Here in Berkeley, the weather has been lovely. So despite shelter-in-place orders, people take walks, whether it’s for the benefit of their dogs or themselves. Where I’ve decided to create my remote classroom–on our dining room table–I have a view of neighbors strolling by. Most have cloth masks with sturdy elastic ear pieces. Some have fashioned a scarf or bandanna, and a few have surgical masks. On foot, scooter, bike, or with the aid of a cane or walker, a parade of people pass my window, all at least six feet apart.
When I venture out myself, I’ve been sporting an old n95-respirator leftover from last year’s wildfires. I know–it’s undoubtedly beyond its original capacity to protect me from 95% of the dangers lurking in the air, but it surely keeps any droplets that might emanate from me from landing on others, which is the main objective.
On a recent walk–always veering out of harm’s way when presented with another human also taking advantage of a clear, sunny day–I went on a bear hunt. People have placed teddy bears and other stuffed animals in the window for children to look for on their outings. And there are also rainbows–drawings, paintings, or printer-produced stock photos–hanging in the window for kids to spy on rainbow walks. But my favorite addition to this surreal COVID-19 landscape are the colorful chalk drawings accompanied by encouraging suggestions, such as “Take Care of Each Other.”
Yes, the world is different. It’s not as safe as it was just a few months ago. The sandlot at our closest park has no toddlers vrooming Tonka trucks, nobody is sitting at the umbrella-ed-tables at our local tacqueria taking advantage of Taco Tuesday, and all the theaters are dark. Patient grocery shoppers wait outside in a stretched-out queue before they are allowed to enter the Safeway where Plexiglas has been erected to make interactions with cashiers safer.
But we’re still out here, albeit in protective garb, waving to neighbors from the other side of the street, even calling out hello because they can’t see us smile under whatever face covering we’ve chosen. We’re writing and reading messages on the sidewalks. And we’re looking for teddy bears and rainbows.
To quote one sidewalk chalk artist: “We got this.”