by Eliana Southworth
I’ll always remember that July afternoon visit to the Trevi Fountain—the clear blue water glistening under the Roman sun while crowds of visitors, armed with cameras, stood in awe of Bernini’s masterpiece. There, my painting professor told us the legend. To get ready, you stand with your back to the fountain and toss coins over your left shoulder with your right arm. Toss one coin to insure your return to Rome, two coins to meet a new romance, and three coins to lead you to marriage. I figured, “when in Rome,” as I tossed all the coins I had in my change purse over my shoulder.
The sound of the coins splashing the water’s surface, immersing in the fountain, reminded me of the animation I had completed for my motion graphics course that previous semester. Our assignment was to create a movie that communicated something about travels or a journey, whether physical, spiritual or emotional.
Coming off the heels of my quarter-life crisis and three years of soul-searching in California, I wanted to create an animation that reflected my emotional and spiritual journey—one that marked a period of personal growth, healing from childhood trauma and broken trust, to a place of being ready to create space in my life for a partner and love.
I was inspired by the idea of the mikveh but had never actually been to one, much less immersed. On my first visit to tour Mayyim Hayyim I was struck by the beauty and intention of such a sacred space. There, it became clear to me that watercolor was the best medium for expressing fluidity and immersion. I wanted the piece to feel meditative and reflect the undulating feel of being in the water. I realized that I also wanted to save my first actual immersion experience to mark the special transition to marriage.
While at the mikveh I picked up copies of the Gratitude and Toward Healing ceremonies. I connected with the healing words and wove them into the animation. The creative process of making “Hineni” helped release the burden of secrets and discover forgiveness within myself. Its completion marks a close of one chapter in my life and the beginning of the next.
When I returned from sunny Italy to autumn in Boston, I met my future husband. We both worked at the same university at the time but found each other online. Apparently the magic of the Trevi Fountain had lead me to a new romance and marriage, after all.
Before our wedding, I took off a few days from work and again thought of “Hineni” as I prepared for my immersion in the mikveh and my transition to this new stage of life. The title, “Here I am,” comes from the first of Seven Kavannot (intentions) for Mikveh Preparation, written by Mayyim Hayyim. It inspired these words, taken from my journal that day:
“I’ve been thinking a lot about feeling ‘ready’ for this wedding and this marriage. The mikveh marks a transition—and it certainly did. It brought me from a place of rushing around in the craziness and chaos of wedding planning to a place of quiet and stillness, feeling in the moment and properly ‘ready’ for this event. I am ready for marriage and to make such a public commitment.
I got ready for almost an hour—cleaning completely—nothing can come between you and the water. I took off my nail polish, shaved, flossed and bathed, and then called for the Guide to come to the mikveh. She stood behind a sheet and made sure I dunked three times completely under water. She loudly said ‘kasher’ after each dunk so I knew I had gone all the way under.
After she left, I dunked three times on my own: 1) for who I was, my past, my healing, my becoming whole, 2) for me and him, who we are now as we make this commitment to each other, and 3) for who we will become together, in our marriage and our adventure together.
And then I floated—trusting that the universe has my back and will hold me up and support me when I need it most. The warm embrace of the water felt inviting and solitary. I was renewed, refreshed, ready.”
Eliana Southworth is a corporate Senior Graphic Designer who works in Watertown, MA. She spends much of her time developing videos, animation and multimedia. She holds a Master of Arts in Graphic Design from NESAD at Suffolk University and a Bachelor of Industrial Design from Pratt Institute. You can follow her design portfolio and blog at www.elianarosedesign.com. Eliana volunteers on the New Center NOW Executive Council and serves as co-chair of the DIY Arts Circle.