The city is quieter, the birds are chirping, and the streets are clear of cars. As our government aims to increase sidewalk widths through ‘tactical urbanism’, we stick to our walkable neighbourhoods, getting to know our local parks intimately as the weeks of quarantine wear on.
In British Columbia, my home province, our health minister Dr. Bonnie Henry has encouraged us to spend time outdoors for our mental health. “Go outside” she says on the daily news. I started going to a park called Trout Lake further east in Vancouver more often than I ever have.
I wondered if it meant that my mental health suffered in the days before the pandemic when I was obliged to stay in my office throughout the days, rushing against the traffic and cars to get my son to school on time and myself to work. Now, I wake up, walk upstairs and turn on my computer and I am at work. While the definitions of work and home have blurred, the air is clear and I can breathe comfortably in my pajamas. We have only cut two thirds of what we need to cut in carbon emissions, and perhaps some of the changes will stick as the pandemic passes, like working from home and wider sidewalks. It is a step in the right direction.
My friend and I started taking physically distant walks once a week to keep our spirits up. One day my friend and I saw a rainbow as we were leaving Trout Lake Park. As she and I looked up, we marveled at the bright arc of colours that encompassed the sky. It was a small beautiful thing, with the trees in bloom, as the daily news continues to report the pandemic death toll, those little surprises on our walks help us through.