Strange times call for smart living. Away from one another and the cultural touchstones that nourish the creative mind — museums, galleries, parties, cinemas, nightlife, and so on — our team is looking inward for solace after months of social distancing and disruption. If how we choose to spend our time reveals who we are and what we value, we offer this group portrait of the Athletics team by way of the things they’re turning to for wellness mid-pandemic.
I built a very small mechanical keyboard. I had a friend who made a keyboard from a Commodore 64. I was kind of jealous so I made this (see above). I designed the case in Blender and found someone locally (in Austin, TX) with a 3D printer to make it. Then I just prepped and rattle-canned it.
Cycling! I took up cycling in 2018, but the pandemic has certainly cemented the ritual. I recently completed two larger climbs — the first an 80 mile trip from Brooklyn to Bear Mountain, and the second being the most challenging climb I’ve ever faced — the Devils Kitchen near Tannersville in upstate NY. Usually you’ll find me both contemplating the week ahead, and in search of an egg and bacon roll, somewhere along the Palisades.
In these anxious times, I have been relying heavily on two practices that truly deliver me a meditative calm and, as I like to call it, a “mindful / mindless” state. The first is my Transcendental Meditation practice. Obvious, as the benefits of this practice are widely documented and evangelized, but worth mentioning. The other, which is a new insight and revelation for me, is the practice of playing guitar scales. I find it to be the perfect mindful / mindless combination that puts me in a calm and serene state and immediately assuages my anxiety. An exercise that I once viewed as a tedious and boring necessity of deliberate practice is now a welcomed antidote to today’s chaotic vibrations.
Nobody is more surprised about this new hobby than myself, but I’ve somehow created a consistent running habit since the end of June. At first I thought it would only last a week or two, especially given the July heatwave in New York, but it stuck! It works for me because it gets me out of the apartment and away from screens, and by the end of the run I manage to feel clear-headed (the constant running to-do list is put on mute). Also, who doesn’t love a reason to make themed playlists?
My wife and I decided to have our oldest daughter start piano lessons before the pandemic. There’s not space in our Brooklyn co-op apartment for an upright, but we were able to find a digital console piano that just fit along a stretch of empty wall.
My daughter didn’t get to finish her first set of in-person lessons which, like a lot of things, moved to Zoom in early March. She’s now on her third set of lessons and seems to enjoy them as much as she enjoys birthday parties, engagement parties, school, and every other virtual event she now attends.
That said, I’m not sure she enjoys the piano as much as I do. I played organ and electric piano in a couple of bands, but, more often than not, my instruments were set up in a practice space somewhere. Now, I can walk into my living room and sit down at the piano. I do this daily, playing extended instrumental versions of songs I’ve loved for years — “Jealous Guy,” “Simple Twist of Fate,” “When the Saints Come Marching In.” It has brought me real solace in these tumultuous, uncertain times.
I’ve started playing around with weaving. I was looking for something new to learn and something to work towards that would also be easy to do in small chunks and in evenings after work, when I knew I’d be less ambitious or motivated. It’s been great because it can be both meditative and addictive since it’s a repetitive process, but easy to see progress quickly. I’ve also been listening to audio books while I do it, which makes it more relaxing (and sometimes feel productive).
Since my dad came to visit in June I have been walking at least 10,000 steps every day rain or shine. I try to use walking to break up my day and get me away from the computer. Walking gives me time to think and also helps me be less sedentary. I have also been using my time at home to learn new habits including reading at least one book at any given time, not reading the news, and learning at least one new digital skill at a time. Right now I am learning how to use a render farm in conjunction with a new set-up in Cinema 4D so that I can have a more stable process for developing ideas in Cinema. All of these activities have helped me create a new stack of habits to keep my body and mind healthy and moving forward.
Meditating with crystals! Whenever I’m feeling out of sync / need a break from screens, I love to go sit by my window sill with all my favorite crystals soaking in the sunshine. All the sparkles and twinkles bring me immediate peace. My favorite is the Citrine — a stone of abundance. It carries the energy of the sun, radiating warmth, positivity, and joy. Sometimes I’ll sit with the crystals in my hand and soak in their energy, or simply admire their beauty.
I’ve been drawing and painting for a really long time but now that we are spending more time at home I’ve been painting a lot more and producing a lot more artwork. Spending time painting, I’ve found it to be quiet and meditative, a great way to decompress.
Since quarantine started I’ve dedicated myself to being a more avid reader. It allows me to travel to places I’m currently unable to go, and get cozy in my home. Graham Greene is my current favorite but it’s also nice to take a break from this planet with Asimov. I’ve also scored an Arduino Kit with starter projects for learning about circuitry and doing some fun programming projects. Hopefully I can make a robot bring me my tea while I’m reading sometime soon.
My family and I are in the fortunate position whereby we share a house with family in the Bovina area of upstate NY — a much needed tonic in these times. The house is set on a bucolic 14 acres of what used to be pasture land for the dairy industry in the 19th and 20th centuries. The land itself is surrounded by what I call a dry stone dyke, known simply as a stone wall to most. I began researching the origins of these walls, and the good people who built them. To my surprise they were primarily built by Scottish and Irish immigrants in the 19th century, a testament to the farming skills they brought with them from their homelands. The walls locally are called “whisky walls,” as the owner of the land would pay the builders in whisky, a measure that was gauged by placing a bottle of whisky at an endpoint, and tasking the builders to build the wall before the whisky can be drunk. Currently the walls are in varying states of disrepair, with huge gaps along the edge of our property. I like whisky, and I like being outdoors, and I like throwing my body into brutally hard physical work, so with that I took it upon myself to re-build and learn the craft of stone wall building. 150 feet later I feel a little stronger and wiser to the ways of my fellow immigrants. I have found this new skill of mine a much-appreciated rest from the screen, and a great way to take my mind off the messiness of our world at this time. Even though we are in a time of tearing down walls, this wall has been a remedy for my soul, and standing at a mere three feet high there’s no fear of it keeping people out. Really it’s more of a welcome place to sit on a humid hot day.
My guitar was inherited from my mom. She got it from an old boyfriend back in the 60s, and in high school she taught me some chords and let me in on a powerful secret — that most of the best songs ever written are 3 simple chords, maybe 4. I’ve carried the guitar with me ever since. I usually keep it in its case in a closet and break it out every now and again with family for a festive sing along, but a couple weeks into the lockdown I decided to leave it out in my apartment, and pretty soon after I was picking it up almost every night.
I often have trouble unplugging, putting down my phone, and just being present in the moment — playing music again has helped me settle down, exhale, and finally discharge some of the intense emotion that we have all been feeling over the past several months. These days, I’ll pour a glass of wine, look up the chords to one of my favorite songs (I do use my phone for that), and sit on my bed belting out tunes for a couple of hours, just like I did in high school. I grew up singing and harmonizing with my sisters, so sometimes I’ll send them a video of me playing a song we all love, and then they’ll send me back audio they recorded, sharing their rendition of whatever song they want me to learn next.