The pandemic has shrunk our worlds. But it has opened our hearts to the places closest to us.
In the past two months, I have ventured farther than nine blocks from my front door exactly once. I don’t own a car. I’ve been lucky enough to work remotely. And, while friends and colleagues decamped for vacation properties or relatives’ homes, I have been stuck in my Brooklyn apartment.
Except I haven’t felt stuck. As the fear and frustration of living in the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic settled over New York, a fragile source of joy emerged for me: my own neighborhood.
Ditmas Park is a small, residential slice of Brooklyn known for its colorful Victorian houses. In the past, I had an abstract sense of gratitude for living in a neighborhood that is safe and clean and walkable. Now, that sense is almost physically palpable. The aimlessness and repetition of my near daily walks has forced me to pay attention in ways that I never did on my commute to work as a Wall Street Journal editor.
Places I never noticed suddenly feel essential. The Italian restaurant I’ve visited a handful of times is an open-air market—stocked with tiny cartons of strawberries and loaves of oatmeal sourdough that feel like a gift. On Albemarle Road, a wide, tree-lined median has become a sliver of park, full of socially distanced families and dog owners.