As many of you know, I am moving on from Artists’ Row. I had originally started to write about the photo above as a way of acknowledging the people and programs who made my time there so valuable. Then Covid-19 hit. All the cancellations, unpredictability and isolation give me a whole new appreciation for everything represented in this image. I want to write about this picture as a “thank-you” but first, here are some thoughts; a hope that we all stay safe and that we return to a time when we can meet in person in our shared public spaces.
Recently, on WBZ news in Boston, the newscaster ended a segment by showing an aerial shot of an eerily empty Fenway Park and encouraged viewers to “envision a time when we’ll all gather in again to watch a ballgame.” I found his words especially moving in these days when the whole world has come to a halt and we are coping with this new thing called, “social distancing.” The practice of remembering all the places where we used to gather in a time when we could freely do so is, I believe, a very important part of our daily routines in this New Normal.
Everyone from athletes to spiritual leaders to therapists will tell you how important it is to visualize; to spend time imagining what it looks like for goals and dreams to take shape. Visualization is a tool of creating, achieving, healing, and to me is a form of prayer and hope.
The picture above is from a wonderful day on Artists’ Row (circa 2017) and I hold this image in my head and in my heart. I envision a time when we all gather again in person, when we don’t have to make 6-foot detours to pass someone on the street, when we can hug, shake hands, breathe all over each other with no consequence, plant big sloppy kisses on the cheeks of friends.
In the movie, "Wall-E," there is a great scene where, after being exiled due to unlivable conditions, humanity returns to earth. They emerge from the safety of their spaceship, out-of-shape and tentative, but eventually find their legs again and begin to re-occupy their planet. This is how I picture our return to the outside world. We will come out of this deeply changed. We will have faced the loss of businesses, homes, loved ones. We will have battled demons that we used to be able to ignore. We will have had to ask tough questions about our futures and who we are when so many of our pretenses have been stripped away. We will find out how well we do in close quarters with the people who share our homes. Lighthearted memes on Facebook point out that we are about to find out what everyone looks like without the benefit of professionals to do our hair. Some of us who haven’t kicked a little coping mechanism called, “Emotional Eating” may emerge from this a little rounder than when we went in. There may be clean-up to do, (some of it very hard) but we will emerge and I am holding a vision that we will find our legs again, find courage to re-build, re-occupy our public spaces, re-acquaint ourselves with each other face to face.
So I am keeping this image of Artists’ Row near and dear. Even though I will no longer be a tenant there, it will remain one of my favorite public places ever. In this time of self-isolation, I think about Artists’ Row every day and I am imagining myself in that flurry of activity and community. If you close your eyes, you can probably see me there, lower left, pink skirt, taking too long to pick out strawberries from my favorite Farmer’s Market vendor, making too many trips to sample the free mead, petting all the dogs, sniffing all the basil, gladly accepting and eating the gummy worm that someone’s kid offers to me with sticky, sugar-coated fingers. I imagine this for myself and for all of us. It is a prayer offered up daily.
I hope you are safe, friends, and that you find courage weathering all of this. If you like, show me your favorite pictures of public places that are full of people and life. It will do me good to see them.