It’s amazing to everyone, I think, that time flies by so quickly. Here we are in the future. People born in 2000 are 19 years old this year, a new generation, a new world.
I look back on 2018, my 58th year with wonder and melancholy. I mark it as the year I really stopped being able to walk. I can dodder around on my walker if I’m with someone, but the chances of falling are high and it’s risky.
At the beginning of the 2018, I could still manage a pretty fair distance with the walker. And once I got home, I could wall walk — brace myself with my hand on the walls or furniture to keep my balance. I remember the day I stood at the sink washing dishes and my legs kept slowly collapsing, my knees giving way. I’d brace myself on the sink, lift myself back up, and then slowly seem to melt back down.
Now I use a wheelchair almost all the time – although I do have stronger day when I can stand at the sink. A degenerative disorder is a tricky thing, you don’t know when to push, and when to preserve yourself. I get in moods where I think exercise is the answer, but it never is. My spinal cord is shrinking and there’s nothing that can be done at this point but deal with the symptoms.
I also live in a city with limited public transportation, to put it mildly. I have a great power chair, but it’s still hard to get places and the commute can be exhausting. Not all the sidewalks have curb cuts. Life seemed to be shrinking to smaller and smaller circles.
I also had to accept the fact that I was probably never going to get to work with children again. It was okay. I had a great run at Bridge Meadows, and helped many children who had been in foster care learn the power of art, stories and imagination in their lives.
Then, in October, I got introduced to the Carpenter Art Garden. “Carpenter Art Garden is a non-profit organization dedicated to working with the children of Binghampton to promote each one’s creativity and self-worth through exposure to artistic, educational, and vocational programs.”
When I was a child, I lived in several places in Binghampton (we moved around a lot because we were poor.) I also went to Lester Jr. High School, a predominantly Black school, in the early ’70s, when busing first started. My first day, I was the only white girl there. It was a wonderful and eye opening experience — and I learned to dance.
The school is now an elementary school, and Carpenter Art Garden is just cattycorner across the street. I started to try to be involved with the Garden in some way. I was welcomed and came up with an art journaling class for kids, 3rd to 5th grade for this month. I didn’t write about it on my blog because I was afraid something would happen — no one would want to take the class, I couldn’t get transportation, I’d have another health setback.
But yesterday afternoon, it happened! Six kids and I sat a round a big table in the Purple House, a house dedicated to art, with shelves and shelves of neatly arranged art supplies, and made the magic of art happen.
At first the kids didn’t know what I was about, what a journal was really for. I brought in a few of mine and showed them how I combined text and pictures. How you could fold papers into your journal, use it as a scrapbook, how to make pockets to hide secrets. How to make a book that’s uniquely your own where you’re not judged — you can draw, write, complain, collect little bits of your life and keep them hidden away in your journal. A place you can be and develop and re-imagine yourself.
They got it right away. In the first class we were supposed to make journal covers and do collage, but they were ready to do everything! One girl had already learned to fold an envelope and was able to help teach other kids how to make one.
We talked about secrets — how some are good, some are bad, and how they are powerful. We talked about making mistakes into art. And we laughed a lot.
At the end of the class, the kids helped clean up. Some teenagers were there, too, to assist in the clean up, and to help out. While I was doing my small art class, a potholder weaving class was going on, and other activities for kids who may otherwise would have nothing to do after school.
I left with a sense that a new beginning had happened in my life, as surely as it is happening in the under-served neighborhood that has created the Art Garden. People taking action, taking things into their own hands, rebuilding a something new and filling their neighborhood with beauty. They’ve been making the neighborhood a better place for quite a few years now. It’s created a kind of magic that strengthens the whole city, and touches people in ways that can’t be foreseen. It’s helping me, my heart, my perspective on life.
So just when I think I’ve reached a low point, that I won’t get to do the things I want in my life, I find that I have underestimated it all. As the ever wise Calvin, of Calvin and Hobbes says, “There’s treasure everywhere.”
All I have to do is keep cultivating delight. I have to let fallow periods happen, then be ready when it’s time to bloom again.
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