After two months sheltering in place and bored, on a whim I ordered a box of sidewalk chalk. I put some in an old coffee can outside, for passerby to decorate our sidewalk.
Every morning I’ve been setting it out, along with a pink bottle of bubble solution contributed by a neighbor, and every night I bring them both in, in case of rain.
Gradually, people began to contribute, usually when I’m not looking out the front windows. Once a mom drew a huge American flag, substituting chalk pastel colors for red and dark blue. Her kids were busy making squares in different colors. One young man wrote in tall letters, “This is a great day to have a great day.” One older woman (my age) comes by most days and does delicate drawings — a sea horse, a turtle, a dog. Someone drew a colorful collection of fruits and vegetables. Toddlers make squiggles. Someone drew gigantic ice cream cones. I drew a heart with BLM inside, and, on another day, a big pair of smiling lips. Once there was tic-tac-toe. Today there is an iPhone with pink buttons, and a cat face with green eyes and blue whiskers.
Yesterday our doorbell rang, and on the front steps, a careful few feet back, stood a masked woman with two little kids behind her. She handed me a plastic bag with three homemade cinnamon rolls. “We just appreciate your sidewalk project and the bubbles, so these are for you.” She introduced the kids, and one of them assured me the rolls were good. I hadn’t thought of this as a “project,” but now I do. We could call it The Neighborhood Engagement-Enhancing Shared Vision Project, if we were applying for a city grant. Or, as one little girl tells her mother when they walk on our block, “Let’s go see The Chalk.”
On a recent night, we had a hard rain, obliterating the week’s art. Some drawings were entirely erased, and some linger as fuzzy, ghostly remnants. So, we started again. I think of the temporary art installations of Andy Goldsworthy: flower petals and vines braided together to float away on a river; stone cairns, eroded by the tide; nests of twigs blown apart by winds. Goldsworthy always says he doesn’t mind at all.
Personally, I hate seeing the doodles washed away, wish they were permanently tattooed on the concrete, but I’m used to it now. I plan to keep refreshing it for as long as my optimism and the weather hold out. I don’t want to disappoint the unknown artists who pass by and want to leave their mark, as if to say, “We are here, we are well, and we will persist in good spirits.” They cheer me up.