And Then Came Delight

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.

20190116_163850
We made unique covers for each child’s journal, because we’re all unique
20190116_163951
One boy used gold paper and wrote art in an artful way
20190116_164005
This silver metallic cover was hard to photograph but looks great.
20190116_164025
Let the art begin — it comes from far away and is bigger than life – the young artist told me
20190116_164053
love and rainbows — and a few pink feathers
img_20190117_0001_new
I showed the children a journal of mine in which I’d drawn a lot of African masks, so one girl drew me wearing one — I like my winglike arms, too
20190116_163742
Another girl drew me, but she said the shoes were a hot mess.  I told her my feet were a hot mess so it was okay – and we both laughed
20190116_163457
This from a girl contemplating good and bad
20190116_164040
A girl made her own pocket, and sealed it up, without instruction.  Then she helped show the others how to make it.

20190116_163900

20190116_163940
“mean pocket” and “nice pocket”
20190116_163813
An Art mountain in the sky.  I like art.

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.

20190108_133301
The Carpenter Street Art Garden and The Purple House

~~~

Thanks for reading my post.  If you like it share it.  If you find a typo, please let me know and I’ll send you a thank-you postcard.  

You can support the Carpenter Art Garden here.

You can now follow me on facebook hereInstagram@joymurrayart, and Twitter @joymurrayhere.

You can get prints and cards of some of my work on Redbubble.  They also print my work on lots of other items, including phone skins, tote bags, shirts and journals:

https://www.redbubble.com/people/JoyMurray?asc=u

If you’d like to support my art and writing, please consider becoming a donor on Patreon.  If I get enough supporters, I can make this blog ad-free!  Here’s a link to my Patreon page:

https://www.patreon.com/user?u=8001665

If you prefer to make a one time donation, you can do so at paypal.com  Please email me at joyzmailbox@gmail.com if you’d like details.

Advertisements

Spider Heaven

I took my sketchbook out to the Bridge Meadows courtyard on Saturday and was soon surround by a small group of kids.  We had a spontaneous drawing party.  I’d brought my twistable Crayola colored pencils and we were all drawing flowers. 

A little speck of red started skittering across my paper.  At first I thought it was a pencil crumb blowing in the wind, but then I realized it was a spider mite.  I pointed it out to the kids and they were all fascinated, except one little girl, who panicked and squished it with the side of  her pencil.  It was so tiny, it didn’t even leave a mark.

A seven year old boy got very upset.  “That spider was just going along, minding his own business and having a good time and she just killed it.  She killed it!  He didn’t deserve it.”

He went on and on — I thought he was going to cry.  He also seemed to want to torment the girl.  I told him that some people are afraid of bugs.  The girl thought the spider was dangerous and some are.  And there’s no use in making her feel worse about it.  Everything’s fine and the spider is in spider heaven.

His eyes got wide and he wailed, “I wish I was in spider heaven!”

“What?”

“I want to live in spider heaven!”

I told him that we didn’t want him to live in spider heaven, we wanted him here in the neighborhood with us and that we’d all be very sad if he left. 

“Oh,” he said and went back to coloring.  Soon he was singing a little song.  And the girl was fine, too.

Brief theology discussions with my new young friends pop up quite often.  The kids are all somewhat worried that some disaster is going to befall them.  Most of them have had fractured lives and they’ve witnessed violence.  Plus they get a lot of mixed messages from film and video games. 

The thing I love most about helping them with art and stories is that after an acknowledgement of fear, we can imagine anything we want.  We can play with color.  He drew a picture of his cousin and him watering flowers in big pots.  “We really did that.  We grew flowers”  He ran off with the picture to give to his mom.

I drew spider heaven.

Ink and watercolor pencil