• Mark White

My Seattle Covid Walks: The Details of Aurora Avenue

In my previous Covid Walk post, I shared images of the people I captured in the street on April 1, during the city's Covid shut-down. Here I want to share some of the inanimate details that stuck out for me on that walk.

Like most of us I assume, I pass through world every day, not noticing 99% of my immediate surroundings. I've always got a place to be, a problem to solve, a deadline to press my accelerator against. I'm too busy, too late, too harried to notice much of anything beyond what's directly in front of me.

About My Seattle Covid Walks: During Washington State's Stay at Home orders between March and May, I took regular walks through the city to capture what life on the streets was like. This is Part 2 of my Covid Walk along Aurora Avenue North, from North 130th to North 175th, on April 1, 2020.

Having a camera always helps me be more present to my surroundings. But it turns out that this pandemic quickly became my street-eye's best friend.

Being in the midst of the shut-down threw out the idea of me needing to be anywhere, except someplace safe. I still had my job, family obligations, and normal responsibilities. But in the early days of the shut-down, while I was walking the streets, with no pressing matters on my calendar, and the streets free of the flotsam and jetsam of daily life, I could walk slowly, pausing and stopping whenever I wanted to explore a random detail that I would otherwise have missed. No cars, no groups of lingerers, no noise to distract me from those details.

On my Covid Walk along Aurora Avenue on April 1, I noticed a sign pointing to a sign.

And another sign, presumably more valuable than firewood.

And at some point I see a thematic connection between a sign and a vestibule.

I also notice for the first time in the ten years that I've been driving past Darrells how imposing of a structure, comparatively speaking, it is. And that there is no apostrophe in "Darrells."

But what I mostly notice as I pass by is not what is there, but what isn't. Passing this honky tonk that I've had my share of beers in gives me my first pandemic insight to the details that are now missing from my Covid Walks, and that may not return for years, if at all.

From pre-Covid Darrells.

And stepping closer to Darrells during my Covid walk, this:

I met an old friend yesterday in Seattle's Pioneer Square, at the cafe he started 22 years ago when he first came to the country. He's my age, close to 60. Like every restaurant and bar owner, he was forced to shut down for months and is now open, but at limited capacity and with barely any customers. He doesn't know if he can remain open more than a few more weeks. He says he needs to reinvent himself, maybe become a writer, or maybe move to a farm on Whidbey Island to figure things out from there.

Aside from the missing apostrophe, Darrells doesn't offer much detail that I hadn't previously noticed. But it gives me clear insight into the details that are now missing. And that void is painful.

On this particular day, April 1, I also happen to notice new fencing on the Interurban Trail overpass, 20 blocks south of Darrells at 155th. There is nothing spectacular about the fencing, except that it's brand new and therefore bright and highly reflective. So I stop with my camera to play.

By opening my aperture as wide as it can go (f/1.2), and setting my focal point somewhere just beyond the grating, but well in front of the businesses across Aurora Ave, I can get the steel to help distort the image I'm hoping to capture. I play with my camera for a few minutes and end up with this version of a Chevron Station.

The blurred and softened details are pretty much exactly how I had imagined they'd be as I was looking through my viewfinder. This brings me a small jolt of joy, which is a rare event during my Covid walks. Experiencing joy from play. I'll take that any day, pandemic or not.

© 2016-2020 MARK WHITE  |  mark@mjwhitephotos.com I 206.409.1247

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