It was 1983 in Fayette County, Pennsylvania and I was 13 years old. My little world was full of sticker collecting, exploring the boundaries of the farm and stretching into my identity. I was passionate about horses and in love with Indiana Jones. I wore my rejection of Barbie as a badge of honor.
Me at 13 years old.
One week this confidence and enthusiasm translated into wearing a beautiful suede vest with long fringe to school. It was a gift from my dad, chosen just for me while on a hunting trip out west. Today, it would probably fit right in to a bohemian style but back then it was quite a bold statement to wear to grade school. It was a traditional warm chocolate brown color that made me feel beautifully feminine and strongly independent all at the same time. I just couldn’t help myself. I loved it and wanted to wear it everywhere. I’ve never been a clotheshorse. But when I found an item of fashion that inspired me I would wear it until it literally fell apart. Still do the same to this day.
Jeff Sager on one of his many hunting trips.
This magical vest was the catalyst for a turn of events, that, as I write this, I realize would be considered bullying today.
A popular boy singled me out and began the ridiculing, calling me “horse-woman”. Today I would say Thank you! but back then, as a young child just forming my identity, somehow, he had taken the things most precious to me and turned them into a joke. It seems so simple now, but then it crushed me. My little, sensitive self cried all the way home. Funny, how certain memories stay crystal clear over the decades.
A gift of Blue Ice for my mom’s garden
Jeff Sager’s Blue Ice
But here is where the story gets interesting. My mom and dad went out to dinner that evening and must have been discussing how sad and hurt I was. I woke up the next morning to a handwritten note from my father. Sadly, it has been lost to time, but I can paraphrase it for you. The note said something about how to stand up to this “hot dog” and how he knew I could because I had “The Blue Ice”.
A family motto was coined.
Blue ice at The Ruins
Looking back with clarity now, I can see that he was obviously disgusted with this ‘hot dog’ who had hurt his young daughter’s sense of self and pride.
There was no explanation of what this strange ice was or why it was blue. Good lesson in building mystique… Leaving a little bit of mystery is more effective at capturing attention than over-explaining.
“His confidence in my blue ice translated more clearly than any therapist session I have had the misfortune to sit through.”
There is so much wrapped up in these two simple words; blue ice.
A father’s fierce love. And his problem solving that got right to the meat of the matter. No reporting or farming it out to an authority. Jeff Sager appealed to my soul, because that’s what blue ice is… the deep part of us that no one can touch. Victor Frankel calls it “tragic optimism”. It’s about turning suffering into human achievement. I took a poll of the immediate family many years later, after we children were grown and we all had a different way of describing it. Someone said it’s the magic that makes you, you. Another said its that which cannot be defined but is still the most important thing.
I love the brilliance of putting a name to it. Like it is something you might find shining under a bed of green moss in the forest. Or like the treasure the hero brings back home to the tribe after wandering for years in the wilderness.
Jeff Sager in the wild. He chased a rainbow on this hunting trip.
The irony is that the most difficult place to discover the blue ice is deep in the recesses of your own self.
Jeff Sager put no truck into feeding me any lines of “Oh poor Rachel”, or encouraging me to wallow in a victim status. He tapped straight to the backbone of strength inside me. His confidence in my blue ice translated more clearly than any therapist session I have had the misfortune to sit through. Jeff Sager’s message may not have turned me into a strong, independent human being right there on the spot. But here I am, 33 years on, writing with clarity about a moment in my young life that held a shaping power so strong that it defines a whole family.
Jeff Sager - hunter/father/story-teller. Holder of The Blue Ice.
Three decades later and I am still actively working on defining blue ice. I believe that my phrase_ intuitive andamento_ is a specific kind of it. Any honest artist or philosopher or truth-seeker is working to lasso it into their lives. My dad scoffs at the phrase now, but deep down, I think he is quite self-aware of having tapped into the secret of life and shared it with his children.
I told him just the other day that he has more blue ice than any man I know.