Slay It Forward

“People are a little discouraged,” said Buriel, a substitute teacher who filed for unemployment after schools closed. “They can’t do their normal daily activities. I can’t do my normal daily activities. So, I think that has an impact.”

She started in March with a rainbow behind the words “We are all in this together,” tied to a chain-link fence on Palm Drive. Then, she added another — a similar tapestry of colors — with four people wearing face masks above the phrase “We will rise above this.”

This week, she added a piece with colorful lips across a black patchwork that reads “Kiss this virus goodbye,” to a fence on West Drive.

Driving around Desert Hot Springs to find her pieces feels like a treasure hunt — the high school, the library, the water district are good places to start.

“It gives people a glimmer of hope, a glimmer of support knowing that they’re not in this alone, that we’re all in this together and that we will all get through this together,” said Desert Hot Springs Council member Gary Gardner, who has long supported Buriel’s art.

© Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun Stephanie Buriel has been crocheting art related to the coronavirus and installing it around Desert Hot Springs, April 30, 2020. This piece which reads “We’ll rise above this” is at the corner of Mountain View and Desert View.

Buriel said she’s gravitated toward crocheting rainbows during the pandemic because they’re a “universal” reminder.

“God gives the rainbow as a promise that he will never flood the entire Earth again,” Buriel said. “For some people, it may be that. For some people, it may be gay pride. For some people, it may be the child after they had a miscarriage.

“It also represents diversity to me,” she continued, “the many colors that we all have in our lives, or just how different we are.”

But Buriel, who says she learned the craft from a roommate in the Marine Corp., only ever planned on crocheting one rainbow. This week, she tied her fourth to a chain-link fence. Two have disappeared or been partially dismantled since the pandemic began.

“When I put something up and it’s gone after three or four days,” Buriel explained, “it can be super discouraging.”

But the kindness she’s putting out into the world came full circle a few weeks ago. When members of the community found out her pieces had been removed, they rallied behind Desert Hot Springs resident Kevin Marshall to raise more than $400 for supplies, so Buriel could crochet replacements.

“This needed to be a line in the sand,” said Marshall, who runs a community Facebook group called The “Village” of Desert Hot Springs. “They needed to go back up and we needed to find a way to fund them — as many as she needs.”

“They take them down,” Marshall continued, “we put them up.”

Gardner said he called around to help Buriel find more visible locations that are “more or less” regularly patrolled. His partner, Eric Harris, also crochets and previously helped Buriel with a work that said “cancer sucks.”

Supplies for each rainbow cost around $140, Buriel said, and anywhere from 30 to 50 hours of work. She’s doing exercises with tennis balls to strengthen her wrists, which are sore.

When she first found out the pieces disappeared, Buriel thought, “I’m not going to do this anymore. This is just too much,” she said.

But only “for five or 10 minutes.”

“I thought about all the people that have responded to the art and said, ‘You make me smile every time I pass by,’” Buriel added. “I thought about those people and said, you know what? I’m just going to keep going.”

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Hey SLAYER! I’ve started a new series of posts called SLAY IT FORWARD. Each post is a submission from you of an act of kindness you have received or have witnessed that has inspired you. Let’s remind each other what’s important during this time and spread kindness… SLAY IT FORWARD.

To submit your own SLAY IT FORWARD story email me at carrie@stateofslay.com

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