Last October, I shared a trip back to one of the last places I had drawn before the pandemic began. At the time things seemed to be tentatively moving on from the pandemic, but much seemed still uncertain. A year later I have returned from a trip to New York City, a COVID booster is available along side the flu shot and communities seem to be embracing the challenges revealed by the pandemic.
So I wanted to take a moment to write a final COVID walking view. These posts began as reflections on drawing during a pandemic and the ways the urban landscape was being transformed by the pandemic. Now it only seems right to take a moment to reflect on where we have been and what the future might hold.
The Best Laid Plans
At the end of March 2020, I was all set to visit family stationed in Japan. I was going to spend a week with them, see the base they were stationed at and visit Tokyo. All of these plans were dashed when the State Department issued travel advisories for any place outside of the United States in early March 2020 and warned Americans they might not be able to return to the country if they left.
After this crushing defeat to my plans to return to travel outside of the Pacific Northwest, it was with trepidation that I heard that a family member would be married in September 2022 on the east coast. Despite my misgivings, I made plans to join them though, along with a three day stop in New York City before hand. Yet these plans did not quite feel real or possible.
Time seemed to crawl towards the hypothetical date of my departure, but then it suddenly was here. A friend drove me to the Portland airport, I got on a plane and by the afternoon I was on the New York subway heading to my hotel. My day finished with me in the Queens neighborhood of Long Island City, eating Jamaican food and drawing the view of the Manhattan skyline from my window.
Awakening in New York City
To suddenly be in a completely different city truly shifted me as I experienced a place that I did not bodily know. In the Northwest it is rare for me to find myself in a corner of a major city that I have no context for. While I may be momentarily lost or disoriented, I inevitably find a landmark I recognize, a street corner with a memory or a tree that I connect to a feeling. Without this mental model, I found myself able to freely association and able to truly consider what the pandemic had meant and done to me.
Perhaps the biggest thing I could see was the fear that pandemic had left me with. As I initially traversed the city I avoid eye contact, felt a tension in my belly and generally wanted to get through the experience as quickly as possible.
All around me people were polite, friendly and helpful though. When I was on the wrong side of the turnstile someone let me know. When I went to the corner cafe for breakfast the cook called me aside to take my order since the cashier was busy. When I accidentally showed up after hours at a restaurant they served me any ways. All of this led me to gradually relax and appreciate this unique place.
This also started to give me something I had not appreciated the absence of, confidence. While the failure of my previous travel plans was outside of my control, I realized I had internalized it as a personal failure. Yet as I navigated this big unknown, and found that I could indeed succeed, I began to see this past let down with new eyes.
I had not gone to Japan due to a lack of ability. Indeed, I had not gone because of my ability to see that at the time the risk was not worth the scant and unpleasant memories and connections I might have made. I should let that go and appreciate that my skill had allowed me to be in this particular place and moment.
Integrating the COVID Walking Views
The COVID walking views started as a way to process everything happening in the world. Then it became a sign of the new world we found ourselves in. Now this trip to New York City seems like a fitting close. Travel that was delayed has been completed. Confidence lost has been renewed and a sense of opportunity has come back to my life.
This blog will continue to be a collection of drawings and stories from the urban and Anthropocene landscape. Yet this experience showed me the importance of these drawings as a medium for exploring self as well as place. I have begun to bring a more personal note to these posts and write them as if giving advice to a friend instead of writing an entry for Lonely Planet. I hope to continue with this new style into the future and make more great discoveries about the places we all live as well as myself.