Documenting your own backyard as a method towards mindfulness
When lockdown version 1.0 launched last March, there was so much we all didn’t know. How quickly everyone maneuvered and managed new distanced learning dictates and the people who could set up their offices at home. Since my office was already at home, I shifted my workspace to afford the best places for the students. In fact, we have become experts at hot-desking in our house.
We have also spent a LOT of time in this house this past year. It truly is a lovely place, in an old neighborhood just a skip outside Copenhagen’s historic center city. From here, we can walk and bike to all the iconic capital sites in just ten to twenty minutes. Up in our fourth-floor flat (5th if you’re from the States) – built in 1875 – we enjoy big open rooms and high ceilings trimmed with classic crown moldings over chevron-patterned hardwood floors. We have big windows on both sides that let in any available light – which really isn’t much at the moment. What we don’t have is a garden. You may call it a backyard. But there is no green space afforded our building. I’d even take a balcony at this point, but this apartment didn’t come equipped with one and I didn’t know to ask.
And before I sound pouty and probably a bit privileged, I truly am thankful for this place and this space – in this fairly charming Scandinavian city. Especially this past year. So how did we cope when the requests rolled in that we all stay home to help flatten those curves and keep people safe? Here in Copenhagen, luckily for us, we were allowed to get outside. No masks required.
And while we all waited to see what would happen the world round, I tentatively started taking safely distanced walks within my own neighborhood. Soon we branched further, into the city, attempting to make 10,000 steps (plus or minus) from our front door, heading down a different route every few days.
It was surreal to see Copenhagen shut down and so empty with borders closed and the flocking tourists far away. As I ambled, I would take in the little details of the city. Make space for the incidental. For me this meant, snapping a pic on my camera, click, click, click. It wasn’t about getting the perfect picture postcard shot. I didn’t edit them for the blog. It was more about being aware of this place in this very strange time. In reality, the two kilometers ouside my front door was about as far as I could focus, in those first few months. My world felt small, so that’s what I documented. Moments as they were presented and the details they revealed – finding beauty in my backyard. Call it – mindfulness. I honestly didn’t at the time. It was just my way own personal way of coping.
[ mahynd-fuhl-nis ]
the state or quality of being mindful or aware of something. Psychology.
- a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them: The practice of mindfulness can reduce stress and physical pain.
- the mental state maintained by the use of this technique.1
SPRING BLOSSOMS AND LONGER SCANDINAVIAN DAYS HELPED
March corona madness turned toward April and blended into the endless days of May and soon (ish) June. Here, the capital gained color as buds exploded in every shade of green leaves on the trees. Pink cherry blossoms beckoned, then elderflowers and lilac, making exploring all the more fragrant and exciting. But that was spring turning summer. What about now. When dark Danish winter days dominate the landscape. And once the twinkly lights of a Dansk Jul are boxed up and packed away, January (and February, sometimes March) can be trying on psyches – even in a normal year.
Compounding winter’s woes this year were the highest Corona caseloads Denmark has seen (back in December) which was followed by the strictest lockdown so far. Suddenly, it feels all a bit bleak. I’m trying to stay hopeful, but without outlets to see friends face to face, the days are long and trying. For some, they can be seriously quite lonely. Even with a house full of the family working and learning at home.
For now, I’ll pull in again. And focus on what’s in front of me. Even if it’s wet and cold and mostly shades of dark, dark grey. Save for my Christmas tree, which I’ll admit is still up. But there can still be beauty. Who’s with me. I’ll be sharing my steps and snaps on my Instagram stories if you want to follow along after I’m out.
It looks like I’m not alone in surveying my surroundings through the lens of a camera – I loved this article in The Guardian that echoed my thoughts by writer Anna Deacon, “The joy of small things: daily lockdown walks with a camera.” She encourages us to
… go out, take a phone, a camera, or just use your eyes. But look up, look down, stop, go slowly, watch the light play on the water, see how the sun haloes around a tree. Take your time and savour this: think of it as a way to calm and soothe your soul. … It is known to induce calm and good feelings, and we all need more of those right now.” – Anna Deacon
LIVE HERE AND LOOKING FOR CREATIVE WAYS TO SEE THE CITY?
When I started with our lockdown walks, I’d pick a point on the map – about 2 to 2.5 kilometers away and we try to take streets or paths we hadn’t plodded before. We saw more of this neighborhood and the next this way. More than we had in the five years living here. If you would like a little creative motivation and inspiration and new ways to see this city, I can highly recommend picking up a copy of The Copenhagen Companion. A gorgeous little guide filled with walks and poems and quotes will help you see new sides of this city.
I had the chance to meet the lovely creator – Astrid Heise-Fjeldgren – who happily shares her love of the Danish capital in this hybrid travel journal, workbook, and city guide. While some of it may feel geared for newcomers to Copenhagen – I offer it as a great way re-orient your experience here. Even for seasoned locals. You can find a copy online now (while retail outlets are still locked down) at Saxo.com. This is not an affiliate link, I just think it’s a very pretty little book.
AND IF YOU CAN’T COME TO COPENHAGEN RIGHT NOW
I will leave you with well wishes and a few photos from this week’s wintery scenes around my neighborhood. We didn’t get a ton of snow in the city, but it was definitely pretty. I wouldn’t say no to a few more days of the fluffy white stuff as this town is transformed when covered in flakes. Until then, I’m still going to try to get myself (safely distanced) outside – even when it’s grey. Cheers from here friends.