How We Get Home

12 bus stop

At the library bus stop, there was a man obsessively touching and rearranging his plastic bags.  He had a few groceries, but they were jumbled in small bags that he put in a larger bag of easily torn plastic.  The large bag was shredding.  It took me a few minutes to realize he was blind.  His eyes were mostly closed and slightly sunken.  He had a bottle of Sprite that fell on the ground and rolled a few feet away.  I told him, but he said he had to get his bags together before he picked up the bottle.

I had a cloth bag that folds up in my purse.  It’s made of strong stretchy cotton and accommodates a lot of stuff.  I was in my wheelchair and I rolled over close to him.   I asked if he was blind.

“I can see a little.”  He didn’t have a white cane, only a walking cane.  He had a bit of crust along his eyelids.  I was concerned that he was alone, that his cane didn’t indicate he was blind like the white ones do.  I understand the need to be self sufficient, I often take risks going out alone in my wheelchair.  The need for independence and to get places on my own is strong and I’m stubborn.

I explained the bag to him and said he wouldn’t have to worry about it tearing like a plastic bag.  He asked what color it was. I said it was shades of blue in a kind of checkered pattern.   He looked hesitant.

I said, “It’s okay if you don’t want it.”

He sighed.  “I think I’ll pass on it.”  He went back to fiddling around with the plastic bags, peeling off layers of plastic.  I backed away.  I had an urge to chase after the bits of plastic blowing away, littering the library grounds, but it would be impossible in my chair.

He got irritated.  In frustration, he banged his body against the back of the bus stop shelter.  His Sprite bottle rolled further away in the wind.  I was afraid to ask to help him again.  I thought he didn’t like my interfering and had taken a dislike to me.

Soon, a woman joined us at the stop.  She was short, elderly and looked frail.  She wore a white face mask to either keep germs out or keep from spreading them.  She was dressed in a purple fake fur coat, a blue skirt and purple boots.  She had on a wig that was slightly askew.  She pulled a small suitcase on wheels with a purse attached to the top with a bungee cord.

The sun came out.  It was about 40 degrees.

“That sun sure feels good,” the lady said.

She took a good long look at the man fidgeting next to her.  She began to talk to him softly.  She opened her purse and it was stuffed with plastic bags.  She went through them like she was going through a filing cabinet til she found the exact right size.

She gently but firmly urged the man to put his things in her bag.  He agreed.  Then she got another bag out of her purse and double bagged his bags so he could make it home without losing anything.

“I think I dropped my pack of cigarettes,” he said.  “I can’t find them.”

We looked with him.  He tapped around frantically with his cane.  With the sunlight beaming on his bags, I could see the shape of a pack of Marlboros through the translucent plastic.

“I think they’re in your bag.  They’re Marlboros, right?”  I said.

He said nothing.

“They’re in the bag,” the woman said.  “Marlboros, right?”

He felt around the bag.  “Yes.  Thank you.”

I felt a little miffed and wondered why the woman had such a better rapport with him.  He sat down quietly, compulsively rubbing the plastic as we waited.

The bus arrived.  It was crowded but they made room for my wheelchair,  no one grumbling about giving up seats for me.

The blind man didn’t get on the bus, but stood looking confused.  The woman with the suitcase got back off, and guided him on.  There were no seats and people crowded the aisles.  But they all  moved back more and someone gave him a seat.

“I took care of my uncle who went blind,” one woman said.  A man said, “My mother went blind.”

The woman who helped him with the bags stood by him and got him to tell her where he needed to get off the bus.  “I’ll help him if you have to get off before his stop,” a man said.

“We’re going the same way,” she said and her eyes smiled.  By then, to me, she no longer looked masked.  Her kindness made her smile visible.

When I got off the bus, the people standing had to get off the bus so I could get out.  The woman wished me a good day.

So much of life seems scary and people seem uncaring.  When I got across the street, dodging a car that didn’t see me because they were talking on the phone, braking inches from me — I thought that blind man shouldn’t be out on his own.

Maybe this woman in a wheelchair shouldn’t either.

But, safe on the sidewalk, a few blocks from where I live, I felt in my heart he would get home.  Some people may speed through life oblivious, but sometimes they look up and brake in time.

Kindness still weaves it’s way into our lives,  keeping us as safe as possible.

And sometimes, it shows up in a mask and purple coat —  patient, with a soft voice and a bag filled with exactly what is needed.

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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 now follow me on facebook here,  Instagram@joymurrayart.

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.

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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.

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

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“mean pocket” and “nice pocket”
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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.

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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.