Downtown Phoenix is a different place now from what it was before the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic struck the country and our city. I took a stroll on a beautiful, sunny day recently, and found myself reflecting on the ways that the city, and downtown especially, has changed. Although people bustled about, tempted by the nice weather as I was, the markers of change showed themselves with glaring clarity. Many businesses, the local ones that added color and vivacity to street corners, are either shuttered permanently or marked with a permanently weathered look. Many windows are simply dark and forlorn. And the crowds are definitely thinner. Less dogs amble about in a local green space while their owners maintain a safe distance at opposite ends of the expanse. Is it all fear? Or has the fabric of the city permanently changed? These are questions that might be hard to answer in the short term, and I’m sure historians will try their best to answer them decades from now. The whole country has changed dramatically, not just our little slice of it. Still, there’s much beauty to be found in simply being outdoors in a city that doesn’t always welcome it. And hearing the friendly hum of voices and laughter is revitalizing. I talk to a few people on my walk, but no one long enough to call it a conversation. Everyone is in their own world and going about their own lives. I do speak with one local woman, Morgan Hashkeihe, who reflects on the changes in her own life and the city around her.

“It’s still so startling to think about honestly. My life was completely different a year ago. Some changes happened so fast, it’s still hard to wrap my mind around. Not necessarily in a bad way, but just different.”

Downtown Phoenix is still a lovely place to stroll and explore, and I would recommend it to anyone.