My neighbourhood has come alive these past couple of weeks.
The roads are busy with humans and happy dogs. People pause to look at things that catch their eye and to chat with their fellow walkers and bikers, and people out in their gardens. All at a safe and respectful distance, which has so quickly become our new norm. I’m proud of our neighbourhood for that overly-cautious distance, often spanning the width of the road, but I’m perhaps even more proud of the stopping and talking and getting to know each other – it’s one of the most important things that will come out of this all, I think.
I have noticed this new openness amongst us. We’re openly joyful and appreciative of the opportunity to connect with each other – it’s as if we have remembered how much we need each other.
Our family sent out a letter to the other residents of our road at the beginning of the lock down. None of our neighbours said they needed any help, but over the last few days emails have been going back and forth and we’re getting to know all sorts of things about each other. I had thought we were a pretty connected street before, but I realise now that we’d only just begun.
Everywhere in our neighbourhood there’s evidence of people getting stuck into their Things to Do lists: People stacking firewood, pruning trees, weeding, people just being outside, because they know they need it for their own sanity.
Everywhere, there are teddy bears and other small creatures peeking out through windows. They are signs of our unity, our kindness and encouragement towards each other. Some are holding bottles of wine and signs, one down our road has a giant pumpkin as its princely bed.
Without all the cars, you can hear the leaves, starting to crackle and colour up, rustle in the wind. You could probably almost hear them land on the ground if you tried. You can even hear the distant roar of the ocean some days, even though there’s a hill between us.
A few days ago I met my favourite bird for the first time ever; a bird whose song I have listened to my whole life, but whom I have never ever managed to catch sight of, no matter how hard and often I have looked. A few days ago I opened our front door and there it was – a Riroriro, or Grey Warbler, singing its song so nonchalantly, as if it didn’t even know it’s the most abiding sound track to my life.
It was one of those moments I tell myself I’ll never forget, just as it feels as if none of us will surely forget this extraordinary moment in time – confined as we are to our homes, our bubbles, our neighbourhood, and the reaches of our own minds.
I’m not sure whether my memories of this time will sustain or not, filled as it is with the simplest of things. The rustling leaves, the smiling conversations across our street, watching the kids try out new tricks on their bikes and the rope we’ve slung up in a tree, if we’ve managed to get them both out of their pyjamas and the house that is..usually by lunchtime, but not always.
Whether I remember this time, or not, right now I am so grateful that this neighbourhood is my home, and the people in it, my neighbours.
Story & Photographs by Sarah Cleave.