On February 23, 2020 as I packed for my departure later that day for a five-day business trip to London, life appeared seemingly normal. JFK and Heathrow were bustling, British Airways had full flights to and from NYC, the Marriott in Canary Wharf was visibly active with full services and a crowded restaurant for breakfast and dinner. Meetings in the office were likewise normal with upwards of 15 - 20 people, some that had recently been traveling across Europe, and we were huddled in enclosed rooms around tables for what were typically a 30 - 60 minute discussions. However, the news each day that week reflected a steady crescendo of reporting related to concern with evidence that cases of COVID-19 were on the rise across China, South Korea, aboard a cruise ship en route to Japan and emerging in North America, the Middle East and quite mysteriously in Italy. Global Financial Markets were in turmoil throughout the week and concern over the virus had become a daily cadence, yet on my flight home that Friday my thoughts were primarily consumed with thoughts of a dear friend that was again admitted to Sloan-Kettering in the late stages of her battle with cancer. When I arrived home that afternoon, I dropped my bags and went over to see her and it was during this visit that I was first required to wear a mask and gloves to enter her room at the hospital. As fate would have it due to what would soon unfold in NYC, this would be the last that we would share space and time as she passed away weeks later in the care of a local hospice. No funeral service or gathering to mourn her passing or celebrate her life, just quiet distant reflection for those that loved her and a stream of Facebook posts that conjured memories of happier days in life, which can prove ever so fleeting. Daily life the following week was still normal in NYC and as such, I boarded the 2/3 and Shuttle Subways to the office as the trains were packed with fellow commuters pressed against each other, breathing, aspirating and squeezing to be the last person on each train as the doors opened and closed each morning and evening. On Saturday March 7, I accompanied another dear friend for an evening performance of Agrippina at the Metropolitan Opera, which had a full house with hundreds of New Yorkers and visitors closely snuggled into the elegant space for the ~4 hour spectacle. Agrippina was written and composed by George Frideric Handel in 1709, ironically in Italy to celebrate the upcoming Carnevale season in Venice and amid intrigue, plotting, political satire and comedy, the opera closes with a blessing from the Goddess Juno, the daughter of Saturn and a protector. Little did we know late that evening, how dearly we would need this blessing in the weeks and months to come here and now in 2020. On March 12, the Met cancelled its remaining performances and closed its doors. The cloak of Quarantine descended upon NYC seemingly overnight as suddenly, trains, buses, taxis, restaurants, museums, office buildings and the very streets of the city became relatively empty, with many dining and entertainment venues swiftly closed, some as we now know have become permanent closures. It was during the week of March 16 that I was likewise working from home, diligently consuming the ceaseless stream of news and daily briefings, learning that NYC had become an epicenter for the virus, and as I watched this surreal scene unfold, a slight fever, chills, aches and a persistent cough increasingly became my reality for two weeks. As I discovered in retrospect and reaffirmed via testing this summer, the antibody for the virus is indeed still with me and leads me to wonder where and when in those late days of February and Early March did the virus find a home within me. Fortunately, my immune system was up to the fight without any medical intervention and I have not had any symptoms or the sickness itself since, unlike so many others in this world as the behavior of the virus and how it impacts people in a seemingly random way remains a relative mystery. I had intrepid travel plans this year to explore far corners of the world and run marathons, all of which were cancelled. As such, I have had the rare and unprecedented opportunity to be at home full-time for the past six months to witness the breadth and glory of Spring and Summer literally unfolding around me. Fortunately, being immersed in nature most of the time provided some buffer to 10+ hours of daily video meetings, primarily on Zoom, not to mention easing my own Quarantine. Perhaps as a respite from the epic nature of work and polarized negativity of the news, I tuned my senses into the cycles of life that were emerging around me and enjoyed an awakening as to the extraordinary beauty that surrounds us. With my Nikon, 600mm lens and monopod mounted at all times, I decided to capture as many moments as I could each day since late March and even on short-road trips locally, carried my camera in the back-seat in case of chance sightings along the way. As we now celebrate the beginning of Autumn, I am happy to share a collection of images that reflect a primary aspect of my Quarantine experience and silverlining to the dark clouds that have hovered over our lives this year. I hope this collection makes you smile, warms your heart and reminds you that in each of our lives there are wonders to be behold which we often overlook and that the grass is not always greener on the other side. If only we truly embrace that which awaits our patient observation and appreciation at home, in our parks, waterways, mountains, gardens and even in our relationships and love for one another. For this journey you donâ€™t need a passport, airfare, hotel reservation, park ranger or guide, but rather an open mind, an open heart, sight, sound, touch, or any of the senses you may possess, and an inherent spirit of curiosity with a willingness to become blissfully ensconced in the present.
Michael Patrick Davidson New York City September 22, 2020
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