“Covid Crafting Therapy” is my ongoing personal process for relaxation, a type of journaling, a type of meditation. Every stitch a thought. It’s different from drawing, painting, writing. I’m not trying to find the style, the form, the character. I’m not trying find the perfect color, the perfect brush stroke. The perfect narrative. Crafting just… is.
The Little My Pillow
Little My, character from the Moomin stories by Tove Jansson, is a personal obsession. I draw her continuously. I aspire to be like her, though, according to all the Moomin personality quizzes I have taken, I am Snufkin.
I love drawing on cloth or layers of paper and embroidering along the lines. No end product in mind. No rush. Just a place to land those thoughts. This project (using an old tablecloth as canvas) has become a pillow. (still in progress)
This all started because of a family Vacation Summer 1982 with my Dad, Mom, little brother. I am 20 at the time.
Fort St. James
100 Mile House
On a visit to South Hazelton on August 23 1982, we met William (Bill) Rea, age 75. I think the family and I had parked the car and gone to a cafe. When we were walking back to the car, we stopped to admire a quaint little house decorated with leprechaun paintings and its yard filled with treasures. My brother and I may have come across a little white kitten:
That’s when Bill stepped out and started up a conversation. We chatted with Bill for a long time.
He gave us vegetables from his garden.
He ended up suggesting that I move in with him and if I did, he’d buy me a “new” (i.e. refurbished) washing machine! My mom commented later on how beautiful Bill’s skin was (“like a peach”).
Bill was a local treasure and he would dress up annually as St. Kevin and walk about the town.
I am so thankful for my Dad who captured the visit.
Bill and I began a correspondence and these are some of his charming letters:
December 16, 1983:
Dear Miss Katarina
So nice to have got your letter for last Xmas, 1982. Did you guess who sent you the flowers from the 14th Feb last with a note from faraway places, over the HILL? I am sending you the same plus some interest on what you sent me last Xmas. I hope to hear or see you sometime, next year, or the next.
I sure had a nice day on St. Patrick’s Day. Maybe one day you would like to be St. Alena and come around with me, and have a grand day out to visit my friends.
Will as ever, Bill
I sure hope you like my story:
Extra little envelope inside:
To St. Alena From You Know Who (St. Kevin):
Last year I pulled a piece of bone out of my foot with my Vice Grips. It was in my foot for 11 weeks and 4 days. What pain for all that time. Also, I sent a lady flowers and a pot of gold (chocolates) for her return overseas.
February 7, 1984:
I am sure glad you still remember me! I have lots of stories to tell you, but I am not much good at putting them on paper. I like to tell them to others, so I guess you will have more fun out of the them one day when we meet. I was in Smithers 2-2-84 to do my banking etc. I went into the Florists to send you some flowers. I could not make up my mind what kind you would like for Valentine’s Day so I thought to myself, Katarina won’t mind if I send her the cash, so I got you a cheque at the Royal Bank so you can go with your mom to the florists and pick out some kind of plant you would like and maybe there will be something over and you two can have a pot of TEA on me, sure, that would be nice. I gave your love to our cat and the cat said to me, “don’t forget to send Katarina our love, Bill.”
So, with lots of love from the two of us up here
As ever, Bill
In a few weeks when you get time let me know what you got for Valentine’s Day. Oh yes, give my love to the Deer. She is beautiful.
Bye for now, Bill
I enclose some mint. Sure is nice.
April 12, 1984
Hellow St. Alena
I am sure glad that my Valentine’s present made you feel much better? If you and your mom and friends call on me in May or some other time, try to let me know ahead of time and about the day. I have no time for a phone in my cabin. I may be away working on one of my other houses or in Smithers or Terrace and would not wish to miss you.
I am sending you a Birthday Present. It is not a lot, but I think you will like it? I have a feeling you will. If you folks have a day or two you would like to spend around the Hazeltons, there is quiet motel, and trailer, camper and camping, lots of room, or if you are camping there is lots of room down by the river, quiet as you wish. Why the hotel is so quiet, they moved Highway 16 over now the folks there can’t sell the place. What a shame. Nice place. I will foot the BILL in full for the FOUR of you up to two days or 48 hours, wherever you stay, if you have time to spare.
So St. Alena can put it down to the other part of her birthday present, that might give you a chance to do a painting. Sorry, can’t go into more about your letter now. We can talk later. I will be going to Smithers within the hour. The time is 6AM now. Why I am always on the go I don’t know, and don’t seem to get much done.
David Livingstone. Have you read about the great Doctor Livingstone? Born 1813. Near Glasgow, Scotland. He nearly failed his final examination through his stubborn belief in the stethoscope, a new invention, then held in contempt by most medical men. But he scraped through. Well, I must get cracking or you won’t get your birthday present, my sweet.
By the way, I call the kitten, Kitty.
So lots of love from St. Kevin and Kitty.
PS. I put your paintings over the arch in my Rest Room. Bye for now, Bill,
PSS. I have friends 10 miles out of New Hazelton and they have their own private plane and they are home. Plus if you have time, they will take you up and show you around. Looks wonderful with all the lakes.
Bye now. B.
November 4, 1984:
My Dearest little friend
Many thanks for all your good NEWS.
Will be nice for you when you have your own home, family, and car. I enclose a small present for you so you can have some nice tea when you have a party or shower. You know the tea you like, Earl Grey Tea.
I’m going to upgrade where I live in New Hazelton, then if all goes well, I am going to work on my new house in South Hazelton so when you are up this way again and if you want to find me, ask at the Post Office in SOUTH Hazelton. My place in South Hazelton has 7 acres of land and sits outside of town facing west-north on the side of the hill with view for miles only of great river, mountains and trees.
Lots of good wishes, from Bill Rea
Don’t forget to, when you get time, to SEND ME ALL YOUR NEWS.
I sent you two presents for when you got back from Stockholm on the 5 Aug 1984, one of flowers and the other one a Box of Rain Chocolates, or as it says on the Box, POT OF GOLD.
I was wondering if you got them as you always let me know when I send you presents. If you got them, don’t let me know as I will take it that you did. If you did NOT get the presents I sent to, let me know and I will try to find out who got them.
All the Best,
A good year to you all in 1985
From Faraway Places
DRINKS ON ME FOLKS
My nest in the West
HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL.
I send to my friends far away.
From the lights of my home in New Hazelton.
Do you like the lights on my Xmas tree? It was 3’8” when planted. Now 43’ something tall. I put lights on the tree when it was about 12’ tall and it just keeps taking them up. There is [sic] no lights within 12’ from the ground. Good thing they told me when I got them, they would last 100 YEARS for the branches are now so close together no one could climb up there to change the bulbs. All the lights go on and off in turn then they all go off for 2 minutes, then they all try to play some sort of guessing game to see who can come on first or stay on the longest, then after about 10 minutes of playing that game, they all go out, then start it all over again. The Big light in the front of my house is the shamrock. It has a game going on its own. It is nice and green, not like in the picture.
The fear that I will lose control over my project if I collaborate
Attachment to the past
The need to NOT forget all the details of my life
The need to please
Achieving my full potential
I AM THANKFUL FOR:
Essential workers (on the frontlines in hospitals, in care homes, the care givers, the care partners, first responders, shelters, support staff, teachers, researchers, grocery store staff, retail shops, coffee shops, the delivery folk, the post office, maintenance crews, garbage trucks, ecologists, those who work with animals, those who foster and adopt, donors, volunteers, activists, journalism, the internet, Zoom… etc etc etc etc. THANK YOU)
Masks and soap
PS. In 2021: eat more fruits and veggies, take more steps, bring in more plants
Today: Journal start dates November 25, 1993 and April 3, 1994
November 25, 1993
Panic! The panic of seeing all too clearly the magic of life, of Universe and realizing I’m taking all of this magic for granted. My children are creatures of God and I was the blessed vehicle that allowed their passage into this world. I yearn to relive the intensity, the reality, of their births over and over again – yet I know that I must let them grow, to let them move somewhat farther away from me – who after all is just a vehicle, a provider, a counsellor, to let them move into themselves– and not burden them with my mourning. The memories of their past, their present, their future rages inside me – I try to piece the confused bits into something tangible, cohesive…
Desperation at letting the miracle of our lives go unrecorded, unacknowledged.
And through all this viewing – through all this providing and participation in parenting – I am slowly discovering the true me – the me that can and will be – the potential me who has discarded the sore, festering scab of an exterior and let’s that glowing white inner core be free to live and shine.
My art is my life, my life is my art and what comes out on canvas, what manages to come out, despite (or rather because of) housework, the wifedom, the motherhood, sometimes captures a minute glimpse into the bacon sizzling, crackling whirlwind of my mind. I listen to my brain – just allowing no thoughts – just feeling it – and the loudness threatens to deafen me. It’s like a Lynchian electronic crackling, frying skillet, industrial booming.
I feel and hear heavy, wet, congested breathing of a bio-woman inside a large black and red and orange cave. She is so large that she is the cave – the vagina at once exterior and interior, entrance/exit, key/quay and lock. She breathes laboriously and yet the “quiet” is deafening. When I run my hand through the cave pools, I feel no temperature. The ideal temperature – the temperature of breast milk, of yeast swelling in the container of milk, ready for flour, ready to be pushed and beaten and poked and prodded into the swelling belly of dough – the food of the soul, the food of cellulite fat assess that are glorious…
Shouldn’t we beg to be able to nuzzle into our mother’s breasts and curl up in a fetal position and float, beautiful pure in a perfect-temperature liquid pool, a bubble of peach-pink liquid, a hazy skin with beautiful cloud-shaped biology? A red-glow somewhere in the distance – the unknown of life to be – the beauty and purity of life within ourselves, our own private womb world… Fed by a candy cane of smooth, thick, viscous liquid – obliterating the memory of tearing, crunching into death with jaws full of teeth that cause so much pain to the things we seek to crush. The mouth that can spew so much hate, so much misdirected venom, yet the mouth that can drink the milk and that can kiss slowly, sweetly innocently, voraciously our lover, our partner, our friend, our lifeboat…
November 26, 1993
Î want to stop biting my nails. But obviously not all of me wants to give up the “habit” – as my nails are chewed beyond short, beyond reasonable. My world is spinning too quickly and I guess the nausea is constantly a threat. I eat myself, I eat my hands for they must be occupied at all times. They ache to work! Work! Work! If not on art, then writing, cleaning, hugging, rubbing, scrubbing, knitting, drawing, wiping, designing, destroying. Am I punishing them when I take a few minutes off to rest?
November 27, 1993
Oh to be a heroine in a Spaghetti Western– strong taut body, packing a rifle, protecting my turf – alone in a desert wilderness of stinky, sweaty men – curls cascading down from a bun on top of my head, eyes blazing black with lots of eyeliner, mascara, perfect complexion and pink soft large lips – innocent, yet fully cocksure, Is that a noise outside in the quiet desert darkness? Fling the door open and shoot. Blow that motherfucker’s head off!
December 2, 1993
Instructions: to relieve neck aches, the headaches that plague me since the first operation for my parotid gland tumour.
Lay myself down on a soft pillow-like table. My neck gently hanging downward so my head hangs off the table.
Do a small incision at the base of the skull.
Pull out the spine easily like a cooked fish.
Gently scrub the spine with a comfortable scouring pad. Hang to dry.
Meanwhile, lift away the sore muscle tissue to reveal the scapulas, and give them a simple scrubbing. Slice away sore, red throbbing muscle and discard.
Saw away wrecked tendons and replace with new healthy white glistening ones.
Place clean muscle, enhanced with healthy tissue, back on the scapulas.
Gently snap the spine back into place.
Sew up incision and do some gently strokes up and down the spine with the palms of the hand.
December 12, 1993
Promise me nothing you son of a bitch. In this war zone of iron-lung glue, I heave up boundless enigmas of speculations. It ain’t taught, in this hot little twat, how to love thy neighbour. Enter at your own risk and thereby risk nothing. Separate the substance into soluble and insoluble constituents by percolating. Use it at the proper time as your foresaw it. Change from liquid to solid state, clot and curdle, set and solidify. Arouse yourself. Lixiviate, anticipate, coagulate and masturbate.
I attack because I am the future.
December 21, 1993
It is bedtime and I will suck in a breath and attempt to release the guilt I feel for being who I am.
April 6, 1994
To my kids,
If you are reading this right now – know how much I love you, have always loved you, will always love you… The enormity of this love is beyond comprehension. Know that I am so honoured to be your mother, that I want nothing more from you other than that for you both to grow and live and love in true happiness – happiness within yourself – and joy for what your life is (your lives are). I hope I will be there to witness you both grow into old age. I will continue to learn from you always. Continue to be humble by this task and gift I have been given – i.e. the role of being your mother. Thank you. (How old are you as you are reading this?) Good night.
June 29, 1994
I hereby kill the artist within me – the artist that threatens to split the very essence of my living body. I can no longer sustain this dichotomy of two lives: one of mother/one of artist. The artist in efforts to be heard is strangling the host. Threatening me with insanity… lashing out at those closest is the latest manifestation of the disease. Now the artist wants to sabotage my goodness. My inner peace is gone. So I hereby kill you, oh artist, you fucking leech, you egomaniacal destroyer. You destroy in attempts to get me to create. Well, fuck you! I commit you to suicide. Your voice is silenced.
It’s hard to keep up with the daily grind of living. Right now, just finished cleaning the entire apartment and that is a spectacular sense of relief. I know my life is “obsessed” with cleaning and children and cleaning children. But I really don’t mind. I really want to let go of dance. It gives me a gut ache thinking about performing, etc. Not until I get my son off the boob… And I get my energy up. Feel run down. Taking on too much in my head. Time to clean out the attic in my mind and start anew… Must stop biting my nails. And also allow myself to keep this journal going. Always have an insidious notion that someone is analyzing it and critiquing it whereas it’s really just a daily record of me.
“What is the price of an afternoon when a small girl is soothed in your arms, when the sun bolts through a doorway and both you and the child are very young?” – Dorothy Evslin
This daily archiving series is about organizing and dating my journal collection, as well as acknowledging the self-directed violence as important therapeutic shadow work.
Today’s journal spans poignant time. My father, Roar Thorsen, was unwinding and had just a few months left to live. We shared a deep friendship. We were working hard on our book knowing time was of essence.
Let go of J_____ and all your hopes and illusions of what you wish. What you think you need. Let go. Open your heart. Allow feelings – embrace them, then let them go.
Self–forgiveness. All is OK. Pain to light. All will be as it should. You don’t need to try. It is time to stop dwelling. Analyzing. Just live now. Ana accept you are wonderful and your place in your life is yours…
For four years my heart has been breaking, till finally it did break, Wide open. Now it’s simply QUIET TIME…
January 3, 2002
I am a painter again. But it is different now. I have been fighting the realization for a long time, though it has been obvious in my work, that the arthritis has affected the quality. It is really physically hard to paint and do details, it has been for a long time… But I don’t care as long as I can express in a new way within those limits. The trees themes are giving me new ideas and directions.
January 5, 2002
My broken heart tells me I deserve better than to have experienced what I did. It is not easy to be happy around him while I’m mending. I don’t want to have low self-esteem, but I do when I am around him. That’s just the simple truth. Hewants to see me express high self-esteem. Well, he certainly challenged the hell out of me and I’m doing the best I can.
January 6, 2002
Rode to the edge of my pain last night and this morning, and didn’t shy away from awareness, of looking at myself, my need for control, my resistance to painful experiences., my shyness, my aggressiveness. I ride the edge and ride through layers of anger and frustration and other emotions that are actually directed at myself and the way I live.
As I open further there is a glow of love. A personal understanding that there is no such thing as a soulmate for me. We die alone with our own souls bared. There is a universal connection to all things, but the soul is alone until it leaves the body.
January 9, 2002
I am so glad to divorce. I accept now that our marriage is OVER.
“Understanding is the ultimate seduction of the mind. Go to the truth beyond the mind. Love is the bridge.” – Stephen Levine
This daily archiving series is about organizing and dating my journal collection, as well as acknowledging the self-directed violence as important therapeutic shadow work.
During this journal, I was maintaining the veneer of a happy marriage, but struggling behind the scenes with events that threatened the nest. I was accused of having “too high standards.”
What hurts the most in all these pages is my inability to maintain healthy friendships. My issues with my mother and my husband had me pulled thin in two seemingly opposing directions, though looking back, they were very similar people. I had no ability to make the two of them deal with each other instead of using me as buffer.
In a need for control and a need to express anger, I was a terrible friend, expressing unnecessary bitterness and misdirected anger in my letters. And their letters back to me are understandably filled with hurt and confusion.
My boundaries were rice paper thin. Today, I forgive myself. And send out an apology to all those I have hurt.
Sitting at the pool in Grand Pacific Hotel in Victoria. The kids are in the pool confronting some other kid about something or other… Seems they are resolving the conflict OK. Dropped Anna’s bestie off after our three days together. It is exhausting for Anna to be “on” all the time. J_____ is at the TV station. He was in a serious mood today and I always try to figure out what I can do to get him to feel better. But I should give myself a break and allow him his emotion. He and I tend too much to want each other to be HAPPY all the time.
“as the spirit wanes the form appears.” – Charles Bukowski