Some years ago as I was walking down Fifth Avenue, around Rockefeller Center, I saw a huge group of people gathered and wondered what was going on. As I got closer and looked down at the ground, I could see this incredible art beautifully blended with colored chalk that seemed to defy the cement canvas. It jumped out at the world.
I kept stepping closer and closer until I could see the artist. It was a cascade of blond hair that caught my eye first, then the absence of his arms. … Both were missing, all the way up to his shoulders. I shook for a second and saw him using his feet like they were his hands.
To say I was stunned is an understatement, as well as all of the other passersby that day. I could not move for the longest time. I was totally enraptured with his process of creating beautiful art on a sidewalk. He was painting a man with long big arms and big hands. It was his own face he sketched. Hands that were not there on his own body. My body shivered for a second. He was very intense and concentrating solely on his current project. A project that would be washed away in the first rain.
How does one let go of their art like that after spending so much time to create it I thought? …hmmmm, he seemed to be unconcerned as I tried to strike up a conversation.
I eventually left and could not get him out of my mind.
Several days later, I was invited to a dinner party and there he was. I couldn’t believe I was now in his company. So I could ask him a million questions that were burning in my brain. He sat next to me at dinner and used his feet like hands to eat his dinner in a very polite and systematic way.
He was born with no hands, didn’t know any other way to be. Didn’t seem like a challenge to him, only different, he said. He did not live in the States. If my memory serves me well, I believe he said Germany. I can’t remember his name but I was in total awe and will never forget that if he can be so inspired everyday to create, so can I.
I went home and wrote the poem “Armless” in his honor.