Dear Richard: corresponding with Richard Selzer, M.D.

I was going through some old journals two days ago and in the one dated June 2, 2002, I came across printouts of a very special email correspondence.


In the mid 90’s, I was told about a bookstore in Seattle by my dear friend, Patti.

My (then)partner and I went down to Seattle a while later and when visiting the shop, my partner found a lovely little book:

Mortal Lessons by Richard Selzer, MD:

In this collection of nineteen unforgettable essays, Dr. Selzer describes unsparingly the surgeon’s art. Both moving and perversely funny, Mortal Lessons is an established classic that considers not only the workings and misworkings of the human body but also the meaning of life and death. [source]


I loved this book. Read it many times.

One particular passage made me weep:

I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish. A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth has been severed. She will be thus from now on. The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that. Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve. Her young husband is in the room. He stands on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private. Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily? The young woman speaks, “Will my mouth always be like this?” she asks. “Yes,” I say, “it will. It is because the nerve was cut.” She nods and is silent. But the young man smiles. “I like it,” he says, “It is kind of cute.” All at once I know who he is. I understand and I lower my gaze. One is not bold in an encounter with a god. Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. Richard Selzer, Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery

Why did this passage move me so deeply? In the late 70s and early 80s I had several surgeries (and radiation treatments) for a parotid gland tumor that wrapped around my left side facial nerve and the threat of facial nerve damage looms. Always looms.

Eventually my younger brother and Patti read the book as well and folded it in to their creative work. And we began collecting Selzer’s work.


Patti, ever the diligent sleuth/creative, found Dr. Selzer’s email address. In 2002, my brother visited Dr. Selzer in Connecticut to explore the potential of a collaboration. He had a glorious visit and had Dr. Selzer sign the inside of the Mortal Lessons book.

I then connected with Dr. Selzer through email and what followed was a short-lived exchange of letters. My marriage was in the midst of unraveling and this correspondence was a sweet interlude during a very painful and transformative time.

Excerpts from some of the letters in the June 2, 2002 journal:

June 7, 2002

Dear Richard,

At my brother’s encouragement, I am writing your directly. I do hope that you don’t mind. As I write this, I am sitting on the ferry heading home to Roberts Creek… I have put aside my psychology studies and read your manuscript. I know that Nabokov detested readers who see themselves in the words they read, whose hearts bleed in recognition. I admit I have felt embarrassment at being that kind of reader. But why? As Anthony Burgess writes about Shakespeare- to see his face, we need only to look in the mirror.

I read your words in “The Atrium” and they are the exact ones I needed at that moment. In this moment…

… Working with the families of the missing and murdered women this Spring, my thoughts have been centred on death…

Death has always been strangely reassuring to me (personally). I can write with sincerity that I am not frightened of my death – BUT what scares me is leaving my kids…

I read your words and cried. Could one become blind by seeing too much? I have experienced intense sadness in the past year, and during that year I often walked alone in the woods to lay down in the moss – being one in the forest – rehearsing your dream.

… I am blessed to love reading. For it takes me to places far beyond what is possible in “reality.” And today I spent time in the atrium, observing you, through your words. Thank you.

The ferry is docking.

Love Katarina

June 8, 2002

Very dear Katarina,

You cannot imagine how touched I was to read your letter to me. I can see precisely why your brother loves you so much. You have a great heart that is both open and vulnerable.

I had not heard about the disappearance of the women of Vancouver, but now I know. It is a chilling tale. To take part in the healing is your destiny; I believe it will guide you for the rest of your life.

Your words about my “Atrium” serve as reassurance that I have not miscalculated in writing that piece. Just to think that I have you for a reader is thrilling. 

Love Richard

June 8, 2002

Dear Richard,

Thank you for your kind and inspirational words. I do feel like I’m riding a thrilling wave of learning. To connect with humans hungry to explore circumstance is wonderful. That is what I admire so much in your spirit! It is truly exciting to witness some of your creative process. The manuscript, the photo of you on the park bench…

Time for coffee on this early Saturday morning. I like this time of the year, day and week. The kids sleep in, the sun shining through the greenery, the birds singing and I have my coffee and mountain of books strewn on my bed. 

Love Katarina

June 9, 2002

Dear Katarina,

It is so good to imagine you lying on a bed bestrewn with books, one of which is “Down From Troy,” a variety of intimacy I don’t often enjoy.

Warmly, Richard

June 11, 2002

Dear Richard,

My brother and I wrote our Canadian Citizenship exam yesterday. We knew we arrived at the right place when we saw a line up of dozens and dozens of people from different nationalities lining up clutching their papers. It was surreal and wonderful.

The process took quite a while and as I was waiting in my seat, I pulled out my copy of “Down From Troy”… the page opened to:

For the more than sixty years that he lived on the continent of North America, Grandpa remained blissfuly stateless. The idea of citizenship never occurred to him, neither in Canada, which he had entered illegally, nor in the United States.

Miraculous coincidence. My copy is beginning to bulge with post-its… Many things I want to ask you, discuss, share! You’ll have to excuse my obvious enthusiasm. 

All the best to you,


June 11, 2002

Dear Katarina,

In you I have found my ideal reader. It is infinitely touching to me, the way in which my words echo in your heart. Fate was looking over my shoulder when she decreed we should come together. You are one of those things for which I am grateful to your brother. Please don’t hesitate to write to me as often as you wish. 

In warmest friendship, Richard

June 12, 2002

Dear Richard,

I woke with a start this morning… my dreams were heavy with images of people I love, morphing into ones I didn’t know, words swimming around me: subatomic physics, Feyman’s Sum Over Histories, ethical issues in psychology… all the while I was spitting out little white pills that formed on my tongue – some the size of a tic tac, others the size of a pinhead.

I had fallen asleep with your book beside me. I recall the heaviness of p. 51: Whatever their true domestic drama, it was not naked but clothed in civility. Whatever their secret disappointments or resentments, each of their mouths was closed upon a pill of silence. 

It is precisely this civility I have fought against, played into, cursed, embraced, uncovered, shied away from, discovered, torn apart, understood…

It’s a beautiful day. I picture you in the library… I can smell the books.

Cheers, Katarina

June 12, 2002

Dear Katarina,

Yes, I am in the library, daydreaming away the afternoon. My mind is not mine to control; it wanderers whithersoever it listeth. It was always thus. It’s because I was a changeling. It was your lovely message that brought me back from… where was it? Scotland! I’ve never been there except in the novels of Sir Walter Scott, but I’m sure that the Scotland of my imagination is more “Scottish” than the real one. This wool-gathering can turn one topsy-turvy. I sometimes wonder if something really did happen or whether I dreamt it. One’s grip on reality loosens after a while. But then, what IS reality? Certainly it is not the truth.

You are lucky for all sorts of reasons, but the two I’m thinking of are that you are engaged in study of a new discipline; nothing is more satisfying to the spirit than mastering a new art or craft or field of endeavour. The other is that you have passed through the flames and come out whole with new understanding of yourself, having shed the falseness of a former life.

I have to tell you two things, One is that our correspondence will end up in the Archive of my papers at the University of Texas in Galveston. One day, it will be read by others. I can say that I’ll see that doesn’t happen, but whenever I’ve tried, I find I can’t sort. I just thought I’d better tell you that I’m no longer Richard Selzer but “Richard Selzer.” There is a woman in Finland who was quite horrified to think that her letters to me weren’t going to be private.

The other confession is that there is a woman, also in Texas, who is engaged in writing my biography! I have tried mightily to dissuade her, but she persists… if you prefer, I shan’t give give her your address. 

Please write to me again soon.

Affectionately, Richard

June 12, 2002

Taking a break from studying… both kids made it to school today – my son’s weekly migraine is looming, but he wants to make it today as it is his last chance to talk to a girl in his science class who he has had a crush on since September… in his pocket is a beeswax candle and a cinnamon stick – and ancient love booster recipe that I gave him before he left.

What is reality? “Not the truth…” concepts I have been struggling with and fighting against. And finally I accept! How often I have cried, “is this not real? and this? and this?!” There was much camaraderie when I read your words: “Things do matter, I am not opposed to owning property…”

Re: emails not being private – I have no qualms about that. Myself, I am an avid journal/image-idea-file keeper and ALL gets inserted, much to my mother’s concern. I am in full support of correspondence being kept for future eyes… I love books of letters, private diaries.

Given the choice between two discoveries – that of an unknown play by Shakespeare and that of one of Will’s laundry list – we would all plump for the dirty washing every time.  (Anthony Burgess)

How exciting and bizarre it must be to have a biography written about oneself! Where does truth fit in there? If you would like her to have my email address, please feel free.

I am in awe of the “writer.” My art is the 2-D visual. Do you process your thoughts, then write? Does it flow through you? Are you a careful writer, going back, correcting, changing? Or is the final product simply a dictation of what you have already worked out? And the “surgeon” in you. Does your writing parallel your art as a surgeon? Oh, for a simple few seconds, to see the human body as you have seen.

Love, Katarina

June 13, 2002

Dear Richard,

Having spent hours in the garden, I took a break on the porch and started rereading your book, “Raising the Dead.” Your command of the English language astounds, for it is not only storytelling, but word-plays. When I teach drawing, I tell my students – you must be able to extract a small segment of your drawing, any segment, and have the composition work within those limits.  I feel that technique of analysis works with your sentences.

I love when I read and have to put the book down and pace the room in excitement before getting back to it. I am completely humbled and gratified that I get to be the reader and not the creator. Creation can be exhausting.

Is that the torment of the artist? To always have to be the creator and not the observer of one’s own work? I struggle with the need to create that which I already know, see, feel INSIDE. To interpret and regurgitate in order to see it, see it, see it. But as creator, I am always a step behind. The process of creation includes a time delay between the internal conversation and the actual act of creating the work. The real vision spills out ahead of me into the dark abyss of eternity and I am left behind scampering and clawing, desperately trying to capture the minutest glimpse of what I have already experienced just a spit second before.

I love to fantasize about the writer’s palette of words. It is often theorized that “Lolita” in the guise of a prepubescent was actually the English language. Nabokov, being Russian was new to the language and he adored it, coveted it, explored it dangerously. 

Here comes my cat with a garter snake in his mouth. Must be a signal to get back to work!

Love, Katarina

June 14, 2002

How to speak about the creative act? It deliquesces while you are still applying pen to paper, or, I imagine, brush to canvas. It is, in that respect, most like a moment of ecstasy, physical or spiritual. Nor can it be recalled with any exactitude. The bright colours of retrospect cannot be precisely applied, only approximated, as you so powerfully expressed it. 

What moves me most is the human body. Last evening on the shuttle bus, I sat next to man whose cheek was gray, pocked and fitted as though a Satyr with sharp hooves had danced across it. Had such a cheek ever been kissed? I wondered. And thought Apollo chasing the nymph Daphne who, just as he caught her, metamorphosed into a laurel tree, thought of the lustful god pressing his ramous mouth not to wet warm flesh but to the ridged bark of the tree. What’s more, at that moment, I wanted to lean toward the man and kiss his cheek — just to see. It is the unspeakable length to which the true artist will go in search of the truth. 

Whatever else can be said of my work, it cannot be said that I have shirked the body to dwell upon the soul. I’ve never been able to distinguish between the two. And it is particularly the malformed, afflicted and even repulsive body that is the most revealing of what is called the soul. Precisely through the declaration of its vulnerability. Through the flaws and fissures and festering of the flesh, the soul swims closer to the surface where it can be glimpsed. The soul is only visible as it wears the flesh. Otherwise it is a pallid wasp.

I was wondering if I should erase all of the above. No, I’ll let it stand, and count on Katarina to forgive any unintended offense.

Love, Richard


The New York Times June 15, 2016:

A sock snapping turtle eating David Sedaris’ tumour. A handmade gift.

Does anyone else (well, I know my daughter does) feel like David Sedaris (and his sister Amy) is a family member? I am that kind of fan. Sorry. Reading his books, alone or in public, inevitably leads to me rocking back and forth in tears or in laughter or both. I have always fought against the word resonate, but oh my God, his words RESONATE.

His book, Calypso, emboldened me to dig further into my relationship with my mother and her hidden alcoholism.



On Feb 12 at 7 PM my daughter and I arrived at the Vogue Theatre for the Vancouver’s Writer’s Fest: an Evening with David Sedaris.

We had our books in our hands aware that after the show David would be doing signings. I knew if I was going to get a book signed, I needed to bring some Sedaris-esque gift. .

Those that know me, know I make sock creatures. Pretty obsessively. So, of course, I made David one based on his notorious story in Calypso about the snapping turtle and the tumour (3:40 mark):


I’ve had tumours taken out and thought similar things. So, again his words… RESONATED.

Here it is – an ugly snapping turtle eating David’s tumour:

Once in the theatre we headed up the stairs to the balcony and turned the corner on the second flight and first thing we see is David Sedaris sitting at a table already signing books!  OMG OMG OMG OMG

A NO PHOTOS PLEASE sign was on his desk, as well as a bunch of coloured sharpies, his empty plate and cutlery etc.

We went straight into the lineup. There are too many great stories about the people in the line-up chatting with David- but those are their stories to tell – glorious, heart warming moments. David is incredibly generous with his time. We felt welcomed. He is also so tidy and refined and fucking funny.

It was our turn and I have no idea what we said, but [be still my heart], I gave him the sock turtle and he seemed delighted and exclaimed. “Oh my! You are an artist!” Then pulled out a little notebook and said, “Please write your name and address here so I can send you a thank you letter.”  {hand shaking, I wrote something-OMG WHAT IS MY ADDRESS?! WHAT IS MY NAME?]. And as he chatted he signed the book.

He then chatted with my daughter as he doodled in her copy of Theft by Finding Diaries 1977- 2002. They discussed her plans to go to university in the Fall and how much better it is to be a mature student.

He then handed her the book and said. “There. It’s a tree. Fallen down.”


Yes, we were swooning but also we were so moved by his ease and joy and presence. By the familiarity.

We took our seats. 2 plus hours later we left the theatre, walking on clouds. The evening represented  for us that WE ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK. KEEP CREATING. KEEP EXPRESSING YOURSELF.

And, oh yeah,  I am getting YOU ARE AN ARTIST, SAYS DAVID SEDARIS tattooed on my forearm.

Extra treat:

UPDATE February 27, 2020:

I am happy among my books – I am not happy without them. – Anne Lister

“Anne’s reliance on her books for mental well-being and personal happiness was clear – ‘What is there like gaining knowledge?’ she once said. ‘All else here below is indeed but vanity and vexation of spirit – I am happy among my books – I am not happy without them’ (2nd May, 1829). Words on a page empowered, enlightened and educated. She said that it was our ‘intercourse with the world that blunted our feelings, which made us suspicious, and mistrustful’ and that living as she did among her books her ‘heart was left unchanged’ and her ‘feelings rather sharpened.’ (2nd August, 1829)” – Anne Choma (2019), Gentleman Jack- the Real Anne Lister, Penguin Books

There is one moment in Pippi Longstocking that nailed it for me…

As a child, I desperately searched for characters in books that aligned with my anxious outward ways and my happy reclusive interior.  Charlie Brown came close, but he was always seeking connection.  I was seeking alone time.  Like Charlie, school terrified and exhausted me.  Home, my room, my books were my calming tools.  I found many characters (especially in Astrid Lindgren’s works– like Lotta, Emil, Pippi) that I looked up to for their passion, ability to express anger, for their independent spirits.

There is one moment, however, in Pippi Longstocking that nailed it for me- when I felt Pippi and I were aligned- and I would read that scene over and over again. To this day, think about it often, and connect with it even more.



Annika was standing at the window of their room in pink pyjamas, looking over toward Villa Villekulla.  “Look, I see Pippi!” she called out, delighted.

Tommy rushed over to the window too.  Yes, there she was.  Now that the trees didn’t have any leaves they could look right into Pippi’s kitchen.

Pippi was sitting at the table with her head propped against her arms.  She was staring at the little flickering flames of a candle that was standing in front of her.  She seemed to be dreaming.

“She– she looks so alone,” said Annika, and her voice trembled a little.  “Oh, Tommy, of it were only morning do that we could go to her right away!”

They stood there in silence and looked out into the winter night.  The stars shining over Villa Villekula’s roof.  Pippi was inside.  She would always be there.  That was a comforting thought…

… And the most wonderful, comforting thought was that Pippi would always be in Villa Villekulla.

“If she would only look in this direction we could wave at her,” said Tommy.

But Pippi continued to stare straight ahead with a dreamy look.  Then she blew out the light. 

– Astrid Lindgren, Pippi in the South Seas (translated by Gerry Bothmer)


See also:

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One must not be too romantic about madness…

Feeling burned out today from my bread and butter work, I decided to ignore my entire to-do list this evening, decided to not to catch up on things, to ignore prepping for the rest of the week.

Instead– I got my hands dirty, dove back into my research into mental health treatment 1940’s to 60’s and finished a sketch.

Electroshock therapy unit

This current exploration is a natural sequel to my ever-evolving project: Molly- a true crime analysis.  

Molly’s younger brother, Joseph, was admitted to the Provincial Mental Hospital, in Essondale BC, on November 25, 1948 at 1:15 PM.  He was institutionalized until his death in 1963.



Joseph’s 270+ page file and my historical research into his treatment is being developed into a visual thesis of some sorts.  How it will all look in the end is a mystery.  I remain passionate and mesmerized and grateful for “being chosen” to tell their story.



One must not be too romantic about madness, or the madhouses in which the insane were confined.  There is, under the manias and grandiosities and fantasies and hallucinations, an immeasurably deep sadness about mental illness, a sadness that is reflected in the often grandiose but melancholy architecture of the old state hospitals. – Oliver Sacks


Relaunch and new look: my online graphic novel “Molly, a True Crime Analysis, the third draft”

screen shot 2019-01-12 at 10.54.21 pm

Molly- a true crime analysis is my experimental graphic novel, originally workshopped online in weekly instalments between January 15, 2017 and January 13, 2018.  

I call the current online version the third draft.


My work is based on extensive research, interviews and published accounts.  I use mainly primary and secondary sources in order to build the story.  I have attempted to stick to the facts in the text and avoid assumptions, yet draw conclusions from the circumstantial evidence.  Visual scenes have been created for the purposes of dramatization.  This is a work of creative non-fiction inspired by true facts, physical evidence and historical research.  In the end, this is my artistic interpretation and nothing more than that.  




This chapter is enhanced when accompanied by:


© Katarina Thorsen 2019


Readers of this publication agree that Katarina Thorsen will not be held responsible or liable for damages that may be alleged or resulting directly or indirectly from the reading of this publication.

Model: Jocelyn Louise

Potato Nose Diaries (1977): Instalment 9- Torpet



Previously on PND:

Instalment 1: Introduction

Instalment 2: The First Entries

Instalment 3: Do Tendu Jetés en Balance

Instalment 4: Sex Education

Instalment 5: They Don’t Know What It Is

Potato Nose Diaries (1977) Short: I am 15 now

Potato Nose Diaries (1977) Short: The Audition

Instalment 6: The Trip to Paris

Potato Nose Diaries (1977) Short: Steven

Instalment 7: Grad and the Part

Instalment 8: The Letter

Today’s instalment


© Katarina Thorsen 2018

This post is dedicated to the Carlsson’s, Skååre’s, Hallgren’s, Envall’s.


Photo by Julian Bowers. Ulriksdal, Mässvik, Värmland, Sweden, July 2009.

Potato Nose Diaries (1977): Instalment 8- The Letter



Previously on PND:

Instalment 1: Introduction

Instalment 2: The First Entries

Instalment 3: Do Tendu Jetés en Balance

Instalment 4: Sex Education

Instalment 5: They Don’t Know What It Is

Potato Nose Diaries (1977) Short: I am 15 now

Potato Nose Diaries (1977) Short: The Audition

Instalment 6: The Trip to Paris

Potato Nose Diaries (1977) Short: Steven

Instalment 7: Grad and the Part

Today’s instalment


© Katarina Thorsen 2018

Inktober 2018: 31 studies of Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD



Imagination, of course, can open any door– turn the key and let the terror walk right in.

– Truman Capote

No. 1 Richard Hickock: “It was early, not yet nine…”

No. 2: “Nancy Clutter is always in a hurry, but she always has time.”

No. 3 Truman Capote: “In Cold Blood- a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences.”

No. 4 Kenyon Clutter: “… so I took him down and to the playroom where there was a comfortable looking couch.”

No. 5 Herbert Clutter: “The master of River Valley Farm, Herbert William Clutter, was forty-eight years old…”

No. 6: “… 7 miles west of Garden City.”

No. 7 Bonnie Clutter: “… poor Bonnie’s affliction was in the least a secret.”

No. 8 Bonnie Clutter: “… had resurrected her ‘old self’; as if serving up a preview of the normality…”

No. 9 Floyd Wells: “His drowsiness instantly vanished when he heard, officers investigating tragic slaying of four members of the Herbert W. Clutter family…”

No. 10A: “Truman sits with his coffee, reading the New York Times.  He sits up straight, folds the paper over, reads it. C/U of article being snipped out of PAGE 39 of the Times.” [Capote Screenplay by Dan Futterman]

No. 10B: “I think this is what I want to write about.” [Capote Screenplay by Dan Futterman]

No. 11 Perry Smith: “Were any representatives of the cinema there?” [Life Magazine, May 12, 1967]


No. 12 Nancy Clutter: “The snake swallows you?  Or what?”

No. 13 Richard Hickock: “Well, hell, give it all to us then.”

No. 14 Harper Lee: “You’re the only one I know with the qualifications to be both research assistant and personal bodyguard.” [Capote Screenplay by Dan Futterman]

No. 15: Forty seven dollars.


No. 16: EXT KANSAS STATE PENITENTIARY (KSP) LANSING-DAY. [Capote Screenplay by Dan Futterman]

No. 17 Walter Hickock Sr.: “The judge up there! I have never seen a man so prejudiced… No sense.  Just no sense having a trial.”

No. 18 Susan Kidwell: “Susan Kidwell, her confidante…”

No. 19 Richard Avedon: “Perry, honey.  You look terrific.” [Capote Screenplay by Dan Futterman]

No. 20: “My cup runneth over…”

No. 21 Alvin Dewey’s cat: “Courthouse Pete, the family watchcat.  Pete weighs 13 pounds.” – from Harper Lee’s article in the Grapevine, March 2960

No. 22 Truman Capote: “Imagination, of course, can open any door– turn the key and let the terror walk right in.”


No. 23 The Big Yellow Bird: “… the yellow bird, huge and parrot-faced, board in Perry’s dream, an avenging angel who savaged his enemies or, as now, rescued him in moments of mortal danger.””

No. 24 Truman Capote: “It scraped me right to the marrow of my bones.  It nearly killed me.  I think, in a way, it did kill me.”

No. 25 Perry and Dick: “A week in Mexico City…”

No. 26: Plot Analysis

No. 27: In the District Court of Finney County Kansas.  The State of Kansas (Plaintiff) vs. Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith (Defendants), No. 2322

No. 28: “Autumn rewards western Kansas for the evils that the remaining seasons impose.”

No. 29: “Or the moon.  Oh, he can fool you.”

No. 30: “Using their paws as though they are surgical instruments, the cats extract from the grilles every feathery particle.”

No. 31: “He looked at his fingers, which were stained with ink and paint, for he’d spent his final three years on Death Row painting self-portraits and pictures of children, usually the children of inmates who supplied him with photographs of their seldom-seen progeny.”

© 2018 Katarina Thorsen

Potato Nose Diaries (1977): Instalment 7- Grad and the Party



Previously on PND:

Instalment 1: Introduction

Instalment 2: The First Entries

Instalment 3: Do Tendu Jetés en Balance

Instalment 4: Sex Education

Instalment 5: They Don’t Know What It Is

Potato Nose Diaries (1977) Short: I am 15 now

Potato Nose Diaries (1977) Short: The Audition

Instalment 6: The Trip to Paris

Potato Nose Diaries (1977) Short: Steven

Instalment 7:

This instalment is enhanced when accompanied by:


© Katarina Thorsen 2018

Father, daughter, Fenrir, Gleipnir and “Drawn Together”- the book: 6 years later.

Wow.  October 25, 2018 will mark the sixth year since my father passed away.  I am so aware of all the dates in October… so aware that he was winding down.

Interestingly, more October connections: on October 12, 2005 (13 years ago), my father drew for the first time after his life threatening stroke (September 21, 2005).


My father, the Viking, my greatest cheerleader, infused in me the joy of creating, the joy of hard work and the importance of never giving up.


And so we wrote a book together.  And on October 15, 2012, as he was navigating the fog of morphine, surrounded by reminder posters on the wall as to where he was and what year it was, we pressed send to the publisher.  We marked the occasion by signing the inside of our favourite book that inspired the project.



On October 25, 2012, the morning of the day he passed, I played this Swedish lullaby, sung by his favourite actor, into his left ear.  Over and over again.  Sleep, my little heart.


Six years.  Why does it feel so significant?

In our Viking heritage/ Norse mythology, the number 6 represents the leash Gleipner.

Gleipnir was the name of the super strong leash used to hold the dreadful Fenrir Wolf. The Fenrir Wolf was one the monstrous children of the trickster god Loki. The dwarfs had made this extraordinary leash.

The Fenrir Wolf only agreed to try the leash if Tyr put his hand in his mouth. The wolf bit off the right hand of the god Tyr. Tyr gave his name to Tuesday. Gleipnir consisted of six items:

1. The sound of a cat walkingTyr and Fenrir - John Bauer

2. The beard of a woman

3. The roots of a mountain

4. The sinews of a bear

5. The breath of a fish

6. The spit of a bird

The Vikings explained that the Gleipnir was the reason these six items no longer existed. The Fenrir Wolf will not break loose from Gleipnir before Ragnarok (the end of the world). source

I kind of see my father as Fenrir and the stroke as Gleipnir.  And my father has broken free now, and devoured Odin.  But there is so much significance to this myth that I will write about at a later date.

I am moved to share our book in full today:




































































































Come back to me.

Come back to me, Molly.  It’s been a strange time- hiding you from the world in order to explore new ways of telling your story.   I’m not sure I like this anymore.

You chose me.  Remember?  At the library?  15 years ago.  As your spirit wandered restlessly on the  viaduct, you passed through me with a surprised breath and your soul snagged on mine.  Tell my story, you whispered.

And for 15 years, you and I have explored so many ways to tell it.  But of late, I feel like I’ve lost you.  I miss the unpeeling of the onion, the uncovering of truths, teasing out the knots to reveal the thread, the connections.  Your slow reveals.

I miss the smell of old newsprint, the texture of old flannel, the moss on the forest floor.

I miss you walking on Pender, you at the end of my lane, you sitting in my living room.

Have I let you down?  Did I fail to trust that you are guiding?  Have you met my mom and dad?  Are you safe?

Come back to me, Molly.  Let’s start again.  From the beginning.  I have paper and pen in hand.  Tell me what’s next.