Week 2: Sigrid Screening
This week included several firsts: completing an online HTML training through lynda.com, participating in Miracle Week by (incredible) life coach Susan Hyatt, and what I will focus on here - attending the premier screening of Sigrid.
The documentary Sigrid is about the life of a woman named...
Sigrid is a 96-year-old woman residing in California, enjoying the later years of a life of filled with horseback riding instruction and art. Hailing from Dresden, Germany, she joined her brother in California as a young woman.
Her childhood and teens were filled with memories of the war - she lived through the bombing of Dresden, and her father was recruited to train horses for the Nazis. Neither she nor her family wanted any part in their movement, and she was so much against violence that she was a vegetarian. (Did you know that instead of meat, vegetarians were rationed cottage cheese in the war?)
After coming to California, she worked on her brother's farm for three years, until she caught the eye of a man who wanted to marry her. She needed convincing. After several months, she conceded, noting what a genuinely nice man he was, and they spent only five years together until his death.
She raised her son, only a toddler when his father died, and continued to instruct children in riding lessons. I bumped into a girl I know from my college equestrian team at the screening, and she had been a young student of Sigrid's in the 1990s.
The documentary was short, maybe an hour, and consisted of photographs, home videos capturing her later years, and mostly, interviews of her.
Sigrid is not famous in the traditional sense of the word, but she is someone who sparks life in every person she meets. This woman sparkles. She is of unscripted essence, an unbridled spirit.
The best part of the screening was that she was there, and answered questions for 20 minutes after the screening. This woman is full of wonder. She is tiny, frail, and delivers a big bang. Most elderly folk no longer give a damn about the opinions of others. With Sigrid, I had the sense that she never gave a damn, even in her youth. She is, and seems to always have been, eons beyond freedom from needing approval: she is so fresh, so vivacious, and no one has an idea of what will be the next thing she does, or says.
Her originality is something I have not encountered before, and coupled with it is a deep regard for life - and that while having lived through circumstances like east Germany in the 1940s and the death of her husband.
There is something about someone who has lived through unlivable circumstances and comes out with a zest for life still intact, while simultaneously having the capacity to experience deep, gut-wrenching pain - not burying it - that is remarkable.
I also want to spend some reflection on WW2. For some reason, in the past six months, I have had so many encounters with this era and its implications, and it's opened up a wonderment for me about the depths of terror and pain possible in this world, and the human capacity for resilience, for breaking...only to reveal a never-brokenness on the soul level.
This past November I was in France on a farm near the village of Oradour-sur-Glane while simultaneously reading Behind Enemy Lines, a memoir of a female/Jewish/French spy in Nazi Germany. I recommend this book to everyone - author Marthe Cohn, who shares similarities with Sigrid (full of life, lived through horrific loss, still here, also a California resident), is an incredible being. Through an orchestration of synchronicity, I read about Oradour-sur-Glane in the book within a few days of my host taking me to the village, site of a - senseless and brutal do not begin to describe this - town-wide massacre. The village has been intentionally left and maintained in its June 10, 1944 state, as a testament to what happened on that day, and les vestiges leave more of a felt sense of devastation and loss than a displaced exhibition ever could.
With the coalescing of my reading the book and visiting the Oradour grounds, the impact of WW2's horror, the human-but-inhuman capacity for the destruction of life, internalized and integrated within me in a way it hadn't before. Even though I had just been to Berlin, twice, and had tried to expose myself to this moment in human history. That beings like Sigrid and Marthe have come out with the ability to feel such joy and see such beauty - having lived through and still acknowledging the depths of pain and loss and anger too real - is...it's something I don't have words for. They speak to the ability of an evolved human to be a container for the full spectrum of life in this world, and that they choose to still see grace - in spite of having every reason to hold resentment - demonstrates, to me, the peak of human resiliency and choice.
The documentary is brand spanking new and I am not able to find any references to it online, but I hope that it does become available so many people can have access to this ordinary and extraordinary woman.