The day after St. Patrick's Day, while my three kids watched their morning cartoons during our first week of cancelled school, I was catching up on my email and saw that some neighbors up on Prospect Hill had collaborated to put rainbows in their windows. A wonderful community-building activity in this strange age of social distancing, it was a way to mitigate the loneliness, brighten someone's day, justify a nice walk, and add an element of color and surprise to the streetscape. Plus, as Katie, the neighbor who organized the rainbow hunt said, "It's easy. No human contact. Get fresh air. Make a rainbow and then hunt for others at a reasonable social distance." It was a nice sunny and mild day, so I bundled up the kids and we trekked across Union Square and up to Columbus Avenue to start our walk.
Criss-crossing from Columbus to Walnut, up the hill to Pleasant and of course back down Vinal (we couldn't NOT stop to say hi through the fence to Tyler the Turtle at the Growing Center!), we then came back through Union Square, passing the now-quiet restaurants, stores and cafes that we frequent in "normal times." Although it was a bit bittersweet for me, we all had a blast, and we found around 15 rainbows - some hand-drawn, some printed from the internet, one knitted! (Apparently there were 40 in total, but three year-old legs get tired pretty fast from all that walking.) It was a nice diversion for my little ones, who haven't been fully able to understand why school is cancelled indefinitely. I started thinking... it felt like a real scavenger hunt! Since we knew the rainbows would be SOMEWHERE but we didn't know quite WHERE, it was fun playing sleuth! Everyone would get so excited when we'd find another one.
But the other lovely surprise was that on our adventure, we also found lots of “creatures”: stained glass butterflies and a stained glass cat, a frog statue, bluebird pinwheels, flamingos, and of course butterflies on the Growing Center fence. I thought I'd share some of our discoveries with all of you. Who knew we had so many wonderful critters living among us?
Anyone can create their own personal guided walk. There doesn't have to be an organized neighborhood window-hanging (although they do bring the community together!). What kinds of things do you or your family members want to be on the lookout for? New buds on a dogwood or apple tree? Hungry squirrels or birds eating breakfast? In a few weeks we'll start seeing snails in my neighborhood, always a sign to me of the coming summer, and regrowth––and the kids love watching them crawl around!
The Prospect Hill Neighbors are now changing up the symbol each week––in addition to rainbows, they've posted hearts, trees and now eggs. For readers who live in and around the Prospect Hill neighborhood, please keep an eye out the next time you're out on a walk. If you live in another city or town, try working with your neighborhood listserve to start your own "rainbow walk"! It's a great activity for kids (both making them and hunting for them!), but plenty of adults will enjoy it, too!