When I was in College I had the privilege of performing in the play I Never Saw Another Butterfly. Based on the true story of WWII concentration camp survivor Raja Englanderova, the story centers around her time spent living in Terezin. Amidst losing all whom she loved, her stories of the camp spoke of the horrors while retaining a world filled with butterflies and flowers with the other children in the camp. This play was based off of a book by the same name which is a compilation of drawings and poems created by the children who were imprisoned in Terezin. Out of 15,000 children who passed through this particular concentration camp, less than 100 survived.
When I played the role of Raja I was nineteen years old and had not yet faced any true struggles of my own. Finding her voice was difficult as I had to dig deep into the horrors of the war and attempt to wrap my head around the travesty done to millions. I barely skimmed the surface of what Raja must have felt like, but for me it was an all encompassing darkness. However in the midst of the horror was refuge for Raja and the children of Terezin. Famous intellectuals and artists who were imprisoned in the camp used art, writing and music as a form of therapy for the children throughout their stay. The children had an outlet to express all they were experiencing which shined a small light on such a bleak time.
The last, the very last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow. Perhaps if the sun’s tears would sing against a white stone.... Such, such a yellow Is carried lightly ’way up high. It went away I’m sure because it wished to kiss the world good-bye. For seven weeks I’ve lived in here, Penned up inside this ghetto. But I have found what I love here. The dandelions call to me And the white chestnut branches in the court. Only I never saw another butterfly. That butterfly was the last one. Butterflies don’t live in here, in the ghetto. Pavel Friedman, June 4, 1942 Born in Prague on Jan. 7, 1921. Deported to the Terezin Concentration Camp on April 26, 1942. Died in Aushchwitz on Sept. 29, 1944.
The art of the children and how they worked through some of their traumas within a creative outlet stuck with me all of these years. When it came to creating my own art therapy project my mind went back to this play, this story and those children.
My first doodles... and horrible spelling
I have sporadically kept a journal throughout my life, writing about things that were important to me, but also using it as an outlet for whatever angst I was going through at the time... teenage dilemmas, boy drama, college choices. I can remember first adding drawings (aka doodles) to my writing in middle school while on one of my European trips. The pictures from my mind filling in the gaps that my words could not. I by no means think of myself as an artist and have often wished I had skill in that area. I am a very visual person and see so many things in my mind which I wish I could create on paper or canvas.
During the fight of my life that depression took me on these past few years I clung to my journal and wrote and drew. I played my violin to numb my mind and silence it. I also used this blog to help me get through many hard nights. All of these forms of art provided expression and a way to work through and understand what I was feeling.
A few weeks ago a picture came to me... my journey, my recovery, my lessons and what they all looked like. I decided I had to somehow get it out and took the step to go to the craft store. Staring at shelves and shelves of every medium available to create I chose a few items. Uncharacteristically I didn't put much thought into what I hoped would translate into my vision and was unfazed by the normally overwhelming array of things. I even left the store unfazed that my two year old was having the tantrum of his life!
Excitement filled me as I took the pictures that would be the base of my project. My mind wanted to make an order to how I was going to create and my type A personality wanted it to go exactly as planned. And then I made my first "mistake" on the canvas... doubt started to creep in, perfection was screaming to take over and frustration and self criticism were lurking in the background. Who was I to even attempt "art"!? And then I came upon this quote...
"If you are willing to do something that might not work,
you're closer to being an artist"
I made my mind up. Be now, be focused on where being now wants to take you, use what you have learned on this journey to be your guide and do this for yourself because YOU are worth it.