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Purposeful Pastimes in a Pandemic

The disruption of everyday life in this pandemic can lead to confusion, immobility, or a lack of concentration. I know this has been true for me. Certain activities that in normal times would be effortless and fun now seem suddenly too hard or irrelevant. For me, this includes writing anything longer than a paragraph. I also painted a small scene of the streetscape out my window but it took me over a month to finish it.


I’ve now identified a handful of activities that are easy for me, and I’ve managed to rationalize them by finding meaning in them as well. The first, of course, is walking. While staying home is the preferred course of action during a pandemic, a solitary walk in a nearby park is acceptable within the current guidelines. I find these walks in nature absolutely necessary for physical and mental wellbeing.


Taking pictures of birds can also be fun, educational, and meaningful.


While the Great Egret, Red-tailed Hawk, and Northern Cardinal are common in these parts, confirming their presence adds to the overall picture of the state of nature in the present time.


More birds are to come during spring migration, and every identification will build on the collective survey. Learning how to properly focus is not that easy, but easy enough when the subject cooperates.


Before the pandemic, I didn’t have much use for the nighttime. As a morning person, I often drew the curtains on the night and curled up with a book.


For some reason, during the present crisis I have become fascinated with everything about the night scenes out the window. They are at turns romantic and ominous, comforting and lonesome, theatrical and mundane. So, I have been taking pictures at night. It’s really easy! To add meaning to them, I think all images of the crisis will help future historians better understand this moment. In addition to whatever aesthetics may be found here, pictures will become a part of the documentary record.


Trying to get anything accomplished during the course of a pandemic is a struggle. But look - here are some pictures of birds and scenes of New York at night. They’re comforting pictures as well, at least to me, affirmations of creatures at home in the forest and city and in apartment buildings nearby.


If I can recommend anything helpful during this extraordinary time, look for three things you can do with little effort. Take a walk, take a picture, or make a phone call to a friend. Nothing extraordinary. Maybe a picture of a white pigeon on a pole, just your everyday meaningful symbol of peace and hope and honor, the bird Noah sent after the Flood, a harbinger of Love, the Holy Spirit.


Images of Inwood Hill Park and W. 207th Street by Walking Off the Big Apple from the last week in April, 2020. Clicking on the images enlarges them.

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