When I first moved to Portland, I was fascinated by just about everyone.

There was the lady who yelled puns at passerbys and scuttled around like a squirrel, or the girl with the pink acid washed jeans who followed me around for weeks, or the guy with the Green Hornet symbol in his apartment window who would occasionally light up all the rooms in his corner unit a shocking neon green.  But the character of greatest mystery – the one I loved the most, thought about often, and wanted to grow up to be – was Chalk Girl.

For Dan, Mel, and I, Chalk Girl was a bit of a legend.  Obscure quotes or inspiring lyrics would randomly appear on the sidewalks of NW Portland, incongruous rainbow proclamations on bland asphalt canvases, bits of brightness on otherwise dreary days.  Sometimes Chalk Girl would leave arrows, paths to follow, diversions from the every day.  We loved and envied her.  We even tried to be like her.  Which brings me to today’s Cheap Thrill Challenge.

I dare you to be Chalk Girl.  Or Chalk Man, if that’s more your thing.

Here are your steps:

1. Get some sidewalk chalk, a pre-adolescent state of mind, and a serious dose of whimsy.  Cheap-o.  You can get it at your friendly neighborhood Dollar Store, toy store, or, ya know, Target.

2. Decide on a message, and a target.  You could decorate a friend’s walk home from work, or write a love letter along your husband’s bike path.  You could quote John Lennon on a downtown sidewalk, or create an art piece in a neighborhood intersection.  Ask a question of strangers who walk past a bus station, try to inspire high schoolers traipsing home from school, point out something beautiful that may otherwise go unnoticed, take someone on an arrow-lead adventure, or create a wonderland near a playground for the kids to enjoy.  As always, if you can target a specific someone and make them feel loved, you score big points in my book.

3. Check the laws for sidewalk chalking in your city.  In Portland, it’s legal, as far as I can find out.  In New York, you can be fined pretty harshly.  Not that I’d tell you not to do it.  Just, you know, be smart.  Overall, sidewalk chalk is pretty benign… washes away with rain, non-toxic, natural… no big deal.  Be a rebel if you want, but don’t go getting arrested just cause I dared you.  Come to Portland and chalk it up here.

4. Chalk on!  Take pictures!  Brighten someone’s day (writing “You’re beautiful” or “Wow… look at you!” or “Remember you are loved” is pretty great).  Be somebody’s Chalk Girl!  Don’t you feel all awesome and mysterious already?  Dude, it only gets better.

Image courtesy of Jacci Howard Bear http://desktoppub.about.com/

Life can be monotonous, bland, and gray, and the world is full of folks getting lost in the sameness of their days.  I’m challenging you to get out there this week and liven the whole mess up.  Surprise someone.  Be a little unpredictable.  Infuse joy.  Be a joy warrior.  Guerilla joy infusion via rainbow chalk?  Does it get any better than that?


  • Michele June 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm

    I LOVE this! I’ve been thinking about doing this very thing for weeks, and was just googling sidewalk chalk laws when I stumbled on your post. How synchronistic! Shall we make an event of it? Girl of Cardigan and The Joy Team chalk the streets of Portland & Vancouver? We could round up a bunch of folks and scatter joy all around. What do you say?

    • girlofcardigan June 16, 2011 at 3:31 pm

      Haha, I love it! Let’s do it. How’s your July looking? 🙂

    • girlofcardigan June 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm

      Replying again – holy moly, Michele, I’m madly in love with your Joy Team! Wahoo! You guys are so fantastic. To reiterate my first reply, I’m all in. Let me know what you need, and we’ll get this chalk event rolling. love!

  • The Joy Team June 28, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Excellent!! I should have checked back sooner! How about August? I’ve got some ideas. Shall we email? Have coffee?