BY MARIA TITIZIAN
Being sentimental is a way of life for me. I wish I was less temperamental and could place a significant amount of distance between my mental health and my actual life, but I realize this is never going to happen. While it means I wear my heart on my sleeve, I have finally made my peace with this personal characteristic because it also allows me to be open to the splendor of life.
I woke up to a beautiful sunrise on Sunday. As I slowly opened my eyes, I could see a streak of red and orange across the horizon. I smiled to myself, turned and went back to sleep. An hour later, my addiction to coffee finally woke me up. As I staggered into the kitchen to put the coffee on, out of the corner of my eye I saw the mountain. You would think that after all these years, it would just be another view that reveals itself from our balcony. Yet, I stood by the window for several minutes mesmerized and all the stress, frustration and troubles of the week before and, undoubtedly ahead, were momentarily forgotten.
The two peaks were covered in snow, every detail of the mountain could be seen and the mountain ranges on either side were shimmering in the early morning sunlight. The sky was a glorious blue, and Yerevan lay before me, slowly waking up from the night’s slumber. The day before had been overcast with sporadic rain showers. At one point a rainbow had stretched across the sky and as dusk was settling on our capital city, Ararat had vanished from view. In its place was a bright light, it was almost as if a spotlight was projected across the plains from where it soared up to the heavens. As the wind picked up, the clouds began to swirl about and only the slopes of the mountain could be seen. I suspected that the next morning, the view would be spectacular, and the mountain certainly did not disappoint, it never does…
Our collective obsession with Mt. Ararat might seem a bit exaggerated at times. There isn’t an Armenian on the planet who hasn’t seen a photo or a depiction of it. Most Armenian families have paintings of Ararat on the walls of their homes. I know we did. I also remember the first time I saw it with my own eyes. Some thought that the novelty would wear off after living in its shadow for over 12 years, but it doesn’t. It’s what gives us energy, strength and hope.
Researching, writing and reporting the news for a living in our country can be taxing on the human spirit. Reporters and journalists in Armenia are among the most cynical people, with good reason – we are intimately aware and informed of what takes place. One of my colleagues, an Armenian language editor who on the surface appears to be very calm and even keeled, said something the other day that stopped me in my steps. Not because I didn’t share his frustration or disagree with his formula for shaking things up in the country but for the fact that even someone like him was so flustered at the apparent idiocy around us that he suggested unorthodox methods of getting the regime to smarten up as it were. This is what Armenia does to people, sometimes.
Something as simple as road works in the downtown core can trigger the most aggressive reactions in people. Tumanyan Street, which runs parallel to Sayat Nova was closed off between Teryan and Mashots Avenue as construction workers and equipment were brought in early one weekday afternoon. It is October in Yerevan – weather can be unpredictable with unexpected precipitation, which can hamper any kind of construction. Workers started ripping apart a perfectly good road in the middle of the week, during rush hour. At first we were unperturbed. Then people began asking one another why the road was being repaved. And the more we spoke about it and saw the commotion and traffic jams it was creating in the city, the angrier and more frustrated we became. What was the logic? There are plenty of streets that are in desperate need of repair and repaving. Why was Tumanyan receiving this special treatment? No one had the answers, none of us really ever get to the bottom of what transpires. The city administration issues a standard statement about the reasoning behind it, throws some numbers and figures into the mix to justify their actions. You are initially appeased and then you hear an alternative explanation making its way on the grapevine, more like an innuendo, or accusation of impropriety or trace of corruption and your head explodes because it’s just too much.
You realize that getting angry or frustrated is simply impacting your health, both mental and physical, and you shouldn’t let it get to you. But you are invested in a way you never were at any other time or anywhere else. So, you add it to the endless list of unexplainable behavior. And as the list gets longer, you convince yourself that you have to work harder, dig deeper and make sure this kind of nonsense is brought to an end all the while knowing that it just might be hopeless. You go home deflated, frustrated and you drive everybody at home crazy and then fall asleep.
And then you wake up to the mountain and realize that all of this unexplainable behavior is temporary, as is the ruling regime and what is solid is the land. It is our connection to it, real or imagined, that has allowed us to survive. You realize that Mt. Ararat is more than a mere symbol of Armenianness, of identity, it is the one majestic and silent witness to your successes and failures and the only way to reciprocate its patience and energy is to never lose yours.