I’m sitting at my desk watching the intermittent snow and rain fall outside. I am warm and comfortable. My new apartment is very well insulated and has radiant heat — so much nicer than the drafty apartment I left. The new smaller space has a certain coziness to it — a small snug refuge from the cold world. I’ve been here a week and two days and feel right at home here at Bridge Meadows, a three generation community serving the needs of foster families.
My dear husband Jim made a scale layout of the apartment before we moved, and little post-it note cut outs of furniture and laid out everything before we moved. Then we set up my writing/drawing area in the old apartment exactly like it would be here so I could get used to it. He made sure it was set up and ready to use the first day we moved in. I barely went a day without my precious artsy clutter. And while it’s been a little disorienting to move from a big space to a smaller one, it’s been mostly good and a bit exciting.
The community here at Bridge Meadows is very friendly but very respectful of privacy. It’s odd to be in a neighborhood where people are excited that you moved in and want to know all about you. Since there are Wisdom Circles, Happy Hours (not the alcohol kind), classes and meetings, there are plenty of ways to get to know people, but when I come home, I’m home, in my own Bless This Mess sort of fashion.
The kids here at Bridge Meadows are pretty busy with school and after-school stuff, and it’s winter so I’m not seeing a lot of them hanging around, but they are a part of most of the meetings. There are6 families with a total of 17 kids in the neighborhood so far, all of them 13 and under. It’s been a long time since I’ve been at a meeting that’s interrupted by the joyful noise of a youngster — and I love it.
I’ve met many of the elders (there are about 29 of us) — a wonderful and diverse group of young-at-heart optimists who all feel pretty lucky to be in this intentional community built to support families adopting foster children.
I feel this sense among us that we can help patch up a small tear in society. Instead of just being “low-income” seniors, I feel we are now contributing members of society. It’s both a subtle and grand shift in self-perception. We are now teachers, friends, aunties, grandparents, musicians, neighbors, uncles, writers, counselors — all more than a statistic or a hard-luck story. There are so many creatives and support people, it’s hard to figure out what my contribution will be — but whatever it is, I know I’ll get plenty of support. I’m also pretty sure I’m going to learn more from the kids than they’ll learn from me. Plus it’s a work in progress, this community. It only opened in April of 2011, and is only one of 3 in the entire county. That gives it a fresh, shiny sheen of optimism.
I’m on the library committee already. The on-site library has hundreds of children’s books and a fair collection of young adult and adult books — about 2000 in all. Of course that isn’t enough! I now can channel my book-a-holism into that and make sure such classics as The Big Bad Pig and the Three Little Wolves gets in the collection. I ‘m going to start a regular story time at the on-site library and do storytelling and perhaps workshops/swaps if people are interested.
The library is also a wonderful quiet room to get away from it all — a place we all need, sometimes. One of the girls expressed that need at a library meeting last night and that resonated with me. In the midst of all these caring and concerned people, I’m sure it’ll will be an ongoing need for the kids to find a small quiet place of their own.
Here are some pictures of the grounds — a little barren here in the midst of January, but I’m seeing lots of places to sketch and hang out when it warms up. Jim’s got some gardening plans and already has installed a few plants.
My art time has been a bit limited but I”m getting back into the swing of things and messing up many a fine white piece of paper. Here’s a New Yorker cartoon by David Borchart that inspired me.
I used to draw myself into New Yorker cartoons every once in awhile to practice different styles — you think cartoons are simple until you try to copy them. This cartoon stuck a chord with me. I once had a young artist ask me if I made a good living at art. I said no. Most people don’t make a good living at it, but you can make a good life. I hope that if I had the health to go back to a day job, I’d bring my rejoicing heart with me. I think this new phase of my life here in Bridge Meadows will keep me from ever having a poor heart. So I just drew a cartoon of myself rejoycing. May your heart find it’s wealth, too.