Maryanne Wurst was holding onto her walker with one hand, and leaning over to pick up a stone in the street with the other.
I asked her what she was doing.
"I make hearts from ordinary street stones," she said.
She held up the treasure she had just collected – a weary, homely rock, one of a million on the crumbling streets of North Philly.
“See the vein here,” she said, pointing to a curved line in the rock. “This is going to be a beautiful heart."
She may have health issues aplenty, but her vision is, well, rock-solid.
She lives in senior apartment building two blocks from Temple University Hospital, and was on her way to the bank machine across from the hospital to get money for breakfast. Her Social Security check had arrived and she was taking the bus to her favorite breakfast place.
She was happy to talk, but turned her walker around so she could sit on the seat.
She is soon to be 74. She has 8 great-grandchildren, 22 grandchildren, four children, and “one verbally adopted daughter.”
She saw my confusion.
“I verbally adopted her and she pays more attention to me than anyone else. She’s the only one who calls me every day.”
“I used to work with mentally and physical retarded,” she said. “Up until 1993 I was lifting 200 pound women by myself.”
That in part may explain why she has a large ventral hernia, as well as many other health issues, but was utterly cheerful and positive.
She pulled a beautiful black heart-shaped stone from a plastic case she carries. She found that stone on the street, and used a coarse piece of cement, also picked up in the street, to smooth it into the heart.
She uses rougher stones and cement to smooth all her stones.”
She said that despite her health issues, and need to sit often on her walker, she can still run, and often does for half a block or so.
Even though I urged her not to, pleaded with her not to, she was not to be denied.
“Here I go,” she said, and holding firmly onto her walker ran down the street and disappeared around the corner.
I hope she had a great breakfast.