2021 is coming to a close and a new year is upon us. It has been a difficult ride. The world is undergoing a huge transformation and as all change goes, it can be painful and grueling. How do we bring about a positive outcome? How do we shine the light in places of darkness? As I contemplate the details of these questions, I continue to get one simple and consistent answer.
Love is a powerful energy.
It drives us to do things we would never otherwise do.
It lifts us to the highest elevation.
It makes us feel invincible and free.
It gives us unbounded courage, and catalyzes changes, always for the better.
It leads us to new horizons.
It breaks down limiting barriers.
It takes us on exciting adventures.
It gives us clarity where there is no understanding.
It dominates hatred.
It never discriminates.
It connects us to one another.
It ignites our passions and uncovers our greatest potential.
Love is the answer, the action, the direction, the plan, and when we follow its pull and embrace its power, we will always win and peace and happiness will inevitably prevail.
I hope in 2022 you all find the courage to be your best self, the strength to weather the storm, the trust to follow your intuition, and the wisdom to answer every question and action with love, wherever it may lead. Namaste and Happy New Year.
It is the winter solstice, the peak of darkness and at the same time, the beginning of the light. I hope this is a metaphor for the state of the world right now and for the arc of the pandemic. It is bad. Sickness is everywhere. Death too. I can’t help but look at it as if we are simply cells in the Earth body and She is cleansing, shedding herself of the disease for her own survival. Perhaps randomly, perhaps selectively. No one really knows.
The sun is rising and the traffic down our narrow winding country road is increasing. I am blessed to have the fortune to remain here in my warm and cozy surroundings, to be able to be home during the darkest day of the year in dark times. As the light begins to surface in the horizon, it dawns on me that this may be a time to surrender, to break down deceptive stories, and look at the shadows. A time to head into and through the fire with courage and conviction and dive into the watery depths with trust. For this is where the real magic happens, where the alchemy of change and creation is catalyzed.
As Christmas approaches, I am feeling the dichotomy of infinite hope and overwhelming grief that defines this annual ritual. It brings forth our individual and collective experience and asks us to have a look. It is as joyous as it is painful, as promising as it is desperate. It stirs our emotions and demands our attention, and though there are times when I would rather turn away, there is no escaping it. There are reminders in every direction. It seems to be a necessary rite of passage, at least in my culture.
In recent years, the burden of carrying forth this tradition has at times seemed unnecessary and burdensome. (My children have grown and not yet had children of their own.) However, I have come to realize that from a different angle, it is actually an opportunity, a chance to consider and feel the lives we have lived up to this point, the decisions we have made, the blessings bestowed upon us, the hardships endured, the mistakes, the victories, the light and the shadows. It is a time to let go of our grievances and past grief and to decide who we want to be moving forward. It is a time to count our blessings and give thanks for all that illuminates us. It is a time to contemplate who we really are, apart from the story we tell ourselves. It is a time to feel deeply and forge ahead bravely.
As I look up from my computer to the view outside, I notice the sun has replaced the darkness. The traffic is in full swing and life is marching on. I realize that I am on the right path, that my efforts to be my best self for a better world will pay off. I feel a sense of assurance as my heart lightens, and I realize I am simply witnessing a natural cycle, a dark point that will again return to light.
This weekend, my boyfriend and I watched a documentary called, “Long Strange Trip,” which followed the Grateful Dead band from their beginnings in Palo Alto, CA to their eventual expansion as a worldwide phenomena. It was informative and inspiring and as we plowed through all 6 episodes, something notable began to happen.
We are musicians and before Covid hit, we were playing out regularly at a few local bars and restaurants. Our setlist was growing and we started bringing in other musicians and expanding our sound. It was always fun and the performances motivated us to dig deeper, practice harder, and experiment with new ideas.
Once everything shut down and we were restricted to playing alone in our own space, we lost motivation. We tried recording some videos and posting them on social media, but it just wasn’t the same. Eventually, we found ourselves practicing less with minimal enthusiasm.
Recently, we have felt a spark begin to re-ignite as the pandemic wanes and the promise of more abundant live music emerges. We have been looking at new tunes and considering a variety of styles, and after nearly a year of rest, something feels novel and promising. It is a growing ember and we are hoping that the flame will catch soon and we’ll be on our way again.
The documentary was perfect timing.
One of the most interesting parts of the story was the Dead’s innovative approach…to just about everything. Not only did they merge several styles of music (bluegrass, blues, folk, R & B, jazz, classical, jug) into their own unique form of improvisation but they also had a singular approach to handling the business of the band. Instead of following the conventional models of other popular acts, they created their own methods, allowing the journey to unfold and the long strange trip to come alive. Instead of focusing on making money or selling lots of records, their goal was to connect with their audience and create something together, something that was fun and free form, and that’s exactly what happened.
Innovation and creativity are strong values for me and so, this type of story gets me going. It makes me want to tap deeper into my own potential and find ways to allow more of what they had to flow through me.
As I began to think about ways to do this, I remembered a book I had read many years ago called, the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. In it, she points out that everyone has an unlimited creative potential. It is part of our birthright. As children, our connection to this source is vast and unblocked. We easily move in and out of unique imaginings and creative experiences. We are open. We observe. We experience. We create. Then, as we grow and move through our lives, our creative essence is slowly eroded by society until we reach a point where we can no longer find it. Sometimes, we can’t even remember having it.
Cameron’s book helps those committed to discovering and recovering their creative power begin to unleash this buried gift. She has several techniques like writing morning pages to drain out distracting thoughts and tap into more wisdom. She also talks about planning a weekly “artist’s date” in which the reader takes their “inner artist child” out on a playdate, seeking new adventures and mysteries. All of the experiences and observations gathered are added to our ideas reservoir and become resources for our imaginings. I also believe that when we seek out fun and joy, we find our true selves and in this discovery, our creative potential opens up.
It appears that during the pandemic, my ideas reservoir had been running dry. I had limited social interactions and not a lot of places to go and things to see. I had plenty of valuable walks in the woods but that’s where it ended. My access to new sights, sounds, smells, touches, and tastes was limited. My imagination felt dulled, and I was not bringing much to the music.
Now that I have been vaccinated and the world is opening up, I plan to begin “stocking the pond” again and scheduling a “weekly artist’s date.” I am already a daily journaler and will continue that with the intention of clearing the way to my inner creative self. I may even commit to following the program outlined in Cameron’s book.
And as I think about the lives and accomplishments of the amazing Grateful Dead band, I will listen to more innovative arrangements, spend quality time with my guitar, work on new approaches to a variety of musical styles, write regularly, focus on fun, and take my hand off of the wheel, allowing the journey to unfold. After all, there may still be a “long strange trip” within me, waiting to be born.
I look at my watch and realize I am late. I need to be at the airport in 20 minutes but that is impossible. I am at least a 20 minute drive from the terminal and I haven’t even finished packing. My belongings are spread out all over my bed and my suitcase is already too full and much too heavy. I try to focus and pull myself together but I am quickly in an all out panic and completely overwhelmed. My mind begins to scramble and I lose any remaining mental control. I am going to miss my flight. Of that, I am certain.
I have had this recurring dream over the years and it successfully illustrates how I feel at times. I am an ambitious Capricorn and have always been striving for a higher plane. I know I have it in me to soar to greater heights, I just don’t know how to get there and sometimes it feels like I am carrying too much.
I have been reflecting on this theme recently because I have chosen the 10 of Wands repeatedly over the past month in my daily Tarot card draw.
The 10 of Wands suggests that we may be moving with too large a burden and that this load may be unnecessary and holding us back from realizing our dreams. It asks us to reflect on our situation and lighten things up by prioritizing, accepting help, and letting go of outdated and potentially harmful patterns, behaviors, and relationships. It says that our burdens come in a variety of forms including material, spiritual, literal, emotional, and energetic and that if we are to arrive at the desired destination, we will need to unload.
I have felt some heavy energy surrounding my efforts lately and have noticed that most of it is self-imposed (goals I have set for myself, guilt I am working off, scattered organizational energy, unprocessed emotions). I have begun to realize that many of these energies have been with me for years and have slowed my progress. I have started questioning what would happen if I began to leave some items behind. If I dropped some of my bags, would I make it to the airport on time?
As I consider this, I realize that perhaps it is alright to step back and enjoy the fruits of my labors without carrying any guilt. Perhaps it is better to face my emotions head on and provide time, space, and self care so that I am able to process and release the sadness, hurt, and loss instead of continuing to bring it along, and even though it’s hard to let go of familiar patterns, maybe it’s healthier to say good-bye to those that are no longer working.
In the process of determining what to keep and what to unload, I have found it valuable to observe all that makes me happy and gives me joy. These are the things I want to add to my bag because they are light and propel me forward, and they are indicators that we are on our truest path.
Everything else can go.
Of course, there will be negative and difficult situations, emotions, and energies along the way, but I know that the quicker I can identify, process and integrate or let go, the smoother and more successful the journey will be (to begin manifesting your desired life journey, click here https://www.mysoulpurposeproject.com/).
As we head towards the New Moon on April 11th, it is the perfect time to reflect on what loads we are carrying and if they are a necessary part of the voyage or are hindering our progress. We are the creators of our lives and if we want to travel to exciting destinations, it may be wise to let go of unnecessary cargo so that we can move along more freely with ease, flow, and unlimited grace.
Ever since I started following the moon phases, I have taken some time around the full moon to reflect on areas of my life that are painful or uncomfortable. I try to pinpoint situations, ideas, and relationships that are causing anxiety, pain, fear, or any negative feeling. I look at past events that have hindered my progress and people who have told me I’m not good enough. I consider the effects these beliefs have had and decide if they are bringing me happiness or holding me back from reaching my fullest potential.
We all hold onto things for a number of reasons. We may fear change, emptiness, the unknown, starting anew. We may have guilt or believe we are unworthy. We may be holding onto expectations, old patterns and pains, self-limiting beliefs, and harmful encounters that have been thrust upon us by others. We may hold onto the past because we fear saying good-bye. We may define ourselves by these experiences and feel that we are required to carry them with us for the rest of our days.
The renowned psychologist Carl Jung said, “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” He believed that we have the power to define and create who we want to be by releasing our attachment to past ideas, situations, people, and feelings that are no longer working. He believed that once we forgive and let go, we are then able to begin the process of manifesting abundance, happiness, alignment with true self, and whatever else we can dream up.
The more I practice the art of letting go, the more I believe this to be true.
When we make it a regular practice to reflect on areas of our lives that cause pain, anxiety, or unease, we can begin to identify their origin and take the necessary steps to release them from our lives with love and compassion. Working towards understanding the reality of the situation or belief rather than the story you and others are telling is important, as is determining whether or not we are avoiding painful realities by busying ourselves, perpetuating our perceived shortcomings through rumination, or attracting relationships and situations that reinforce these harmful beliefs.
If we are not living a happy, joyful life (most of the time), chances are we are not in sync with our true nature and there are likely things we are holding onto that are not supporting our best selves. So, how do we begin to let go?
I would recommend spending some time in meditation or journaling with the intention of uncovering any areas of discord and their possible points of origin. I would then make a list of all the people, situations, and beliefs that are no longer supporting you. Give thanks for all that you have learned from each experience and for any positive purpose it may have served. Send a blessing and then let it go. An effective ritual is to burn or shred the list as you release the energy into the Universe. This will strengthen the process and punctuate your intention. Also, it is important to remember that some of these beliefs and habits have been formed over many years or are deep rooted and will take a repetitive effort over time to fully release. I believe it is worth the effort and even if the letting go is small at first, you are still heading in the right direction and on the best path.
Once you have set your intention and have gone through the ritual of release, you can begin to heal and create a more spiritually rewarding reality. It is a good practice to replace the old patterns and beliefs with new more self directed ideas. Some ways to begin include expressing gratitude, creating and repeating positive affirmations, and practicing the art of creative visualization (I will get to this in more detail in a later blog).
This month, as I meditated on what to let go, older and deeper memories began to surface. I could see a pattern of self limiting beliefs that had begun years ago with the inception of an idea that I was flawed in some way. The accusation, planted by another, had taken root in my subconscious as truth and I had believed it. Throughout my life, I have made decisions that reinforced it and turned down opportunities that would challenge it. These perceived limitations kept me contained.
Today, I release all negative energies that are not in line with my true self. I let go of ideas, situations, and relationships that are injurious to me in any way. I forgive all those who have harmed me and I forgive myself for any pain I have caused to others. I attract love, abundance, harmony, health, and creativity. I have the power and confidence to manifest my greatest potential for the highest good of all involved and I accept the challenge.
While on a recent walk with my friend, Mary, the topic of spring came up and we began to express our excitement about the coming of warmer and longer days, the re-emergence of plants and wildlife, more access to fresh air, increased outdoor activities and the general hope that always comes with the season. We shared our enthusiasm for all that was springing forth this year and discussed how it was that much sweeter after enduring a year of pandemic.
Mary went on to tell me that over the weekend she would be heading to the nursery to buy some pansies to plant in her yard. She said it was something she did on the first day of spring every year and that it was a bit of a ritual, a way to welcome the new season, a response to its beckoning.
The idea of ritual has come to my mind recently as I work on refining the services offered through my business, My Soul Purpose Project.(click here to begin manifesting the life you desire: https://www.mysoulpurposeproject.com/). I facilitate the process of connecting with inner wisdom in order to manifest one’s fullest potential. I work with moon cycles, dreams, the Tarot, soul journaling, and other practices that use ritual in one way or another.
In addition to the benefits of grounding, encouraging mindfulness, reducing anxiety, fostering connection to oneself and others, and improving physical and mental well-being, ritual also helps us tune in to our values and connect with others who share the same beliefs. It helps us to focus our energy, to build habits and organize our efforts. It promotes creativity and gives credence to our commitments. It is a celebration of the things we love.
The aim of my business is to help people create a life of happiness and purpose. Once we identify what is most truly desired, we move into the art of manifesting which involves belief, envisioning, writing, repeating, and embodying the desired outcome. Thoughts and words are a good way to begin, but in order to bring an idea to fruition, we must feel it happening, see it in our mind’s eye, and believe it to be true. Ritual adds power to these practices through focus, repetition, creativity, connection, love and fun. It helps to propel our wishes into action.
The first day of spring was on Saturday and so far the temperatures have continued to rise and the sun has been shining. I decided to go to the nursery myself today and buy a crate of pansies to plant in the yard. They were a variety of colors and seemed eager to burst forth in their new life. I brought them home, thanked the Universe for the wonders of spring, the beauty of these tiny flowers, and the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, and then I planted them in a container by the front door.
As I stepped back to admire my work and reflect, I was reminded of the miracle of life and the unlimited potential available to us all at any time. I could sense the importance of taking the time to tune in and create rituals around all that I love and cherish and especially around the things I’d like to manifest. I felt hope that whatever challenges we face in the wintering of our lives, we will be offered a new beginning, a second chance. Spring.
I suspect I’ll be reminded of this each time I pass by the planter and I sense that the more attention, thought and feeling I give it, the more likely I will be to attract more of the same. When I look upon the expanding pansies, I’ll be reminded that whatever we put our attention to grows and the rituals we create will help magnify our gratitude, allowing us to celebrate that which we hold most true.
In my experience, the placebo effect has always gotten a bad rap. It has either been used as a way to disprove the effectiveness of a drug or therapy being tested or to uncover a group of hypochondriacs. Whenever the placebo effect comes out ahead in a clinical study, it usually means that an attempt at a real cure has failed.
I have been thinking about the placebo effect recently while developing my new business, a life coaching and healing enterprise called My Soul Purpose Project. (Click here for more information on how you can begin manifesting your deepest desires~ https://www.mysoulpurposeproject.com/). Several of the healing services I offer have no solid scientific backing. I perform Reiki, Tarot card reading, and moon phase planning in addition to the more (but not completely) proven methods of massage, craniosacral therapy, and soul journaling and the outcomes are almost always positive, sometimes in cases where more traditional methods have not worked. I have seen miracles happen and seemingly insurmountable obstacles overcome with a focus on belief, positive thinking, healing energy, and tapping into inner wisdom. I began to wonder if the success of these approaches was a result (at least in part) of the placebo effect and if so, did it dim their authenticity.
The placebo effect is a concept used mainly in the scientific and medical fields and is defined by the Webster dictionary within this context. However, a 3rd definition is given which suggests a broader meaning, “something tending to soothe.”
Through my recent studies and practice, I have been learning about the power of positive thinking and belief in shaping our experience and it makes me think about the placebo effect and it’s value in the healing process. Instead of looking at the placebo as a tool to prove or disprove the real cure or as a fake medicine to trick the patient into wellness, perhaps it is itself the remedy.
More recently, the placebo effect has been getting attention as a real player in the field of health and has become the subject (instead of just the control) of scientific study. According to a an article published in Harvard Health Publishing/ Harvard Medical School, The Power of the Placebo Effect (Aug. 9, 2019), “How placebos work is still not quite understood, but it involves a complex neurobiological reaction that includes everything from increases in feel-good neurotransmitters, like endorphins and dopamine, to greater activity in certain brain regions linked to moods, emotional reactions, and self-awareness. All of it can have therapeutic benefit.”
The article also states that belief is enhanced with ritual and by taking a sugar pill regularly or following through on a prescribed course of action, the results will have a much greater chance of success.
As I refine and develop the programs and services offered through my life coaching and healing practices, I will keep this in mind. I will continue to develop methods, exercises, and rituals to help tap into inner wisdom. I will encourage positive thinking and help cultivate ways to visualize and strengthen belief in the desired outcome. I will introduce techniques for gaining clearer insights by accessing the subconscious mind through the tarot and soul journaling, and I will foster a connection to the healing energy that surrounds us.
I believe we should all embrace the effect of the placebo as it appears to be a valuable medicine. Used alone, or in combination with other pharmaceutical, herbal or energy therapies, it offers a natural and self empowering way to heal and to me, this makes it a real cure, one of the broadest, purest and most powerful.
I had a ski accident about 5 years ago which left both my knees a bit tangled and out of sorts. My then husband and I were beginning our adventure on Mont Fort, a monster peak at the Verbier Ski Resort. It was our first day out and shortly after starting the descent of one of her highest peaks, I began a turn prematurely, my knee twisted and the skis did not release. I tumbled a good distance before digging into the unforgiving terrain and stopping myself from plummeting any further. I was stunned and positive I had done some significant damage. After several minutes of deep breathing and regrouping, I realized, injury or not, I had to make my way down the rest of the run to the nearest lodge, and so I did, heart beating and mind engaged in pleading prayer.
After a good while inside, my body settled and although my knee felt assaulted, there was no pain and it appeared the injury wasn’t as bad as I had feared. I was able to make it down the rest of the mountain, continue skiing, and even finish the two week trip with a reserved approach and determined spirit. When I got home and finally made it to an MRI, they found only a bone bruise, but I knew deep down there was more to it.
I mostly recovered by the summer and was able to resume my normal activities. I thought I was out of the woods until a few years later when everything got worse. My knee began to hurt and swell after my daily runs, and so I did what I always had in the past, I tried to push through it.
I have been active all my life and even in rare times of injury, I would recover within a reasonable amount of time without too much intervention. This time was different. At some point, I realized trying to whip it into shape wasn’t effective and so, I started to nurture it. I went to the doctor and began physical therapy. I stopped running. I iced. I rested, and still, it wasn’t getting any better. After several more months, I decided to see a surgeon, but the news there wasn’t promising either. I was told that I had natural wear and tear and would need to live with it. Surgery most likely wouldn’t help.
As I reflected on the reality of my situation, I began to realize that my knee may never again operate at full capacity. It may require continuous care. I may be limited and forced to make more calculated choices about which activities I chose to pursue. The process of maintenance and recovery could be slow and I would need more persistence and patience in all of it. I may need to accept the injury as a loss and treat it as such. I might be left with a permanent scar that I would be forced to carry forward.
I understand that life is not always easy and we can sometimes get hurt, and that even though the wounds can be healed, they never fully disappear. Instead, they become part of who we are and color the fabric of our character and our lives. I began to consider that instead of trying to overcome or deny the injuries, we can own them with confidence. We can move forward with pride for what has been endured. We can honor the lessons learned and be grateful for the significant ways they have allowed us to grow.
I went skiing this week for the first time in a while and had a wonderful time. I had to change many of my normal behaviors like racing down the hill and constantly challenging myself on difficult terrain, but I realized that there were other new blessings coming forth. I was more focused on taking my time and skiing on slopes that were more comfortable and fun. I was relaxed and felt more tuned into my body and what it needed. I didn’t have a need to compete but instead was more social, interactive and appreciative.
As we all begin to emerge from the Covid pandemic, we will no doubt have some scars and parts of our life will be injured in certain ways. Instead of looking at these hardships as blemishes, perhaps we can reflect on how they have changed us, how much we have grown and evolved, how much has been added to our character, wisdom and perspective. Perhaps we can begin to see ourselves in a new light, as we emerge from the wreckage much stronger and more beautiful.
I am a musician and since the pandemic hit last winter, I have been unable to perform live. I play lead guitar and sing backup vocals in an acoustic trio called Wendy Darling and the Lost Boys and over the years we have built a following and secured gigs at a number of local restaurants and festivals. The live events are always a lot of fun as are the practices leading up to them, each giving birth to an abundance of laughter, cheerful conversation, delightful consumption, fluid movement to the music, and an overall relaxed and joyful experience. Working and playing with the band has added a great deal of happiness and play to my life.
Over the course of the quarantine, however, it has become increasingly difficult to maintain an energetic and creative musical practice. Where at first, we tried new approaches like putting out Youtube videos and sharing material through GarageBand, these methods eventually got old and punctuated the absence of the brilliance that can only be captured through live interaction, the interplay of sound, ideas, emotions, surprises, and improvised reactions.
I have felt myself falling into a slump and have had trouble regaining momentum.
A couple of weeks ago, I confessed my growing disinterest to my guitar teacher and he quickly offered me a book he said would help re-energize my approach. The book, called Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art by Stephen Nachmanovitch, outlines the benefits of using play to ignite passion, creativity, and progress. He gives examples of renowned musicians, artists, writers and inventors such as Beethoven, Bach, Picasso, da Vinci, M.C. Escher, Van Gogh, Einstein, William Butler Yeats, and William Blake, all who have created in this way. He talks about opening ourselves to divine play (known as Lila or Leela in Hindu philosophy ) in which we surrender our consciousness and need to control the outcome and open ourselves to whatever inspiration may come through. This approach allows us to tap into the spiritual collective and ultimately, join it with our own individuality to bring forth new and unique ideas.
As distribution of the Covid vaccine moves swiftly and the world begins to open up, I am beginning to see the point as it applies to my life. I am realizing how much play time I have been missing. I miss performing with my band in front of a smiling crowd. I miss travelling, get-togethers with family and friends, team sports, parties, farmer’s markets, festivals, walking downtown with a street full of people, eating out in a lively establishment, watching the latest movie in a sold out theatre, laughing my head off with a group of friends. When I think about my pre-Covid self, I realize when there is play in my life, I am extra productive, a better learner, and relaxed. I have deeper and more meaningful relationships and increased imagination and creativity.
I am only part way through the book, but I have already begun to approach my daily guitar practice differently. Instead of making a to do list and going through the scales and songs with mechanical effort, I have been allowing the process to come forth. Some days, I play whatever happens to be on the music stand. Other times, I take a band standard and try it with an entirely different guitar tuning. I experiment. I create. I dance. I play.
I am finding that all I need to do is show up and allow myself this opportunity, to lose all inhibitions and bring forth that which makes me happiest. I am beginning to regain my enthusiasm and new ideas and accomplishments are starting to surface, just as Nachmanovitch promised.
As the pandemic cloud lifts and we are able to get together in larger groups, there will be more opportunities for play, and I recommend taking them. There may still be a period of waiting before it is safe to rush out into the world, but even now, we can begin to approach all endeavors with the child-like perspective of fun, surrender, curiosity and joy. We will certainly be happier and we may even discover a hidden treasure or two.
Since the pandemic hit nearly a year ago, I have been keeping a low profile. I have stayed home most of the time, starting an online coaching business, visiting with family and friends over zoom, learning to paint through Youtube tutorials, expanding my cooking skills, exercising to online classes and watching countless Netflix productions. True, there have been some new insights, habits and skills gained, but at this point, I am eager for life to return to normal.
So, when my daughter who lives in NYC asked if I could come for a brief visit to drop off a guitar and celebrate her 27th birthday, I jumped at the chance. She said that NYC restaurants were open for indoor seating at 25% capacity and many had adapted by building outdoor heated structures that were separated with temporary walls. She said to wear a mask at all times, follow the same protocol I had at home and I’d be fine. As I began to think about the details, however, I got a little nervous. What would the City be like in the wake of Covid 19? Would it really be safe to walk down the street in such confined quarters? Where would we stay? Should we plan to eat outside in the middle of February? Had I made a bad decision?
When my boyfriend and I first arrived, we were struck by how little traffic there was. We had both driven through these city streets on a number of occasions over the years, and this was a stark contrast. In place of cars, there were hundreds of electric bikes, most making deliveries of groceries, meals and numerous other goods. Some were even pulling trailers. There seemed to be more bikes than cars and it felt a little unsettling as the traffic rules for this growing culture were vague and chaotic. It was a bit of a free-for-all and we found ourselves looking over our shoulders and around corners constantly in order to avoid these speeding delivery vessels.
My daughter lives between Murray Hill and Gramercy near the Lower East Side and we were able to find a hotel within a 30 minute walk to her apartment and a 15 minute walk to where we would be having dinner. We had stayed at this hotel before so we felt comfortable booking a room there and the cost was nearly half what we had spent in the past. We settled in, regrouped and then made our way to dinner. My daughter chose a chic Indonesion/French restaurant in Nolita and we decided to try the indoor seating because well, it was cold and we wanted to get the full culinary experience.
As we walked, we began to notice a number of empty storefronts and many makeshift structures jutting out into the street so that clientele could sit outside to enjoy their meal. Many were charming, garnished with clever decor and seating pods separated by plywood walls and plastic entrances, a testament to the innovative and resilient spirit of the New York culture. Modular heaters accompanied each space and although eating while dressed in winter garb, the diners seemed cozy and relaxed.
We enjoyed a first class dinner in a nearly empty restaurant with all the amenities and accoutrements one would expect of a fine NYC establishment. It almost felt normal until we got the bill via an app on my cell phone and did all the paying and tipping without making any further human contact.
It was a decent walk back to my daughter’s apartment, but the weather had cleared, we had eaten well, and the visit felt too short, so we offered to accompany her home. We were only a few minutes into the walk when things began to feel different. I had visited my daughter before and walked through these very neighborhoods, but now I noticed an increased number of vacant storefronts. There seemed to be a lot more graffiti and there was trash everywhere. (It may have been trash day or a result of the winter storms that had passed through, but I never noticed it like this before). There were few people walking the streets and as we continued, it got quieter and more desolate. Where there normally would have been hundreds bustling to and fro, there were only a few. True, it was Monday, but it was only 9 p.m. when we dropped off my daughter and headed back to the hotel, and the city was asleep.
As my boyfriend and I turned a corner, we paused for a moment to take it all in. I felt a weight in my chest and a realization of the extent to which Covid 19 had administered a devastating blow to this proud metropolis. I felt fear, grief, sadness and uncertainty. It seemed very clear in that moment that life would never return to normal because that’s not how it all works. We cannot erase an experience or even go on as if it hasn’t happened. We can never put it all behind us, because even though the phase of destruction eventually ends, it becomes a part of who we are going forward. And in that, I felt hope.
As I stood there looking at the boarded up storefronts and the moon under a brightening winter sky, I began to think about Pete Seeger’s song which was made an international hit by the Byrds in 1965 when it rose to #1 on the Billboard charts. The lyrics of the song, Turn, Turn, Turn, were taken directly from the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. They rang true then and they ring true now.
“To Everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”
New York City will rebuild just as we will all find ways to heal and redesign ourselves. We are creatures of adaptation and soon we will flourish again, as the cycle of life continues. Turn, turn, turn.