I backed my chair into position beside her. We were on a narrow street patio just in front of a small Starbucks. She noticed me and nodded. I nodded back. We did not speak. Our greeting was similar to the greeting that VW bug drivers give each other, friendly but ultimately, impersonal. Her wheelchair was of a much different design than mine. Hers had the capacity to tip backwards, and she was thusly seated. A cup of expensive coffee was in a holder within her reach. I don't drink coffee but I love the smell of it. Hers smelled of Brazil or Columbia or somewhere else exotic.
She, herself, might be considered exotic by some. She certainly did not fit the norm. Her body was much smaller than most, as if it had at some point decided, on it own, that enough was enough and simply stopped growing. Her shape was angular, her jaw strong, her arms lean. I am trying to describe her simply because this description is important to the story I am going to try to tell, the point I wish to make.
Let's take a break from her and visit me for a second. Always a fascinating subject, no? When we were in Ireland, I found a television programme that was comprised soley of an old guy painting a picture and talking about the process of painting. We used to have a similar programme here in Canada, may still. I can watch for hours. I am truly in awe of artistic talent. I watch as from the brush flows colours and even textures. I watch as suddenly from nothing comes something. I do not have this kind of talent. It strikes me as somewhat divine.
So, when the woman beside me took a sip of her coffee and then pulled out a sketch pad and a single pencil, I became alert. Then she began to draw the streetscape on the other side of the street. A first few tentative strokes became more definate. Slowly, grays turned into form and shape and shadow. Her eye darted from the pad to the street and back again. I, by now, had my tea and I sipped it as I watched. She paid little heed to me, noticing that I was watching the picture take shape. She was unselfconscious and bore my intrusion with grace.
For a while I simply looked at the other side of the street. The reality from which she was creating art. I noticed, really noticed, arches that I'd never seen before. Brickwork held my attention. Campy lettering on a restaurant sign brought a slight smile. Then I looked back and the progress was astonishing. Her pencil was now moving quickly, almost on it's own. It knew it's own mind. Without vision, it saw. Without a means for motion, it moved. Then I saw her face. She was completely gone. Lost in her art. Lost to the world. Existing somewhere else, somewhere deep, somewhere perhaps even sacred. I no longer existed to her. Coffee lost its smell. Senses ceased to matter.
She was enraptured.
I have felt this occasionally. In the middle of a lecture, in the middle of writing, I will decamp from conciousness and move somewhere very deep inside. These moments are rare and precious. These are moments where I am communing with something wildly personal, something uniquely and soley mine.
She was experiencing liberty, freedom.
In these moments of personal rapture, adjectives fall away from us. We cease to 'be' in the way we are almost always forced to 'be'. Gender. Disability. Height. Weight. Heart Status. It's all gone. There is a pureness. A sweetness. It's being lost and found at the same time. It's what the mystics searched for. It proves the existance of spirit within body.
So I watched her just 'be' for a little while. I envied her talent, I envied where she was at that moment. But I comforted myself with the knowledge that I go there too, some times. I know what it is to discover both my uniqueness and my equality. I know what it is to touch the face of God.
From somewhere in the real world, a bell rang. Her pencil for a moment paused, then was set down. She pulled a phone from her pocket and answered.
She smiled when she heard the voice on the other end. Then she said, "No, I'm not doing anything."