Yesterday, while walking through midtown I found something unexpected.
I took a walk with the intent of finding some inspiring public art. The sun was shining – The breeze was blowing model ships in the park. Heads cleared on the sidewalks of every coffee shop in midtown. Hangovers gave way to caffeine and medical grade cannabis. I passed with my thoughts two steps behind me – observe… feel the moment. I didn’t walk far before I saw some cool murals in an alley off J St.
For the length of the block the alleys were covered. Themes ranged from Bart Simpson as Batman to graffiti infused murals to classic – hard lined – geometric tags. Graffiti is always a debate. However, in the right spaces it’s a beautiful, raw, and often times anonymous communication between the artists and the observers. As I strolled through taking pictures three more people came through doing the same. I tried to imagine the artist arriving on the first day of painting; their inspirations in mind and their will to communicate that inspiration to an unknown number of people who would pass by. It felt good to think about this and see the other people. I left the alley feeling content. I didn’t walk far before a surprisingly white, half crumpled odd shaped paper called out to me:
“I know you see me! Where you going? What am I doing here?”
Since I was thinking the same thing – I took a couple steps closer. The paper sat half way out of a recess in a tile covered wall. It looked like a homeless person had scribbled some nonsense on it.
Two women approached and I felt weird staring at the recess of a wall like it was a hobo’s bookcase so I stepped away and stereotypically checked the blank front of my phone like I’m doing something. When I was alone again I took a closer look at the paper. I turned it a little trying not to touch the smudges. A clear phrase emerged:
“To all living creatures”
“You are asking yourselves and answering to yourselves; what is the true value of my self-worth?”
This rang in my head like a distant church bell. Of course…. it was Sunday – the bells may have been real 🙂 Anyway, I found it fascinating. Someone, most likely a homeless person, had found this random paper blowing around in the streets and felt inspired to communicate something they were thinking and feeling to others. The same as an artist finds a canvas and attempts to communicate something.
I slipped the stocking shaped paper between the pages of a ‘Sacramento News and Review’ I was carrying and brought it home where I framed it. I have placed it beside my desk. I’m not sure how long I’ll keep it – but I like the reminder that we are all here asking about our value; our self-worth; our place; our contribution and trying to communicate that to others.
-R. A. Bowen