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.
This week whizzed by me, thanks to having traveled. Even though it feels as though I just posted weekend reading, I’m back with more articles and more recipes for you to gaze upon, each and every one of them scrumptious looking. Gabby’s raw almond butter and caramel apple cheese squares are, quite simply, ridiculous. Must make now. This is from my friend Clotilde’s archives, but it’s so perfect for this time of year: lentil kohlrabi salad with cumin and sesame oil. Wendy has…
Do you ever have a week of complete absentmindedness? I sure did. I’ve been misplacing everything this week, from earrings to a hat to (somehow) the top of my burr coffee grinder. Most hilariously, I couldn’t find my keys in my own apartment for an entire 24 hours. Good thing I had a spare set handy. There’s a difference between losing something and misplacing it, though. Funnily enough, I ended up finding most of the things that went missing this week. And it’s…
My closest friend from college and his fiancé were in town this weekend, and I had the pleasure of having them over for brunch on Saturday. I whipped up the butternut black bean enchiladas from Power Plates, along with a big salad and a pot of coffee. The three of us had a happy few hours of eating, catching up, chatting about the wedding next fall, and connecting. When they left, I had the same feeling of loneliness that often hits me when…
This week, I came across Clive Thompson’s article in Smithsonian about the history of maps. Thompson does give history, but the article is more than a chronicle. It’s also a meditation on the meaning and importance of maps, the rise of GPS navigation, and the fact that “many of us have stopped paying attention to the world around us because we are too intent on following directions.” I used to get lost in New York all the time. Sure, Manhattan is a grid,…