We’ve had several days where the temperatures have eased into 80 degrees. All the trees have grown out their spring leaves, flowers are budding everywhere. I sit on my porch more often. My friend helps me plant flowers in the yard and in pots on the porch.
I’ve had a bout of fatigue for the past month, but it seems to have abated (as much as chronic fatigue ever abates), and I feel myself unfurling like the plants around me.
I don’t know if everyone with a chronic, degenerative disorder does this, but I often make plans for myself that I could only do if I was in a former body, the one that could walk, that could get up if she fell. I see myself kneeling in the garden, pulling weeds, planting seeds. I see myself sitting on the porch steps and transplanting a root-bound flower from one pot to another, then standing up, brushing the dirt from my clothes, going inside to wash my hands.
I see myself hanging pictures in the apartment, standing on a stool, getting things just right.
I see myself going out on these warmer summery nights, dancing maybe, with someone who catches my eye and returns a smile.
But I can’t do any of these things.
My roots are bound.
And most likely I’ll only get transplanted to smaller and smaller pots.
It’s a kind of dissociation, I think, seeing myself doing things I can no longer do . And it’s not a new or unexpected way of thinking, since I live in my head so much anyway — making things up — stories, images and ways of being.
Yesterday, I went to the Carpenter Art Garden, where, once a week, I help kids draw. We get a lot of kids from the neighborhood after school, and they are frisky and so glad to be out of school. Some are barely able to sit still. Some urgently need to go over all the problems they’ve faced during the day. Some need to settle arguments or tease each other.
There are always several projects at the Art Garden they can participate in. One of the projects yesterday was a May Pole — the kids made ribbons, staff attached them to a pole in the middle of the garden. When all the ribbons were up, they put on some music from Lil Nas X, and the kids all wrapped the Maypole. It was a blend of old traditions and new ideas, young people and older people, all creating a moment of community in a world where we all seem to be jaded and discouraged and root bound.
When I go to the Art Garden, I use my power wheelchair and take the bus.
I pass through several neighborhoods, some rough and in the process of decay, some wealthy, most somewhere in the middle. I see trees spreading their arms over all kinds of houses and abandoned buildings.
I see, and usually stop by, the Central Library, full of history and the future. (And a great accessible bathroom, by the way) There are usually a few homeless people resting in the shade of the building. Inside, there are people using computers, looking through books, kids doing homework. Parents with young children are reading together.
I roll on through several blocks of Binghampton to get to the Art Garden. I see acres of a former housing development with abandoned boarded up buildings. Over the past month, I’ve watched a wisteria vine bud and bloom. Now it’s covered with emerald leaves. It’s leaning against an old building and will one day knock the whole thing over.
I see small businesses in old buildings, and apartment communities with kids running around behind gates.
Being in my wheelchair, being a pedestrian, I see these things, the little changes in the landscapes. I don’t speed through the seasons, I watch it all in it’s own time. In my own time.
Yesterday, when I left the Art Garden, I walked with two of the kids who draw with me sometimes. They were astonished I didn’t have a car. Even more so that I was going to be able to get on a bus.
“You’re getting on a bus in that?”
Yes. On a bus, in my house, to the gardens, to the park, to the store, to the library, to so many places.
But not everywhere, because it’s not a hover chair, and I can’t get up curbs or stairs. So I have other tools.
I can still use my walker if I have someone to help me. I probably won’t be able to get up stairs much longer, no matter how much help I have.
But I go so many places. When I turn a corner, because I am slow and life is uncertain, I find a garden, and I can stop and smell the roses. I can stop and hear the laughter of children. I don’t come saddled with expectations, I just let the delight wash over me.
If I continue to pay attention and I keep my expectations simple, remember all the gifts in my life, enchantment happens. It dances to music I am unfamiliar with, and it blooms from children who will create a future I’ll never see or understand.
And what a gift it is to me to be able to encourage them to think about, draw, and make up stories about their lives. Maybe they too will find enchantment in the everyday details of their precious lives.
Little details, little enchantments everywhere. Don’t miss out on them.
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