Hands in the Sand

I haven’t moved my hands in her sandtray in around twenty years. It happened only twice. Every other time I was in her office, I sat on her couch and she sat across from me. Both of us spoke. Words were our medium of communication. Occasionally I glanced at the adjoining room, where nonverbal work with clients happened in the sand, and where she also had her desk. I often wondered whether she wrote papers there, and once I searched to see if she’d been published, and I found an article she’d written on sandplay therapy. She was around the same age as my parents. I was in my late twenties when I spent those two fifty-minute hours creating symbols in the sand. I created an island with my hands. What were my hands listening to? Where did the inspiration come from? I remember the moment, around twenty years ago, when the shape of an island started to appear in the sand. It was a familiar island, in a Norwegian fjord, where I’d been as a child, and where my mom had played as a child. I was playing in the sand, wasn’t I? I hadn’t yet read anything on sandplay therapy. Twice now, while writing these sentences, I’ve written sandtray instead of sandplay. The tray itself, with sand inside, felt like a container for everything I was experiencing in my mind and body. I wish I remembered more from those creative moments at the sandtray in the adjoining room of Helen’s office. We haven’t spoken in years. I struggled to play as a child. Speech, visual, and cognitive problems made things difficult for me. Three or four years ago I passed by Helen’s office and glanced at the windows and imagined a client inside with her hands busy in the sand. Creation before words would be happening. Creation is happening here too, and these words are witnesses of it.

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