Updated: Oct 11, 2021
Glen and Sasha on their wedding day, Issyk-Kul Lake, Kyrgyzstan 2001.
11 September. For some an historic day. I have an aunt who was born on this day; however, I am referring to the less joyous event of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. As fate would have it, I missed this day completely. I mean, I was alive, and likely enjoyed this day very much. With about 20 others I was on a ten-day hiking trip in the Tien Shan mountains in Kyrgyzstan, celebrating the wedding of the two dear friends in the picture above, Glen and Sasha.
On 17 September when we hiked out into a tiny hamlet, we were caught in a state of disbelief and shock. Was what we saw on the front page of the newspaper at the little kiosk real? As we understood later, like so many others, our first impression was that this was a prank, unreal. The entire situation, what happened, our missing it all, defied the fragile line between truth and fiction.
A blog with its short pieces, dabbles in the kind of exposure that I have often feared. The very exposure that allows us to cross between this fragile line within ourselves.
This fragile line, in relation to my own life, brings to mind an image of me as portrayed by a friend in my Moscow years. During an intense weeklong leadership training, she portrayed me as a Jack-in-the-box. She mimed me, crouched down in a tiny ball, her left hand acting as the crank on the tin toy. Slowly she wound her hand until the moment when she, as me, her flaming red hair perfectly coiffed, exploded on the scene with a scream. For a moment she hovered there with a beatific smile. Then just as quickly she got tiny, curling up again into the fetal position. She represented me, in my custom made box.
She portrayed me with one other scene during that same training. Her mime was powerful and the words which accompanied it etched the scene and its meaning on my heart forever. With a wide sweep of her arms, she indicated a trove of treasure. Her eyes and hand gestures made it clear that this treasure chest was overflowing with gold and precious jewels of every dimension. Thoughtfully she would pick up a jewel, admire it, possibly hug, and kiss it, and then use it as a weapon against herself, as me. Slashes, tears, gouges, each time it was the same. She, as me, would take a jewel in hand, admire it, acknowledge its beauty, and then go about hurting herself with its sharp edges, or its brightness. In any and every way she portrayed how I turned all my precious treasures against myself. She went on to say that this was how she saw me, a being of light with an endless chest of treasures to shine on myself and the world, to use for good. Only, repeatedly, I turned my own jewels against myself, and sometimes even others, by association or proximity.
These two images, the jack in the box, and the treasure chest, have haunted me for nearly three decades, reminders at once of my possibilities and my fears. In their symbolism, these images accompany me through life, reflecting self-sabotaging behaviors.
At the time of that training, these images were new to me, and still, they did not shock me. My friend in her intense and insightful way portrayed two aspects of me that seem to be the fundament of my character; my soul need to shine and my terrestrial fear of existing. This duality, in simple pantomime, opened a door to my internal depths. Suddenly I had access to the mechanism and its motor.
My life is series of these two parts interacting, choosing in every moment of every day. Looking back it seems that my own judgment of myself in reference to these images – which was the ‘right’ one and which the ‘wrong’ impeded my seeing them for what they were – knowledge, possibility, a chance to return to my essence and make choices. Freedom from habits. Freedom from my custom made jack in the box.
Atop a glacier, Glen and Sasha on their 2001 wedding hiking trip.