March 15, 2012 —
Lately I have been on a personal mission, searching for the meaning of life. An existential crisis of sorts, this road trip in my mind has taken me down a variety of paths, some of which I have visited before—while others are a road less traveled.
Still unable to move about freely, I’ve been feeling sorry for myself, whining a little and bemoaning my fate, unable to find the true meaning (if there is one) of the challenges I have been forced to face. I’m still in “Driving Miss Daisy” mode, so I called a friend for a ride over the weekend, gave her my itinerary and asked if we could make a few stops along the way. Obliging me with a sunny disposition (which irked me), we made our way to Jeffersonville, NY and the Enchanted Florist (www.enchantedflorist.com ) on Main Street, where a ribbon-cutting ceremony was about to take place.
The shop was buzzing with activity as I put on a happy face, mingled with the crowd and snapped a few pictures, grumbling under my breath that nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen. Unwilling to let go of my misery, I took a few notes, shook a few hands and went on my not-so-merry way, more sure than ever that mine was a heavy load to bear.
My chauffeur was far too chipper, chattering about the weather, the pretty flowers and expressing enthusiasm about my recovery and how swell I looked. Hmmph. As we pulled into the lot on another Main Street (this one in Narrowsburg) I grumbled a bit, explained to my friend about where we were going and groaned. “Cheer up!” she chirped. “It could be worse, you know.” Annoyed by her joie de vivre, I groused “doubtful” under my breath and made a silent vow to figure out a way to drive myself around the Upper Delaware Valley during the coming week, wishing for a resurgence of the horse and buggy days of yesteryear.
Checking my schedule, I saw that we were about to experience “Expressions 2012,” a new art exhibit being shown at the Loft Gallery, the upstairs space at the Delaware Valley Arts Alliance (www.artsalliancesite.org ). “Expressions,” featuring the work of 17 artists, is now in it’s fifth year. Upon entering the exhibit, we read that the installation, sponsored by Sullivanarc (www.sullivanarc.org ) showcases paintings that were “created despite numerous obstacles, including physical, communication, intellectual and emotional barriers”
Checking my negative attitude at the door, I read on. “By giving these individuals the tools to create, they have been given the ability to express themselves.” Sullivanarc’s mission is “to enable persons of all ages with disabilities to live as contributing, valued members of the community.” Glancing around the room, I became intensely aware of the fact that my months of discomfort were nothing in comparison to a lifetime of challenges that some of these artists have not only endured, but risen above.
One of these inspiring artists, Jeannie Bartolo, who has limited movement, paints with “a custom-designed brush attached to the end of a fishing pole, which is then attached to head gear. As a result, her neck muscles have strengthened and she is able to paint more freely.”
Bartolo was not in attendance, but Lenny Dalby, who paints with his feet, was—and I approached him and his instructor, creative arts specialist Vince Sanborn. “Lenny doesn’t let his disabilities stop him,” Sanborn said. “We do things (like painting) to celebrate their achievements. This is one of those things.”
Dalby was happy to oblige when I asked him to pose with one of his works of art, while I enthused over his award-winning self-portrait, which I had seen on display at Jeff Bank in Monticello. “I can’t even draw a stick figure,” I told him. “Your artistry and ability boggle my mind.” Lenny laughed at my observation and spun his wheelchair around, delighting in my exclamation, posing for another shot with his pal Jay Pusey.
Uplifted by the sheer genius of these artists, I strolled the gallery with Sullivanarc public relations coordinator Joan Glase and executive director Susan Diamond, feeling my self-pity wash away as each painting spoke a thousand words. Any thoughts of my own recent challenges faded to black as I became more and more impressed with the incredible accomplishments of these talented individuals and the dedicated staff at Sullivanarc.
The meaning of the age-old expression (widely attributed to a Chinese proverb) is clear. “A picture tells a story just as well as a large amount of descriptive text” (www.phrases.org ). Unable to express myself with paintbrush in hand, I have no choice but to resort to (a few hundred) words.
On display until March 31, “Expressions 2012” should (IMHO) be on everybody’s list of destinations as spring invites us to explore the world around us. As for my personal mission? Whining is officially off the table.