We’re all missing things and trying to find our way forward. Many of us are trying to see how we can transcend limitations and create new realities. Four big things I miss during this pandemic are hugs, abundant public fruit, public art, and strangers*. Here’s how I’m addressing that, including my latest excitement about art:
I hug my quaranteam and that’ll do for now.
There’s a small amount of public fruit in the metro-Atlanta suburb-city where I live, so I’m focusing on that (you may enjoy reading about the sheer abundance of it in the City of Atlanta, about which I wrote in my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike).
I’m currently watching a tree full of ripe pears that we used to harvest (600 pounds in a half hour) for those in need to see what happens next. (I believe walkers and runners have been enjoying it this year, which is nice.)
My secret fig tree is almost ready for picking (the public peach trees my friend Rod planted have been cut down, however, in order to install what appears to be a pesticide lawn for “playing.”)
There are blackberries along the sidewalk on the only road to and from my neighborhood (I believe that area has been sprayed with chemicals so I’m not eating them). I’m keeping my eye on muscadine vines on semi-wild spaces I pass as any fruit they bear will be ripe in late September (you may enjoy the story Cloudy with a Chance of Muscadines in my book, Food for My Daughters).
By creating a Sharing Garden literally week one of sheltering-in-place on the property I steward, I have been able to meet so many neighbors who were strangers to me. This has been a definite highlight for me during this time when I can’t roam unfettered on public transit and beyond on my bike (as is my preference as a street photographer and storyteller).
Art has been trickier as there is practically none in the city where I live, although little by little people have been starting to express themselves (sort of). But that’s not enough (although the city has plans to have plans to create a plan — here’s the plan I was willing to help implement five years ago). So I got an idea . . .
What if I just started an outdoor public art gallery by my Sharing Garden?
I told a neighbor or two about this idea. One gave me a window with six panes where two-dimensional art could be thumbtacked. I painted it and put it out yesterday. Another neighbor messaged me to say she left me some paint, if people want to use it. I may make some brushes out of plant material to leave for folks.
In addition to this ever-changing display (plus maybe we can add some found-object sculpture creations, as there is room), I have this little dream of a neighbor volunteer or two practicing or performing music by the gallery for a half hour or so during a weekly, socially-distanced “art stroll” event. Or maybe musicians (children?) could come out in their driveways throughout the neighborhood and practice their instruments or perform a little set. Perhaps there could even be dancing. Spoken word. Book readings . . .
My friend Kajuana, who used to live in my neighborhood but now comes back just to visit the Sharing Garden, says she’ll be first with her clarinet (which she recently started playing again). That’s Kajuana in the photo below, picking radishes a few months ago, before the kale and tomatoes and squashes and beans. I saw her again yesterday when she brought her friend Cole from their Toastmasters class to see the garden (which, in all honestly, is a little bit between crops right now, although it’s poised to take off again soon).
Who knows what’s possible here? All I know is I can’t live without public art in my daily life one day longer.
* My exposure to art and strangers has been severely curtailed since March 2020 due to the pandemic as I have been Traveling at the Speed of Bike in my suburb city rather than my usual five-days-a-week in the City of Atlanta, where the majority of the photos in my photo essays The Art of Bike Riding and Today’s Nice Stranger were taken. However, after surviving a hit-and-run recently, I am rethinking riding my bike where I live (where my main use of it has been as transportation to do my writing research, to run errands, to support local businesses, to participate in civic activities, to improve my health, to reduce my environmental impacts, to model sustainable actions, and to help other women and girls build the skills to do so as well) and have started going back into the City of Atlanta about once a week (for now). See Have a Blessed Day, if interested.