This is unlike any post I have made – or will ever again likely make! It is a stroll down memory lane, an insight into a my past, an introduction to a cherished friend, and, of course, a mystical commentary into life. Something about this period of lock-down strips away the masks we wear as we meet life in the raw and confront ourselves, at home. It is in this spirit that I share this with you. The year was 1999.
This piece comes with a story and a dedication.
The story is as follows: I unknowingly illustrated this short book as a gift to myself. My friend, who you will come to know, wrote this story about two “pens” that were meant to symbolize ourselves. Through this story (she was all of 19 years old at the time she wrote this, myself 18), in a style that appears simple but beguiles ageless wisdom, she was helping me grieve the transitions of life. I was on my way to Israel for my seminar year at the BJJ teacher’s seminary for women. In truth, ______ was a year older than me and had already made the seminary transition the year before. My own departure from our home city, St Louis, in ’99 was just an echo of her departure to her seminary, Bnos Chava in ’98. So though it appears that I was the one leaving, in truth, she was coming to help me cope with losing her. This theme repeated itself again when she got married during the years that followed.
A budding writer, she told me that she had entered a writing competition and needed some illustrations for her book, but that she was not allowed to show anyone her story. Handing me a list of illustrations, I duly produced some pictures. Imagine my surprise and delight when they landed back in my hands with a tale of understanding, hope and love, spun through the heart and pen of my best friend.
So that is my dedication. Bonds that are formed through growing closer to G-d is the stuff, or glue, of true friendship. Thank you to an eternal and special friend that widened the shape of my heart and provided me with the vessel of friendship.
She named the main characters “Stae” and “Pull”. This was meant to be the idea of connection (in Hebrew, “glue” is devek which means to connect, and by eccentric and creative extension, staples (stae-pul) are friends!) Stae also hides the name my closest family and friends call me (Tay). What she didn’t imagine was that the essence of the story is about gracefully moving through life and not getting fixated on any one stage, but embracing every part of life as a necessary chapter of growth. In this sense, Stae could actually mean Stay (as in, staying behind) versus Pull (surrendering to the tug towards the future) and perfectly describes the tension we feel as we constantly convert our pasts into our futures through the transient present moment.
She ends her story (she was like a teen psychologist on site!) with the words, “Where are the next chapters? They are coming…” Little does she know that what I had learned in the university of friendship as a teen has indeed laid the foundation of so much of my work today. Indeed, we all carry a piece of Hashem’s beauty and are essentially joined to each other through an eternal network of intricate connections that are woven through the hub of connecting to G-d and therefore our true selves.
Thank you to all my friends, on all their shelves.