Weekend Reading
April 18, 2020

Weekend Reading | The Full Helping

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.

It’s been a carrot cake kind of week around here, and now I want to stay on theme and make Gina’s carrot cake donut holes!


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.



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  1. Dear Gena, You know what a visual person I am and I can’t tell you what immense joy I felt at reading your own discovery of visual wonders in your near by environment that are revealed to you in this time of sticking close to home. I saw the tulips, I saw the stained glass, the ivy on the building, the man wearing a mask as he played his banjo on his front stoop. So vivid. Such a joy that you shared with us what you are noticing, so we could notice it too. Thanks you! My son was saying to me today, as we looked out at the ocean at a safe social distance from each other how he liked the quiet, not hearing traffic back in Portland. It’s so important to recognize and observe what is soothing and sustaining us in this strange new circumcstance. I also loved the idea of potato fried rice and carrot cake donut holes, and I absolutely loved the videos of hospital staff in New York applauding those who recover from Covid 19 as they leave the hospital. What a treat this edition of Weekend reading this is! Love you xoxo

    • The not hearing traffic, the cleaner air, and the clearer skies, these are the positives that inspire you to keep going at this time. I love that you are able to share this with your family. We need each other now more than ever.

  2. I loved this post. I feel most everything around me; colours, smells, shadows, etc. I have noticed more now showing a greater appreciation of this less noisy world. I also have vivid dreams every night…I call it my second life. My dreams at present are definitely dredging up deep memories and in some ways making me more sad. I am isolating alone as I live alone and have no human distraction. I believe this is part of the healing process and I have successfully been able to change some dream outcomes using methods stated in the article. I loved the short video too. This post was chock full of uplifting and informative content. Hope all is well with you

  3. Gena,

    I used to get upset while in school because when we would review a story or a poem or something, my viewpoint was always different; my interpretation of events always slightly off. Why didn’t I get the main point or see things the way everyone else does? I think what you are describing is our main strength as people; our individuality. It would be nice if we all saw the same thing (that would create affinity) but each of us has our own filter through which we see the world. I really like that. And I love that you are zeroing in on that park by your house, the subtle nuances in your neighborhood, and what it is like to be at home, all of those amazing little things that you may not have noticed before. Something good is coming out of a very bad time.

    I’ll be investigating that potato fried rice, you can be sure of that! Have a lovely rest of your weekend. Thank you again for another great post.

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