Spray It, Don’t Say It

A few months ago, Tara was scrolling through Instagram and happened upon a post by one of her cousins. She had painted poppies on her fence, giving her backyard a splash of color.

Inspired, my wife said, “We should paint a mural on the retaining wall out front!”

She didn’t know whether I’d be in favor of such a radical idea for a quiet suburban street. Not only was I down for bringing a splash of color to the ‘hood, but I even knew a guy.

“I know a guy!” I told her.

Last summer, I interviewed Derek Focus Smith, a Rapid City muralist who creates “graffiti art” using spray paint. His work has appeared all over town, including the Woyatan Lutheran Church, Monument Health, and Art Alley, and focuses on both the Lakota culture and the beauty of the Black Hills. Many of his works involve issues such as the Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement and gun violence and safety. Now, I wasn’t sure that Derek would actually be willing to take on a project like this, but when we reached out to him, he was enthusiastic and thought it would be an exciting project to tackle.

And then nothing happened. But that was on us, not him. You know how it is: you talk about doing something but then life intervenes and you never get around to actually committing. Fortunately, Derek gave us a friendly little nudge on Saturday evening, and we agreed it was time to proceed.

He showed up at 3:00 the following afternoon and we told him what we wanted: scenery from the Black Hills, a buffalo, pasqueflowers. Other than that, we gave him free rein. We were very sensitive about cultural appropriation and actually broached the subject with Derek, but he assured us he viewed our mural as a conversation-starter that would help bridge cultures. That was all we needed to hear.

Here’s what the wall looked like before:

And after:

I mean, that’s a million times better, right?!

Derek did an amazing job and we couldn’t be happier with how it turned out! When he told us he’d be finished before sundown I doubted him, but sure enough, the whole thing only took him about four hours. And it was all done freehand. I’m in awe of artists, because—despite years of art classes—I can’t draw worth a damn. I’ll just stick to words.

Today I got my second COVID vaccination, a week earlier than originally scheduled.

Monday, my boss forwarded me an article about how Walgreens got called out by federal health officials for not following U.S. guidance on Pfizer vaccine spacing. They were spacing shots four weeks apart instead of three, mainly because it made it easier for them to schedule appointments. There’s probably no harm in that since you can actually go six weeks between doses and retain effectiveness, but it’s annoying because that means you’re waiting one extra week to obtain maximum protection and a lot can happen in seven days.

Long story short, I was able to go online and move my appointment from Tuesday 4/13 to today. Tara rescheduled hers to tomorrow. I know a lot of people report feeling crappy after their second dose, but I’m not too worried personally. Both of my parents and my brother are fully vaccinated and none of them reported adverse ill effects. Then again, the gal who administered the shot told me it hit her so hard she had to call off work the next day…and she couldn’t have been much older than 28. I guess the next 24 hours will be telling. I figure, a brief bout of discomfort is well worth the peace of mind and protection the vaccine affords.

Plus, our trip to Ohio is fast approaching. We’ve already booked most of our motel rooms and come up with a pretty good itinerary. It’ll be a far more enjoyable trip knowing we are both fully vaccinated.

It was sunny and 79 over the weekend––perfect weather for a hike up to the Skyline Wilderness area. There, I came upon the first pasqueflowers of the season…always a welcome sight! They’re beautiful but fleeting, gone in a matter of weeks. I’m so glad we’ve got them included on our mural.

In typical wait, is it winter or is it spring?! fashion, today was the total opposite of Sunday. It didn’t feel like spring and was nowhere near 79.

And to think that I once thought snow in April was a weird thing. Ha! There hasn’t been an April without snow since we’ve moved here. There hasn’t been a May without snow either, for that matter.

Not that I’m complaining:

A) We need the moisture, and
2) It’s a great excuse to make Italian wedding soup.

Not that I need an excuse to make Italian wedding soup.

24 thoughts on “Spray It, Don’t Say It

      1. Not even Christmas light lady has commented yet? I’m sure she eventually will, right? And when she does, you’ll report back, I presume? Yes, I know she has an actual name, but it’s escaping me. Karen? Rachel? Shaniqua?

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Your painted wall is a definite improvement. Anyone can have plain old concrete, but you have art. I didn’t know about the Walgreens way of scheduling shot number two. Will keep that in mind when I finally get my shots started.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! What a wonderful pop of Dakota color. So fun. Congrats on your second shot, hope you don’t have any side effects. I’ve heard the younger you are the less you get. … my husband had none so that’s a good sign.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Almost 24 hours later and all I’ve got is a sore arm. My supervisor, on the other hand, got hers yesterday and called in sick today with body aches and fatigue. She’s the same age as I am, so I’m not sure there is any real rhyme or reason to those side effects.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. There isn’t. I’ve read the Moderna shot is more apt to produce side effects but I’ve had friends laid out for days on the Pfizer as well. It’s like life…. just a crap shoot.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I love the 3-D effect of the mural on the house wall. Very cool. And well done on the #MMIW recognition. Hoping our new Secretary of the Interior will get her task force and start tackling the problem.

    From what I’ve seen, the folks in their twenties and thirties are often having worse side effects from the vaccination than older folks. My MIL took that shot like it was nothing, and so did my current stepmother. Maybe your immune system eventually reaches a point where it’s like, “Chill. I’ve seen some shit, man. This ain’t no big deal.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! Apparently my immune system has been through the wringer because I feel like a million bucks this morning. My same-age supervisor, on the other hand, got her shot 30 minutes after me and called in sick today. Go figure.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love murals like that on buildings in cities, esp. when it was previously drab. I think I remember you talking about that artist because the fact that it’s spray paint amazes me! I can’t imagine being able to control it like that. It turned out fantastic! Have the neighbors commented?

    I got my second shot 3 hours ago! So far, so good, but I’ve heard it takes10 hours to hit you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 10 hours for me was right around bedtime and I slept like a baby. Good sign!

      We haven’t really talked to the neighbors in the past few days other than Christmas Lights Kelly, and she’s a fan!


  5. That’s pretty cool. I’d bet the neighbors are part “that’s cool”; part grouchy, “that’s cool, but now the wife wants me to do it”; and part, “crazy west coast liberals!”

    I still haven’t had the first shot, and I bet I have a few years on you…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! “Crazy west coast liberals” may very well be on their minds.

      South Dakota is second in the nation in getting the vaccine out to people, so I’m not surprised you are still waiting. Hopefully you’ll be able to get yours soon.

      Liked by 1 person

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