by Justine Lee.

It’s my first Spring in New York City. I didn’t think I could love a season more than I loved fall, well, now I do.

Every Sunday, my roommate and I take our weekly walk through Central Park and every time, we see our first sight of color and new life, my heart flutters.

The cherry blossoms are in full bloom hanging above our heads glowing in the light of the setting sun. I find myself spinning slowly around to take it in. Daffodils, tulips, bright, colorful and standing proud fill me with inexplicable joy.

Photo by Sophia Hsu and Justine Lee.

These walks offer us many moments to stop and take a look around.

We see couples walking, masks on. We’re wearing masks, too. Young kids on scooters, in roller blades, running in circles on the grass. I’ve seen a father and son play catch. I wonder what parents are telling their kids about what’s going on in our world. Solo runners and cyclists looking focused and determined. I see folks walking their dogs. The dogs are cute as ever, sniffing around, marking their territory, looking lovingly up at their people, living purely in the moment.

Sophia Hsu and Justine Lee.

And yet – there is a tension hanging heavy in the air that is saying: The world is different. We have changed.

Folks are keeping a safe distance, most are wearing masks or face coverings. I don’t stop to crouch down and pet the dogs I see. I walk single file behind my roommate when we’re in a more narrow path, and someone needs to pass us. We remark that if it were a “regular” Spring day, not during a pandemic, we might be seeing double the number of people out.

During one of our walks, we were jolted back to “reality” at 7 pm.

(This is the time, every day for the past few weeks, New Yorkers take a moment to show their gratitude for all the health workers on the front lines, responding to and treating patients, and in turn, risking their own health.)

We happened to be walking by the field tents across the street from Mount Sinai Hospital at this special time. The section of the park we stood in, erupted in cheers and clapping. Folks paused their walks and turned to face the hospital. There was even a lone firework that exploded in the air.

Photo by Sophia Hsu and Justine Lee.

There are many things to be grateful for right now, and one of them is the natural world. Despite all of the loss of life, of a way of life, and of any sense of control, the flowers bloom, the fields of grass expand into the distance, and the sun shines.

I’m lucky to live a few blocks from Central Park. I’d like to share some photos from our recent walks, and also a short video of the cherry blossoms around 89th near the Guggenheim.  Hope wherever you are, you have time during the week to enjoy spring.


Author Bio:

Justine Lee is the co-creator of Make America Dinner Again (MADA), a volunteer-run organization that hosts cross-aisle dinners with the aim to practice listening and build understanding. As head of partnerships, Justine has developed relationships and worked collaboratively with media, companies, and nonprofits to bring civil dialogue to more people. Her appearances at SXSW and on NPR, The Glenn Beck Show, and BBC to discuss and model MADA have led to thousands of dinner sign-ups, interest in all 50 states, and the creation of chapters in 12 cities. In addition to MADA, Justine consults media teams on their marketing and audience development strategy. She is also a writer and audio storyteller herself; she’s most interested in reporting stories about marginalized communities and guiding folks on how to design inclusive experiences. Justine’s work has appeared in Fast Company, Core77, Business Insider, Narratively, and KALW. Lee lives and works in New York City. Find her on Twitter: @justineraelee

Cover Photo:

Photo by Sophia Hsu and Justine Lee.

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