Perhaps the most overused word of the last couple of months has been 'unprecedented.' But it's a fitting one. Never before have so many of us been so close together and yet, as the cliché goes, so far away. In facing the COVID-19 epidemic, we've proven that we can do whatever it takes to keep ourselves, our neighbours and our city safe – even if that means locking ourselves down. But we weren't hiding. My camera was still able to find you – on your balconies, on your front steps and in your yards. The words of support and smiles we've exchanged have been invaluable.
These photos were taken over the months of April and May 2020, in Vancouver BC's Kitsilano neighbourhood. The purpose of the project was to document this unusual and unexpected time in our lives – this worrying but also inspiring period we were all going through. My hope was that the photos would bring us even closer, and that by getting to know those in our neighbourhood, we would keep fostering a sense of community. As we emerge, bit by bit, over the next little while, we will start being able to put faces to the faces.
The above photo, showing my husband Curtis, our son George and myself, was taken in late March 2020 by Cora, our neighbour from across the street.
- Silmara Emde
Being together all the time, for better and for worse. Beginning new rhythms as a family such as cleaning the kitchen after dinner together every day. Appreciating our yard. The blessing of being forced to make the best of what we have (and being reminded how much we do in fact have).
The isolation has been much more difficult on our kids than us. They have had to spend a lot more time with us then they would normally choose.
I have loved spending so much free unscheduled time with my daughter being creative and playful. However the financial stress definitely is starting to weigh in. I am so grateful that the weather has been good, however. It’s been a lifesaver with the isolation.
Spending more time with my children has been wonderful. They both are away from Vancouver for school and having them home is lovely. I have appreciated the slower pace of life also. On the worrying side, I have noticed that some people seem anxious and avoid any eye contact with others while walking in the neighbourhood. I hope that we will be able to trust strangers again.
It's awkward to say, but we have mostly enjoyed the time. My partner and I have started working from home 24/7 in a one bedroom suite at the top of a house on Macdonald street. You would think that we would get sick of each other but we haven't at all – we've enjoyed taking breaks and eating lunch together and both feel a lot more relaxed. I took the time to start training for a virtual half-marathon, and the fact that nothing else was distracting me meant I actually looked forward to getting out of the house to train. I successfully completed the half-marathon. My boyfriend, Justin, strung a finish line up across the fence and had me run through it. It still felt as good as the real thing. The negative has been the new international travel restrictions. My family is in Australia, which now feels very far away. Who knows when we'll be able to fly there again, or if we'll be able to afford it when restrictions end.
We are a family of four and sharing a two bedroom apartment round the clock has been a challenge. I'm grateful that my boys both have online school to attend that helps them have a daily sense of rhythm and for them connect with their peers. As an artist I have channeled the majority of my stress into creative projects, so actually being under this unusual pressure has been a benefit to my practice!
I like the slower pace of life. I like doing yoga in my dining room instead of going to a crowded studio. I try to be grateful for what I have, and not be anxious about what I don't have (like yeast!); I can be flexible and creative and manage without things I used to think were essential. I miss visiting with my kids and friends in person. I will try not to take things for granted when things go back to 'normal'.
I’ve been inspired to show more gratitude for those I love – for their lives, their health and the laughs we can share while cooped up together or over the phone. My big takeaway is the importance of public health in our society. I hope post-pandemic that our community can keep the spirit of helping each other and looking out for our most vulnerable.
My husband and I both work very busy and vibrant jobs; we both travel a lot and as soon as Friday hits we round the family up and head straight to Whistler. The “lockdown” has locked our family and our hearts. We now move as a single unit with our boys aged seven and nine. There is no longer a schedule of events, dinners and outings on our fridge. Instead we share each meal together and our fridge is covered in art and letters. Rather than use breakfast as a ceremony to feed, we now make a big egg brunch each morning, bake croissants and sit and talk before the day starts (we go through a lot of East Van Jam now!). I hope this tempo is the sound of our new family song. I know it can’t last forever but these months with my family have been amazing. The pause has provided reflection, creativity and I have learned so much about my family.
Tough sharing a condo 24/7, but it also allows us to have more play time with our daughter. I miss connecting with people and making them laugh. Friends in other cities. Dressing nice and going out. Really savoring every moment is a good lesson.
We love the slow paced life, all the family time and really getting to know my children. My husband now works from home so we see him a lot more too, which is lovely but also has the challenge of sharing the space at home. Homeschooling my three children has been a learning curve and stressful at times but also rewarding. We all miss our friends too.
I've been dealing fairly well with it as an introvert...I'm loving the time and space to learn new things and implement what I love to do. I found I was feeling a little discombobulated the for the first two-three weeks of the stay-at-home order but have committed to being in close contact with different communities online, to be reminded there is a continued and renewed purpose to how we live life – and there will be surprises along the way, opportunities and lessons to learn for everyone. Biggest take away will be a closer relationship to nature, the environment and connectedness within our community. My hope is that we will be more thoughtful and caring around all things in the natural world.
It's been incredibly challenging to feel connected. Even though I was working long hours with multiple video calls each day, I was feeling unmoored. Due to the overwhelming nature of work, I just took a week long medical leave and I'm starting to feel better. What nourishes me is the lush greenery of Kitsilano, the chirping birds easily heard with less traffic and the abundance of hearts in windows for our front line workers. In a way, this feels like an opportunity for reinvention; to explore the creative parts of myself that have been neglected due to overwork. On a broader scale, I hope this crisis will show us the true value of compassion and looking out for each other.
Positive: finally getting to some things that I have put off and should have done yonks ago. Riding my bike has strengthened my knee which will help other sports activities. Negative: I miss the social interaction, including having a drink with my friends. And I miss not being able to do a variety of activities and interacting with a variety of people. Most importantly I miss the ability to travel – we had some great plans which have been cancelled. Biggest take-aways: most governments were ill-prepared for this pandemic. Hopes: that governments will be better prepared in the future, and that I will be able to engage in the activities I enjoyed before the pandemic without fear of getting sick.
During this time I've appreciated my Kitsilano neighbourhood even more than usual. Since March 14, I only go places I can walk to – and that's not such a bad thing. I've gotten to know some of my near neighbours better. From the beginning I've had younger neighbours offer to help with grocery shopping. I find people very respectful of keeping distance when I'm out walking. As life became focused more I took more advantage of nearby opportunities, including getting a vegetable garden plot at 4th & Macdonald. My NSG project is a window display of Artist Trading Cards at David Eby's office. People have picked up supplies and delivered their cards under my bench. Spring (and now summer) in Kitsilano is not such a hardship.
We have been trying to view the world through an optimistic lens. Although there are many challenges and difficulties, we are fortunate in so many ways to be able to get through this period together. It really hit the reset button on our busy lives, and I think that is the greatest thing I am learning and will affect our lives moving forward. Are we busy just for the sake of being busy? Why do we think we need to create such hectic schedules for ourselves?
We've truly enjoyed spending time at home with each other during social isolation. Life gets so busy and we feel it had truly gotten away from us before we were forced to socially isolate in our homes with our families. We feel that we have had the opportunity to re-connect with one another and find time to enjoy each other's company once again. We hope that once the pandemic ends, we will remember these times of social isolation and cherish the memories we created. We also hope that the kindness and empathy people have towards one another at this time continues well into the future!
During this time of quarantine it seems that people take the time to chat with one another a lot more (in a socially-distanced manner). It is as though the world has slowed down and we all have more time for one another. What this time has taught me is not to procrastinate on seeing friends and trying new things because you never know when these opportunities may no longer be available.
My husband Mark has planted a huge garden in our front yard. He did it last year too, but this year is even more ambitious because we are home all the time. We love eating fresh greens every day, spending time as a family doing garden work and talking with neighbours who stop to look over the fence. Also our ten year-old daughter has been singing and recording one song every day - for 53 days now! Our fourteen year-old son is making origami every day to go with the songs (you can see both projects here). These projects keep the kids busy and with a focus, while Mark and I are both trying to keep up with our remote work as UBC faculty. All four of us have gotten to know each other a lot better during this time, and we've seen our kids become more self-sufficient. We are well aware already that there will be no return to 'normal. Rather, we are thinking ahead to the next wave of transformation that lies ahead.
I abhor the recent increase in racism, hate and violence against women. My dog has been my salvation. Every morning she wakes up happy and enthusiastic and infects everything around her with joy and laughter. Change can be an opportunity to create better solutions. I hope that those who live through this pandemic are brave, honest and compassionate.
The biggest highlight has been lots of extra time with my two kids, ages four and eight), and the sense of community—being all in this together; togetherness while apart. The hardest part is not being able to see and hug other family and close friends, and the feeling of being bottled up that I get from that.
This Neighbourhood Small Grant project was funded by the Vancouver Foundation
and administered by Kitsilano Neighbourhood House.
and administered by Kitsilano Neighbourhood House.