Author Yang-May Ooi reflects on how street rhythms can give us a sense of well-being and help us feel at home in our neighbourhood.
Welcoming Back the Rhythm of the Street ¦ Oxford Moments
At first, I wasn’t sure what it was about that Monday morning. There was something different in the air. I sat at the kitchen table with my usual bowl of muesli. The sun was brighter, yes. But that was to be expected. Spring is emerging.
At the back of the house, the trees were, well, tree-like. The birds were doing what they do.
At the front of the house, the frontages of the houses across the street looked pretty much as they always did.
What was different?
And then, I realised.
There were kids walking past my front window. The older ones walked on their own or with a friend or sibling. The younger ones were with their grown-ups. There were other children on bicycles, with a mum or a dad. They all had school kit with them.
I checked the clock. 8.30am.
It was the school run!
Photo Source: from PxHere
Coming and Going
After almost 3 months of stillness and quiet in the mornings, schools had opened again. It was Monday 8th March.
We had all got used to the eery hush over these long lockdown months. As if the Pied Piper had taken all the children off the streets. And now, he had released them back to us.
There was a sense of purpose in the way the kids and parents moved along my street. A jauntiness, too. In the morning air, this was the return of normality and we all knew it.
That afternoon, around 3.30pm, the flow came again, this time in the opposite direction as the children headed back home after the school day.
The Heartbeat of a Street
Over the last week, this ebb and flow beat its regular diurnal rhythm along my street.
Each morning, I have found myself at the bay window in my front room, muesli bowl in hand, looking out at my street and at this living river. In the afternoons, as young voices and footsteps float in through the open window, I know it is time to put the kettle on for tea.
Part of feeling at home is finding your rhythm in the place where you live – whether it is the rhythm of your coming and going or the rhythm of your household. And also sensing the rhythm the local neighbourhood where you find yourself. These beats of a day – or routines, if you like – give us structure and a sense of certainty and security.
So, ironically, part of feeling at home is leaving it in the morning and coming home again in the evening. Without the regularity of these heartbeats during the recent lockdowns, many of us have felt unsettled and without focus. Homeschooling has disrupted the lives of many parents as well as children. We have all felt that sense stagnation that has been difficult to break.
This rhythm of the street – mine and yours – has played on for decades before the stasis of the last few lockdowns. It’s back again – and what a relief for all of us. May it keep beating on now, going forward, marking the start and winding down of not just my new days here in Oxford but yours too wherever you may call home.
I did not feel comfortable rushing out into my street to snap photos of my neighbours and their children for this blog post so you will have to make do with some images I found on the internet!
Oxford Moments is a personal blog by author Yang-May Ooi, exploring the city of Oxford, its people and places. “Oxford inspired me as a student and I’m excited to be back here making a new home and rebuilding my life. This project is my multi-faceted discovery of the moments that can give us a sense of home, belonging and enrichment.” Follow Oxford Moments at bit.ly/OxfordMoments
Author: Yang-May Ooi
Yang-May Ooi is a writer & podcaster. Her creative work includes The Flame Tree and Mindgame (novels), Bound Feet Blues (theatre & family memoir), The Anxiety Advantage and Creative Conversations (podcasts). ¦ www.TigerSpirit.co.uk