AWAKENING - Sun, May 18 By Jennifer Green
Vegas – May 2014:
The strip in Las Vegas is never static. It’s a constant cycle of ever changing facades to keep the guests entertained, surprised and eager to return time and again.
I’ve been coming here for a work convention every May now for the past 7 years, this May being no different. I always make sure to carve some personal afternoon time out so I can explore the Vegas strip on my own with camera in hand. I start by Treasure Island Casino and work my way down to the Mandalay, weaving along the carefully executed sidewalk, up and down the outdoor escalators and elevated crosswalks. This town never ceases to entertain me; its cast of street characters, glittery sidewalks, flashing lights and air that smells like fruity perfume, makes you feel as though you’ve stepped into another world.
As I walked the stretch of sidewalk approaching what I thought was the Flamingo Casino, I suddenly felt confused and a bit lost. Nothing seemed to look the same. I spun around trying to find familiarity in my surroundings. After a few moments I got my bearings and recognized that I was indeed in front of the Flamingo but that the iconic large mirrored pillars that identified it were gone.
It was then it hit me.
I felt a sudden knot in my throat and had to catch my breath.
The mirrored pillars . . .
I remembered a brief moment last year, this same time and place. A moment I had all but dismissed, but now seemed so foretelling of what lay ahead.
Vegas – May 2013:
As I walked back to the Treasure Island Casino with the hot desert sun beating down on me, I was exhausted but extremely happy and satisfied. I had just explored the Vegas strip and gotten some of what I thought was my best street photography to date. I was more than halfway to my ending destination where I could finally rest my tired feet. I approached the grand entrance of the Flamingo Casino/Hotel when all of a sudden I was stopped in my tracks by a sick, twisting feeling of impending doom, deep in the pit of my stomach. I felt empty and alone, like an outsider looking in. The traffic was rushing by, loud music was pulsing, people were happily chatting as they walked around me; yet I felt totally alone and a wave of despair like no other washed over me. I looked forward at the beautiful mirrored pillar in front of me. I saw what seemed like a stranger’s sad and desolate face reflected back at me. Instinctively I lifted my camera and took a shot. The click of the shutter snapped me out of the fog. I tried to shake off the lingering sick feeling as I began walking again. I quickly passed it off as homesickness. After a few minutes it was completely gone and I again continued to bask in the glory of a successful photo shoot.
I returned home a few days later and eagerly poured over my Vegas photos. Among the images of street people and architecture was my sad self-portrait. I didn’t even think twice about it, completely dismissing it and not even remembering what I had felt . . . that is until just a few weeks ago, standing once again in front of the Flamingo.
Present Day – 2014:
Little did I know back in May 2013 when I stood in front of that mirrored pillar looking at my reflection, that I was approaching the most devastating time of my life to date - the sudden, tragic death of my youngest brother Nathan.
I can’t help but feel like my soul had sensed this. That the brief, desolate moment I felt was the universe's way of saying “heads up, storm approaching”.
Life is a funny thing. About the time you think you have it all figured out, it comes along and pulls the rug out from under you.
I believe that I was meant to recall that moment last year as a reminder that the most tragic times in life also bring about the greatest awakenings. I survived the toughest year of my life. I’m different, no longer the person I was a year ago. The knowledge of how suddenly everything can change has made me more appreciative. I love greater, am more creative; I am no longer satisfied with following a path that other’s pave. I’m determined to make my own way and embrace life to the fullest – every tragic and beautiful thing.
As I stood in front of the Flamingo just one year later, there were no longer any mirrors for me to see my reflection in . . . but I smiled, knowing that my brother is with me always and that his death will forever serve as a reminder for me to live life to the fullest. In the end . . . isn’t that really what it’s all about?