Pop pills and keep rollingThe cast has been on my leg since the 2nd of July, and hopefully will come off in less than a week’s time. My broken femur fused nicely and I am going to physical therapy regularly. Still the pain has been excruciating from sitting in the same position for weeks on end. My clinical massage therapist is a godsend, relieving the pain which comes on frequently. Unfortunately, doctors tend to underestimate what the road to recovery will entail. I wasn’t prepared or informed of the pain I would encounter as my bone healed. Humans are not meant to sit in one position without stretching or exercising. Because I can’t stand on crutches with a casted leg, I can’t pull or stretch my muscles. Little did I know that my inability to stretch the muscles in my right leg would cause such searing and throbbing pain. The episodes often leave me sobbing in bed while the painkillers eventually kick in.

I hate pills. They don’t even do a great job relieving pain since they merely switch off the brain’s nerve center making you woozy. Here’s an example of how pain killers react with my system. Last weekend, I tried desperately to remember a word that means “existing or being everywhere.” The veins in my head were throbbing as I tried to pry open the door to my memory to retrieve this word. I was convinced it started with an “O.” I was too bleary-eyed to ask Google! So I waited 14 hours for the brain fog to lift and finally called a friend to assist me. It took her 2 seconds to declare ” UBIQUITOUS, UBIQUITOUS!!!!!” I guffawed over and over, as though I had a winning Mega Millions ticket. Shit! I was certain it started with “O”, though!

The one thing that has kept me focused and sane during my recuperation, is a volunteer project which I have been involved in since June. I have always loved being a part of a community which fosters projects that promote the arts and the natural beauty that surrounds the county where I reside–Rockland.

I live in the Village of Haverstraw, NY, 30 miles north of NYC. It is a beautiful historic village situated on the banks of the Hudson River, filled with historic buildings in the process of revitalization.

haverstraw riverarts committee

Haverstraw RiverArts Committee

A core group of 13 volunteers, including the mayor and trustees, form the Haverstraw RiverArts committee. They convened in June to develop a day to celebrate art, music, food, family activities and crafts in Emeline Park, a beautiful, underutilized park that sits on the Hudson. The task would be arduous since the majority of us have never devised a festival of this magnitude. Nevertheless, we decided to pursue this ambitious dream and I was delighted to make significant contributions to a cause dear to my heart. The Haverstraw RiverArts Festival was born and would be launched officially on Saturday, September 20th.

We formed committees to attract and coordinate art, music, food and craft vendors. The art designation would involve a “sculpture invitational” headed by Joan Harmon, in which teams of professional local sculptors would team with high school students to create sculptures with the flotsam and jetsam found along the banks of the Hudson River. In partnership with Keep Rockland Green, they spent a day collecting debris which would be used to create works of art.

Professional sculptors Joan Harmon and Doris Laughton creating a "bird sculpture."

Professional sculptors Joan Harmon and Doris Laughton creating a “bird sculpture.”

Joan Harmon and her bird sculptureBird Sculpture at Haverstraw RiverArts Festival

Bird sculpture on the Hudson River Haverstraw RiverArts Festival

What do a bunch of artists do after creating a bird sculpture? You construct a raft made out of cans and plank, and send her off on the Hudson River for a ride. Duh! What else would you do with it?

Cat L. headed the music section, sending us links to bands she researched. After weeks of researching, the committee chose TreNovo-jazz, Brien & the Blackouts-rockabilly, Cocomama-latin fusion and the Tontons-indie rock.

Andrea C. and I were in charge of food trucks, ads, flyers, poster, program, website, social media and local press.

Everything went smoothly from June until the beginning of August. Corporations, Rockland County government and small businesses donated sufficient money so that the event would be free to the public.

The final month is usually the crush period, when so much needs to fall in line, except life can get in the way. The pain in my leg worsened, depleting my resources, friends’ crisises drained me emotionally and my mother was frustrated taking care of my day-to-day needs.

Yet, somehow, with the help of my friends, everything fell into place and we had a successful festival in the Village of Haverstraw. The day was balmy and teen volunteers from the local community center arrived to assist throughout the day. It was shockingly perfect. How the hell did all this happen?

Wheelchair disabled blogger NY

I am in a new cast and waiting in a parking spot for someone to grab me some coffee.

I am convinced that every community has people who care and who want to be a part of something creative and productive. These efforts bring people together, forging new friendships and they derive enjoyment watching their kids have fun in a beautiful setting.

Rockland County, NY sculptor James Tyler

Rockland County, NY sculptor James Tyler

James Tyler Haverstraw RiverArts FestivalJames Tyler sculpture Rockland County, NYJames Tyler Haverstraw RiverArts Sculpture on the Hudson River.Though the process was exhausting at times, I am totally satisfied with the outcome. We made something out of nothing and it worked. What I gained the most was the appreciation expressed by some of the attendees. I wasn’t looking for validation, however, it was so gratifying to be thanked for a job well done.

Karen Baumann and students created a puppet at Emeline Park Haverstraw RiverArts Festival

Art teacher Karen Baumann created this puppet with her students.

The committee decided we would regroup in a couple of weeks to discuss what we liked or didn’t like about the festival and how we can improve the festival for next year. Although there was a nice turnout, we would like even more people to attend. In today’s world a “buzz” is needed for a call to action and to grab attention since there are so many competing events. Creating an event of this scale is far more fulfilling than racking up another “selfie” on Instagram.

I feel so blessed knowing that so many people are committed to bringing creative projects to fruition. But now I need a back rub, a vacation and a NYC shopping spree at Dover Street Market. New York awaits the removal of my cast and a detox from pain pills. Onward, ROLL!

Thank you Frank Vitale who helped take many of these photos. He is also a film maker who resides in Rockland County, NY and avid supporter of the arts.

**If you live in the tri-state area and would like to know more about the festival, volunteer, become a sponsor and support the arts, sign up for the Haverstraw RiverArts Newsletter.