Author | Photo Rachael Annabelle

When the city shuts down, how do we continue to ‘do the city’?

Cancellations began rolling in for major events this past Thursday with Green Living Show and Canada Blooms being among the first to go, followed by Buy Good Feel Good and the One of a Kind spring show announcing indefinite postponement. On Friday, the AGO, ROM, and Massey Hall announced closures as TIFF followed suit 48 hours later. This past weekend, the City of Toronto dispatched a notice sharing that all public libraries and community centres would shut down. Late last night, our inbox began to fill with closure notices from local restaurants, boutiques and yoga studios. For a platform that typically covers events and culture in Toronto—what do we do? We get experimental, creative, and change how we look at things. 

Like any major shift in life, the questions of doubt often present first: how can we continue to write about city happenings when the city is shut down? Is anything that we typically cover even relevant now that we’re faced with a global pandemic on our doorstep? Should we hit the pause button and pick up once we know what the hell is going on? Will life ever return to what it was? These are all thoughts that immediately ran through my head, but once you push through the doubt and uncertainty, you begin to realize that life and adventure continues, stories abound—everything just looks a little bit different. We’re all still here. We are creatures of habit that are being forced to change. 

While it’s been gut-wrenching to watch the city topple like dominoes as people’s livelihoods take massive hits, it’s also been heartening to see our city’s various communities organizing en masse. 

Facebook groups have sprouted so that citizens can care for one another from afar—from delivering groceries to doorsteps, to sharing online resources for how to explain Coronavirus to children. Brick and mortar health and wellness studios are moving classes online in order to stay connected with their members; helping to keep strong bodies and sound minds. 

Dealing with COVID-19 has required nimble ingenuity and sparked a delightful ripple of generosity. Andria Gillis, founder of People Lab, a professional coaching company, has offered her time to guide small businesses as they deal with a month (or more) of instability; Jen Neales, who runs Little Rebels Music, is uploading her songs and movement classes for our littlest citizens to YouTube, in a series aptly called “Keep Calm & Theatre On”. Emily Mills of How She Hustles announced an ‘event’ for her community hosted on Instagram. I’ve seen moms launch virtual storytelling hours, recovery meet-ups move to the ZOOM platform, and Toronto even has a brand new Social Distancing Festival, encouraging local writers to carry on. 

These uplifting stories about Canadians getting creative is what we will continue to share in the coming weeks, be it the acts of individuals or organizations. We’ll also be talking about the new challenges that everyone is facing, and do our best to provide resources to help cope with these new obstacles. 

Lastly, social distancing does not mean that we cannot leave our homes at all. It just means we need to keep a safe distance away from one another when we do. This may mean choosing off-hours to leave the house, or choosing more open spaces to stretch your legs. Our city parks are still open for exploring, as are our neighbourhoods (should you prefer to gaze at architecture). Hugs are on hold, but you can still wave and say hello. Listen to a podcast while walking alone along the lakefront, take a sketchbook to High Park, hit the downtown core late at night with your camera. Pack a thermos of tea, a knapsack with snacks—there is still much (responsible) adventure to be had! 

 

 

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