It’s easy to feel stuck. At the best of times, we worry that we are not doing enough, seeing enough, engaging enough. In many ways, this past year has been the worst of times, and we have all been stuck—at home or miles apart—mired in quotidian detail, our personal worlds increasingly disconnected.
Finding a coping mechanism has been key—whatever that might look like. Perhaps you were one of the productive souls who baked up a sourdough storm, grew your own vegetables, or learned a language or two. But getting by doesn’t have to be a worthy affair. My neighbour spent a good six months collecting unusual iterations of hand sanitizer: “The Installation,” as it became known, grew to gargantuan proportions before it was dismantled at the behest of his very patient wife.
Routine has been a lifesaver for many, imposing structure on days and weeks that otherwise blur and bleed into each other. For me, that means getting outside every day, never mind the weather. What started as sitting on my front porch to think and work has transformed into walking—every day for at least an hour—many days more than once or for far longer stretches. I am fortunate that my work allows the timing of these walks to be flexible: most days, I bolt at the first sign of brightness. When the rain slicks sideways, I muster resignation by early afternoon and wrap up; if the day runs away from me, I head out at night.
I have two hour-long loops from my home—up and around Mountain View Cemetery or down to the water by Science World and back, leaving a simple choice of uphill or down. If I have more time, I might take a ride to the other side of the city and walk home. If less, I just walk around the neighbourhood as fast as I can manage. The air clears my mind and refreshes my spirit. On a clear day, I look up—at the mountains, the trees, the birds. For perhaps the first time in my life, I have observed the fractional changes that move us from season to season.
We tend to regard transformation as momentous. It’s why our New Year’s resolutions are often doomed to failure. We forget that incremental changes build up until one day, as if by magic, we are transformed. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that the relentless sameness of our exterior existence means any change in our daily practice will eventually lead to a new beginning.
Daily practice is something Eric Ripert takes very seriously. The French-born chef (who boasts three Michelin stars at his New York restaurant Le Bernardin) has been a Buddhist for more than two decades. As he readies to release his new cookbook, he reflects on the past year and how his personal philosophy has helped see him through.
We also talk to Mia Wu, whose exquisite work at Chinatown’s Modernize Tailors is the antithesis of fast fashion. The painstaking construction of bespoke garments is a physical representation of how each tiny choice and perfectly placed stitch adds up to a work of art. And in travel, finding himself locked down in small-town Italy, writer Robert Collins discovered more about the heart and soul of his enforced community than a regular vacation could ever have elicited.
Life as we knew it will return eventually. The challenge will be to recognize the transformations we have generated within ourselves. When the world is ready for us again, let’s be ready to show it who we have become rather than who we were.
Get your copy of the Spring 2021 issue.