My Covid Heightened Awareness

Yesterday Steve’s back was bothering him, so I took our quarantine walk alone. I walked more slowly than usual, stopping to take photos of small moments that caught my eye. I felt freer to do this knowing I wasn’t holding Steve up.

I would have thought that being on my own, without Stephen to talk to, would make the time and our habitual route feel longer. I’d even given myself permission to cut the walk short and turn around early if I felt too tired or impatient. But quite the opposite happened: In what felt like no time at all, I found myself at the edge of the tiny Kensington town center, where we usually turn to head back home.

I crossed the street and headed down the long incline leading back to the Marin fountain, feeling particularly energized. Not only had I experienced the time and distance as foreshortened, it was one of the first smoke-free days in over a week, and walking outdoors, the breeze fluttering against my skin, felt liberating.

I stopped for a moment to photograph a collection of delicate leaves strewn across a grate in the sidewalk, and when I looked up, I noticed a woman, about ten feet ahead of me, slipping inside a gate. I had left my glasses at home to avoid the mask-induced fogging, so I couldn’t see her clearly. But something about the small scene ahead brought me to attention. The blur of the woman disappearing into her yard, the click of the latch, the creak of the hinge—all registered distinctly, imbuing the scene with meaning, as if what followed might be important.

I’ve had that experience when watching a movie, an effect intended by the film maker to heighten a particular moment. The ring of a heel on the floor, the swish of a skirt in the air, the click of a lock. But I’ve never before experienced this while going about my everyday life.

A few blocks later, I passed a man washing his car, another very ordinary scene that seemed heightened to me yesterday. As he bent over and dipped his chamois into a red bucket, the movement of his spine, the red of the bucket, the sucking sound as the chamois absorbed water, each seemed a wholly separate and essential moment, important in and of itself, as well as in combination with what surrounded it to create full meaning.

As I continued on my way, stopping every so often to capture a small visual moment that seemed beautiful to me, I marveled at how many photos I’ve taken for the past six months, along the very same route. When I began, I assumed that at some point, I would run out of new moments shoot. But that has not at all been the case. Each time we walk, I discover several irresistible images to capture, either because I’ve not noticed them before or because the light on a particular morning has transformed them.

The more tired of Covid and its restrictions I become, the more I notice—even appreciate—some of the opportunities it offers. Taking walks in the context of Covid, I am in less of a hurry than I would be normally. And because of the slower pace, I have time to notice and absorb more, to be more intensely aware and in the moment than ever before. With this heightened awareness I’m able to discover more photographable images. And for the same reason, the woman walking through a gate and the man washing his car enlarged for me into full-blown micro-scenes, capturing my attention fully and transporting me for a moment or two into a realm outside of my usual and ordinary life.

Berkeley Sidewalk


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