I wake early and immediately sense the burden of the day. This ‘invisible feeling’ that sits so weightlessly yet heavily upon me only lifts when my husband and I head out for our morning walk.

Our walks which have always been accompanied by conversations about the books we have each been reading, the podcasts we love, the ideas we want to discuss – have always been the time to catch up with each other’s lives before a new and busy day starts.

Now that we are sharing so much more time together, our walks take on a different complexion.
Our walking trail is the same, but it is now so different as our gaze turns outwards .

The streets are bereft of the frenzied energy of people rushing to work, the silence is strangely loud, streets yearning to be filled with sound.

Main roads reveal a Jeffrey Smart like landscape -unpeopled, barren and haunting.

photo by Leah Justin

We head to the park via the narrow laneways. Our eyes seem to fix on details, seeing anew what was always there. Leaves turning russet on ivy covered fences, mail boxes painted with exuberant colours, pink and blue bicycles leaning against fences, teddy bears lined up in the windows, vegetable gardens with vines and tomatoes covered by gossamer nets and the solid green rubbish bins lined up like very respectable but nosy neighbours – the bins bunched up, not observing physical distancing. The inner urban grunge.

photo by Leah Justin

Our park is filled with people who walk cagily and warily around each other, often too close, red faced joggers breathing heavily, gym junkies and their personal trainers using nature as props, hoping to be fitter not fatter after COVID19 and then the optimistic innocence of young mothers pushing their prams.

Face masked young girls with headphones and dedicated  dog owners with their green plastic bags weave their around way each other. The park’s walkways are a riot of colourful autumn leaves and the sound of the birds after the rain is simply wonderful – a real twitter feed. But how strange to see a grandfather pushing a toddler in a stroller. In this strange new  normal, how quickly that very ordinary activity has become aberrant.

What I am enjoying is the street/park art that has been there forever but that I am now actually “seeing”.

Surfaces covered with the wild imagination of unknown artists that are celebrating the everyday and lifting the bland brick faced walls from ordinary to extraordinary. Like the hospital cleaners, the supermarket shelf fillers, the rubbish collectors and truck drivers, the work of these wall artists is anonymous, unheralded and unsung –  yet these ordinary sub- urban walls painted exuberantly and inventively offer us a sense of the unselfish joy that is creativity shared – and it can be seen everywhere.

I hate the fact that this silent cursed plague has been visited upon all of us.

But it has made the invisible, visible and I suppose for that I must be grateful.

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Leah Justin
When not preoccupied with her 8 grandchildren Leah Justin is the Community Education coordinator at the Jewish Museum of Australia. She is also the cofounder of the Justin Art House Museum.

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