Keys to the city

A view from Dunedin. Photos: Clare Fraser
A view from Dunedin. Photos: Clare Fraser
Some rules tighten during lockdown but why is it that others relax?, Clare Fraser wonders.

Lockdown shakes everything up. Loneliness is amplified, as are dysfunctional household dynamics. Financial worries peak for those whose work dries up. For others, their workload suddenly ramps up.

For yet others, working from home is a blessed relief, a state-sanctioned retreat.

For urban dwellers, all-day slippers becomes an act of community service.

Step outside and something imperceptible has changed. The air’s fresh and things smell good. Bees buzz by and birds tweet but there’s something else. There’s a Christmas Day feel to it, instant childhood, the timelessness of school holidays.

What normally matters has changed. Our habitual selves have taken a back seat, leaving space for expansion.

Walking becomes the privilege it always was. It’s the highlight of the day.

The privilege of living in a democracy becomes apparent too. There are 421 parks in the wider Dunedin area — playgrounds, cemeteries, open space, gardens, cultural reserves and sports grounds.

Neighbourhood parks have taken on the feel of a photo taken 100 years ago. They’re full of people at leisure, appreciating everything, senses focused.

Walkers’ gaits have changed, more leisurely and relaxed.

As we relax, rules of social engagement change. We become friendlier. Someone’s lying down on a gravel path just gazing upwards? So what? The grass was probably damp. All is well. Just wave.

Baseball cap with face mask? No, not a baddie but today’s responsible citizen.

The cherry blossoms at Willowbank.
The cherry blossoms at Willowbank.
Cherry blossom, most years clocked from a drive-by, this year is savoured slowly. The only deadline comes from the grey clouds building in the south.

This slower pace gives time to think: the 2020 lockdown resulted in a global reduction in greenhouse emissions of around 7% of 2019’s. It’s surprisingly low but it’s something.

Apparently, though, we need to do the same thing annually.

A United Nations report says emissions need to drop by 7.6% each year for the next eight years to limit global temperature rise to the danger-line of 1.5degC above pre-industrial levels.

May going into lockdown overnight be just one way we change quickly and go hard and fast.


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