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.

We made unique covers for each child’s journal, because we’re all unique
One boy used gold paper and wrote art in an artful way
This silver metallic cover was hard to photograph but looks great.
Let the art begin — it comes from far away and is bigger than life – the young artist told me
love and rainbows — and a few pink feathers
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
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
This from a girl contemplating good and bad
A girl made her own pocket, and sealed it up, without instruction.  Then she helped show the others how to make it.


“mean pocket” and “nice pocket”
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.

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:

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:

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


Visiting the Carpenter Art Garden

Some friends and I had intended to see an exhibition of an artist I like, but the venue was closed.  So instead one of my friends asked if I’d ever seen the Carpenter Art Garden.  I hadn’t.  So he took me to Carpenter Street, in Binghampton, a block away from where I went to Lester Jr. High School, back in the 70s, during the first year of busing in Memphis.  Lester Jr. High no longer exists, but there is an elementary school on the property now.

Lester will always have a special place in my heart because it helped rid me of much of the racism that I’d grown up as a White child, helped me make friends with Black children and my Black teachers gave me a broader perspective on my city and my world.

Carpenter Street is in an underserved area of town, but there is a grassroots arts and culture organization that’s bringing magic to it.

As we drove around Memphis — not just the Binghampton area, but in so many places where the city has had blight and neglect for years, decades — I said we needed more green spaces, more change, more building and growing.

Imagine my delight upon finding this lovely street and neighborhood organization — growing, changing and creating art.  Their website says:

The Carpenter Art Garden partners with neighborhood children and adults, as well as local artists to transform a blighted lot into a place of beauty. Each Tuesday volunteers work with approximately 70 children on permanent art installations, take home art projects and the tending to the garden boxes. The space is an actual garden of artwork.

As our garden continues to grow, the Purple House opened in September 2014. This a space for our programs to flourish during the cold winter months. At the Purple House we offer tutoring, small group art lessons, mentoring and clubs every day after school.

They also have a community bike shop, to help rebuild and repair bikes.

In 2016, they started work on the Mimosa Mosaic Garden, a property at the corner of Carpenter and Mimosa they are turning into a park.

This is the centerpiece:

The tile work is a long term project where young artists are given areas to work so that it’s a community structure
A work in progress but already a lovely site
The retaining walls are being slowly covered in tile work by young artists with help from more experienced community artists

Across the street, there is a community garden, where some restaurants have signed up for organic herbs and produce grown by community members.



This beautiful gate was unlocked shortly after we arrived

The area was a bit difficult to navigate in a wheelchair and we were pressed for time, but I look forward to going back and getting more pictures.  It’s a wonder how one act of beauty inspires another.  I can’t wait to see how the garden grows.

If you’d like to read about their five year anniversary, there’s a great article from 2017 here at High Ground News:

from High Ground News

Things are happening in Memphis.  And will continue to if we keep watering those seeds of creativity.  You can donate to Carpenter Art Garden here.


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 see my original art on Etsy at:

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:

If you’d like to support my art and writing, please consider becoming a donor on Patreon, a monthly donation platform that helps me pay for internet service, art supplies and living expenses.  A little bit each month goes a long way.  If I get enough supporters, I can make this blog ad-free!  Here’s a link to my Patreon page:

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