November 27, 2020
My last trip to New York City occurred in March, on the weekend before Saint Patrick's Day. The train in was noticeably less populated. Perhaps it was a week or so later that life officially changed, that long stretch of time continuing to the present. I think what we’ll all remember is the experience of only gradually understanding what began as a news story about somewhere else thousands of miles away, was to become the story of our time, indeed of our lives. Perhaps our minds initially resisted such a drastic reorientation, especially regarding our freedom to move about, and our safety.
I live on a quiet Connecticut suburban street, which, in the past eight months I have become much more familiar with than I would have ever thought possible. In late March I began taking daily walks, just to the end of the street and back--roughly a half hour's walk. Only the rare car would pass by--no one was going anywhere. The stillness was profound. The birds became louder and more communicative with one another than I ever recalled. Slowly, slowly, the last of winter gave way to early signs of spring. I felt there wasn't a bud, a leaf, or green shoot that escaped my attention. There was surely never a more closely examined change of season. The senses become more focused when the world narrows.
As the temperature warmed, I encountered the occasional neighbor out walking, and while remaining on our respective sides of the street. we would exchange brief pleasantries about the weather. The larger and more obvious topic was studiously avoided. Though my world narrowed down to my house and street, I was painfully aware of my good fortune when speaking to friends in Manhattan, confined to their cramped apartments, fearful of their grocery stores and disgusted by the increasing filth on the streets of their neighborhoods. I had never been absent from the city for so long, and it is hard to relate these descriptions to my memories.
I am fortunate that I am a painter, always absorbed in my work. The days pass swiftly, though there is a growing sense of disquiet as the season turns once again towards winter. The trees are now bare, and still we wait.
Here’s to 2021,
Pernel Berkeley/Danbury, Conn.
Pernel Berkeley attended Bennington College and graduated from the School of Visual Arts. She can be found every day in her studio with a pencil or paint brush in hand, listening to Tom Petty.