7AM or so it seems. Time doesn’t really exist anymore. A timid ray of sunshine peeks through my window, projecting shadows of branches on my curtains.
Words and Photography by Chiara Zonca
Looking outside all I see is shimmering green. My eyes have gotten especially good at distinguishing the various hues of greenery within the landscape over the past few weeks. British Columbian woods were of a single shade in my eyes the first time I saw them. Now I can separate all those layers and I swear they get more vibrant each day.
“I’ve grown more observant of light during this pandemic.”
Spring is finally here, everything is blooming and the subtle concert of birds is here to remind me. Perhaps I’ll get good at that too, recognising the different bird species happily singing outside the house.
I stand up from my bed, thinking of making coffee. As I make my way through the living room I take my time to appreciate how beautiful the light gets here throughout the day. I’ve grown more observant of light during this pandemic. My eyes constantly chase it as it bounces off surfaces in my living room, making everything look special and different for a couple of minutes. I’ve lost count of how many interior pictures I have taken at this point, along with food pictures of my less than amazing baking efforts.
“Adjusting to a more narrow field of view has been challenging and fulfilling in equal measure.”
Being a photographer that is mostly inspired by the outdoors, adjusting to a more narrow field of view has been challenging and fulfilling in equal measure. Since the start of the lockdowns in Canada, I haven’t had a dull day to date and that is mostly because of this creative energy and strong desire to keep myself creating. It’s not that I have a problem with boredom and relaxing per se, it’s because I find that keeping myself inspired is the key to a happy, balanced life for the time being.
My day is split between trying to get some work done in the morning, work being self-imposed mostly, and getting my “nature fix” in the afternoon. In the morning, after waking up I’ll usually sit by the window, sharing a big table with my husband who as well works from home.
My morning activities depend on what I feel like doing in the moment, with no upcoming commissions and/or deadlines, I mainly look for ways to improve my personal portfolio, planning shoots and looking at inspiration online, along with a good dose of networking and chatting with other folks in the creative industry. Those working in the arts have been incredibly hit by this crisis and I believe this has brought us closer in a way. I hope this difficult phase will translate into a more tight-knit creative community going forward.
Afternoons are for photographs and for enjoying nature outside. Wind, sun, water, and the scent of pine trees are the most important parts of my day. They are my happiness boosters – a secret weapon against falling into a dark spot.
I already knew nature is extremely important to my mental health but this crisis reinforced that knowing. It made me feel extremely grateful to be based somewhere I can access nature so easily and excited to continue my photography work revolving around our very human need for wilderness.
There are still green spaces accessible here on the island I live on, and the province is actively encouraging people to go out and enjoy them responsibly, perhaps aware of the great health benefits associated with exercising outdoors.
My favourite spot is a short uphill hike of roughly 3.9 miles with a 900 feet elevation climb though woods and meadows, culminating with a stunning vista of all the surrounding islands and of Washington state mountain range. I do this hike every other day roughly, rain or shine. When there are people nearby I always exit the trail and wait for them to pass by, everyone seems to be respecting social distancing rules really well. And if I see too many cars in the trail parking lot I opt for another walk somewhere else with less people.
“I would have never guessed that I could make a place so small look so different.”
The other place I usually go to is a set of sandstone caves on the north-west part of the island. The access is through the coastline and it’s usually a great spot to watch the sun dip below the horizon at sunset. It’s pretty special at low tide, when I like to observe the underwater garden of purple sea stars and algae emerge from the water and glisten under the sun. I go there often and just shoot at different angles, at multiple times in a day. The results have been surprising, much like my interior photography – I would have never guessed that I could make a place so small look so different.
“Days are blurring into weeks and into months.”
Sometimes I feel that I can’t possibly keep going with documenting the same places much longer. But I keep shooting, moved by the concept that this island, my “home” for now, feels so inspiring. Overall my life feels very simple, very suspended in time. I am very much aware of my incredible privilege of being here, so close to nature. At the same time the serial nomad in me finds the lack of travel extremely strange, like that part of my life was just a far away hazy dream.
Days are blurring into weeks and into months. I go between moments of feeling anxious and others where it only takes a few seconds looking outside the window to feel happy. I am not sure what the future will hold, I try to be hopeful that the worst is in the past.
British Columbia didn’t apply draconian measures on its residents: mostly they made pleas for limiting social activities, shut down parks and public events like concerts. They left a lot of hard decisions up to the people without strictly enforcing them, hoping they would choose to do the right thing. Most businesses closed voluntarily.
Communities such as this little island are considered the most in danger. Residents are mostly over 60 years old and with an absence of hospitals they are particularly vulnerable to the crisis. Feeling that we are actually managing to flatten the curve and protect these small communities fills me with joy and hope that one day, people will be allowed back here to enjoy this little slice of paradise and experience it for themselves.
And as for me, I don’t know if this island will be home forever. When this pandemic ends, I will likely fall for the allure of the open road to photograph nature in different corners of the world. But being here during the covid-19 crisis started a process in me I didn’t see coming.
I can now imagine myself wanting a fixed home base in the future, a place where I feel safe and nurtured by nature around me. A place with a strong sense of community. Being here during lockdown made this nomad at heart understand the meaning of “home” for the very first time.