A Rainbow of Hope
Sidewalk chalk art sets a tone of hope for a solitary walker amidst the pandemic.
My early experience with chalk is mostly black and white, sometimes yellow, from my primary school days of blackboards, blank slates until the teacher asked one of us in a classroom of 30-odd students to go to the board and solve a long-division math problem, diagram a sentence or in the worst of scenarios to write “I will not talk out in class” 100 times.
Fifty years later I speak out. And I have rediscovered chalk, not merely white calcium carbonate finely ground onto a thin sheet of black slate hung on the wall of a ’70s era classroom, but chalk as a colorful form of expression applied to walkways. Had the teachers been hiding those chunky rods of pink, blue and yellow pastels and colors so bright, almost fluorescent (before LED), that they glowed in the sunlight like the “Rainbow Connection” sung by Kermit the Frog and the Muppets?
Several weeks ago, I took a walk around Osprey Lake, a wonderful place to escape the coming storm that would soon sweep us off the streets, close our schools, keep us from eating out at our favorite restaurants, close the doors of church buildings and compel us to wear masks. Suddenly a pair of little people wearing helmets whizzed by on bikes, leaving a trail of Big Foot-sized pastel chalk letters behind them: “Enjoy the walk!” I looked behind me and discovered the messages on the pavement I had overlooked before. “Everything is possible!” “Be awesome!” “Make today great!” “Bee Positive,” with chalky bees, blue and yellow flowers and hearts adorning the messages.
“Path of Joy.” Did I hear those two munchkins singing, “You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night?” Was this the Yellow Brick Road leading us to the Emerald Palace where the Great and Powerful Oz would welcome us to a magical kingdom where wishes come true? Over the rainbow. Somewhere.
“The best views come after the hardest climb!”
Reality. We are on a journey, looking up at one of the steepest, most precarious mountains, that we will remember as pandemic, for the rest of our lives. But here I was, almost overwhelmed by inspirational quotes and artwork simply sketched in chalk by children, encouraging us, showing us the way. From the mouths of babes. Could it be this simple?
Had anyone else seen these miraculous signs? For the record, I took dozens of photos trying to capture and share this light-heartedness I felt walking and skipping down this trail. Who would believe, with all the fear, sickness and self-distancing to come in the next long weeks, or even months, that there was this hope before us?
The rains came the next week. The news of the impending storm, the pandemic, lured me back to the lake, distant from people, looking for the hope that had seemed so real the week before. Showers of rain had washed away the chalk but could not erase what had been drawn in me. I have the evidence in my heart — and proof in photos!
But we’re not out of the woods. When we emerge after the worst of the storm, we can’t fall asleep and dream that the coronavirus hadn’t come and changed our lives; it had left a trail of debris and taken away “normal.” It’s time to wake up!
I got up in the morning and went walking in the neighborhood. One of the first signs of hope was a little girl standing over her chalk artwork on the slope of her driveway: three connected hearts in hues of blues and violets shining like a rainbow as wide as her father could open his arms. Her proud father wanted me to take a photo of the artist and gladly I did. Thank you, Emily!
Up another street I found a chalk rendition of a stained-glass window, as big as the pickup parked in the driveway. Almost home I came across the rendition of a church with a cross atop, begun by a new mother, her infant son and the help of 3-year-old big sister, Charlotte. The children were drawing again. There is hope! The clouds will part, revealing blue skies and sunshine, as children return to playgrounds at school and come home to show us what they learned, with colorful chalk on their hands. (Reminder: Don’t forget to wash your hands!)
“Keep going.” “We got this.” “Faith. Hope. Love.” “Be Kind.” “Make today Great!” “Spread Joy!”
Things used to be black and white or muddled gray. But a few weeks ago, I saw pinks, blues, yellows and beautiful reds, oranges, greens and violets, a rainbow of hope drawn by the children, showing us the way home.
“There’s no place like home.”
Thanks to Emily, Charlotte and all the children. They give us Hope.