Antonio Merino sat in the dappled sunlight with his heart open for everyone to see. Pieces of painted rocks brought together in shapes on the wooded ground under a canopy of trees, and art created from natural elements existed in a symphonic cacophony of Antonio’s love, positivity, and joy.
In my occasional search for Uli, I walked down Uli’s stairs from Mountain Brow Road in Hamilton, Ontario, on a brilliant spring day, with plans for a long walk along the Escarpment Rail Trail. I didn’t find Uli, but I found something equally spectacular.
The city was alive with people soaking up the sun and fresh air, joyful to experience the outdoors and improved weather in a time of lockdowns and staying apart.
The view from the mountain over the city revealed an azure Lake Ontario and the chimneys of the steel city humming in the distance like a normal Monday morning. Little cars and buses moved along the roads busily and roof tops devoid of snow signalled the beginning of spring.
The trail had a mix of people, some jogging, some bicycling, and others in pensive thought walking alone. As I turned left from Uli’s Stairs and passed the city’s metal staircase at Margate Avenue, something colourful caught my eye.
There with the Niagara Escarpment as a backdrop, just beyond the metal staircase that connects Mountain Brow and the Escarpment Rail Trail I experienced one person whose energy and love made you stop to take in the experience. The artist Antonio Merino puts his art and his heart on display expecting absolutely nothing in return.
I spoke for a little while with Antonio, learning that he did this for pure joy, as a way “to express my pain,” he said, and to share his love openly with the world. “These are difficult times.” He told me in Spanish, and he wanted to spread joy and love into the world.
He began his public art exhibit last year as we headed into this historical pandemic. It was his small way he said to thank our frontline workers who wage a war against this virus every single day. He was compelled to create these works by the discovery of a small painted rock in the same space that said, “You are loved.” Antonio has multiplied that love exponentially.
Antonio’s rocks carry many inspiring messages. One says, “Today just enjoy the moment because tomorrow we don’t know.” Another rock simply states, Love. You’ll also find his natural sculptures. An Eagle, a painted blue jay, a Canadian Flag.
Hailing from El Salvador, Antonio is grateful for the 31 years he has lived here. “Trienta y uno anos,” he said when I explained my origins and my gratitude for my adopted country of 43 years.
What was astonishingly beautiful was Antonio’s calm exuberance in explaining his thoughts, and his joyful demeanor as he contentedly chatted with anyone, including me. Some people know him well, stopping to examine any new additions to his art exhibit, or just waving a hello as they jogged by.
There is so much to see and take in. The most profound and moving thing I absorbed was Antonio’s positive energy. Each day Antonio takes the brave step to express himself, to expose his vulnerability, to spread the energy of his love, despite his pain. He has turned despair to joy and is spreading it everywhere he goes. That energy follows and surrounds him like a glow, and I was grateful to share in that with him for just a few brief moments.
Isn’t it incredible how just one person can make such a huge impact on the world by doing the simplest of things, creatively.
As Antonio once posted on his Instagram (AntonioMjr1), “One wicked individual causes more harm than a million good-hearted people. Filtering your heart is your choice. Don’t try to fix the world! Just be, one in a million.
You are that Antonio. You are One in a Million and your kind of love is how we fix our world.