I almost never remember dreams, but I’ve actually remembered more than usual in the last two months. This article gave me some insight into why this could be happening.
5. In keeping with what’s on my mind today, a friend shared this with me. She said it was a short video with a big message, and she was right.
Keep well, friends. I’ll be back soon.
Happy Sunday, everyone. In spite of the fact that New York City’s first day of spring was marked by snow, the warm afternoon sunlight today is making me feel as though the seasons really are changing. I’m enjoying a quiet day of work at home, and I’ve been taking occasional breaks to catch up on reading and recipes. Here’s what has caught my eye. To begin, a lovely asparagus and pea soup from Farm on Plate. Asparagus and peas are so elegant, and…
I’ve been reading a lot about authenticity lately. I guess this is self-selecting, as it’s a topic that interests me and tends to permeate the spaces I spend time in (yoga studios, blogs that focus on health and self-care, therapy). But authenticity seems to be having something of a moment, too—or so book titles and articles would suggest. For the holidays, my mom gifted me with a copy of Baron Baptiste’s new book, Perfectly Imperfect. I was touched that she thought of it,…
In the week since I wrote about heartache here on the blog, a lot of kind people have taken the time to share their own stories with me or simply offer up goodwill. One longtime reader directed me to this address about learning the healer’s art. It’s written from a religious perspective, but I think it touches on truths about the healing process that are universal, and I wanted to share from it today. The speaker, Elaine S. Marshall, was dean of the BYU College of Nursing. I’m not surprised…
It was a spectacular week of recipe fails around here, which is why I haven’t had anything to post. Not just recipes that needed fine tuning, mind you, but real duds. It was frustrating. Needless to say, I reacted by bearing down and retesting everything, which only resulted in repeated failures. Finally, I decided to take a real break. I took the end of the week and the weekend off from cooking, assembling simple stuff and focusing on my baking adventures instead. I’m…