Unnecessary Violence- random archiving of my Shadow Work Journals 1986 to present. Sample 1: Oct 21, 1992

My Journals:

I was born in 1962 and have kept some form of diary/sketchbook since age 6, but experienced a transformative relationship to my journaling in 1986 when I took Kitty Mykka‘s Creative Process class at Emily Carr College of Art and Design. She called our journals Image/Idea Files – that made sense to me. I now have a ludicrous collection of these files. Their purpose? They are not just for sketching, for keeping a record of life unfolding. A mother’s diary. They are a repository of anxiety. A safe place I can vomit out my despair, my observations, my joys, my doodles, quotes, my ideas, my trivial to-do’s, my bull-shit, my dark side, my anger directed at others and myself, my longing, my self-flagellation. I have always found journaling therapeutic. I realized the other day that they are actually my SHADOW WORK.

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Why “Unnecessary Violence”?

There is no greater bully who has victimized me more than me. I want to tell that bully that it is time to retire and shut the hell up. To tap the head of the bully and with an understanding smile, give it a stuffed animal and a comfortable place to rest for all eternity. Thanks for the lessons, but that’s enough now.

Shadow Work:

Taking it in its deepest sense, the shadow is the invisible saurian tail that man still drags behind him. Carefully amputated, it becomes the healing serpent of the mysteries. Only monkeys parade with it. Carl Jung, The Integration of the Personality. (1939).

The archiving is about acknowledging the self-directed violence as important therapeutic shadow work. Processing my projections and darkness.

The purpose of this daily project:

I am archiving the journals. Going through each one to remove excess bits and to wrap each one in a paper band and label them with the date. I am 58 now. Entering the (hopefully) wise chapter of my life. There are big personal shifts happening in how I work, how I create, how I am in the world in relation to others and to myself. To move forward, I will acknowledge the past. Once they are dated, I can see what my heart says about their legacy.

Are they letters to my kids?

Journal Start Date Oct 21, 1992

Cover

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Sample Page

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Sample Drawing

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Sample Writing

October 24, 1992

Took the kids up to Hollyburn Ridge for a picnic lunch. Wonderful! They complained just a little. No car sickness. Just a healthy, happy family! Growing up together.

I feel bad about things I think about my friends. I have such a critical mind. And I don’t feel good about myself in their company as a result, But I am consciously reforming, sort of. SORRY EVERYONE. Why am I being polite in my own fucking journal? Avoiding I___. She pisses me off.

October 25, 1992

Is there any hope for living artists? Who can possibly be original, an influence, a driving force? It is all pablum, chewed over and over and finally regurgitated out in desperate attempt to recapture the original thought. 

November 20, 1992

I feel such a spiritual connection to this house and those who have lived in it. And certainly when people enter it, they enter my life… Maybe that’s why certain visits exhaust me. T___’s visits never exhaust me. I___’s wipe me right out. What is it? Maybe a sense of tension on my part? On hers? My body trembles and feels violated. I recall her in the summer looking around my kitchen and at ____ saying, “At least I have everything.” Why did I not speak up, scream, demand to know what she meant? Didn’t I___ deserve my honesty? I didn’t confront or question. Did cowardice stifle me? 

Sample quote

“I’d see the bearded white man in the clouds. I tried to talk to him, but the clouds would just dissipate. He was unreasonable. He’d never answer me. In rage, I’d climb on top of the house and stand defiantly with a clenched fist raised in anger, shaking and screaming inside my head, “I’ll get you, you motherfucker, one day I’ll whip you.”

– Luisah Teish

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Shaping non-fiction characters.

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What was initially to be a short volunteer research project into a Vancouver cold case to support a theory championed by a retired homicide detective, became, for me [and continues to be], a 17+ year personal journey “to restore to now dead people the fullness and degree of complication of their lives. To restore their humanness back to their lives.” 

“That’s our work. To restore humanity to the human being that went before that don’t speak for themselves… You have the possibility of willing them to life; you have the possibility of waking the dead. You have to liberate your characters to their full human dimension whether they are historical or not… The characters exist in a historical reality… that makes our work a kind of 3-D chess game… To make the characters real, you have to permit a darker side.” – Ken Burns

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Photos by Julian Bowers

The distinction between life and lifeless is a human construct. Every atom in this body existed before organic life emerged 4000 million years ago. Remember our childhood as minerals, as lava, as rocks? Rocks contain the potentiality to weave themselves into such stuff as this. We are the rocks dancing. Why do we look down on them with such a condescending air? It is they that are an immortal part of us.

JOHN SEED, Thinking Like a Mountain

Turn the page- visualizing fading memory

My latest favourite daily practice is to quickly sketch and then saturate the drawing with watercolour crayon and coffee.  I love the feel of the wrinkled page. How the coffee ages the image.  The way a drenched drawing has a life of its own – beyond my control.

I am most in love with the drawing’s ghost.  What happens on the other side of the page.  I am moved by how the resulting image seems to illustrate the concept of fading memory.

“Not only something, but also someone could be there and not there at the same time. And that someone: me.”

– Gerda Saunders, In Memory’s Last Breath

Hi-a-tus from Facebook and Instagram to rejuvenate my creative process

“Set your boundaries and protection but at the same time, look to your own inner friction and allow it to ignite something that will have a positive outcome. This can be an exceptionally creative month especially if you focus on what is ahead instead of what is behind you. Keep your eyes on the door on the other side of the room of ten thousand distractions and you will stay on the golden line.

You can also use this month for helping to clear, dissolve, and transform the things in your life that need to evolve to a higher state. We often mention that in order to fully step into something new you need to first create space for it.”

The Power Path July 2019 Forecast

I have been feeling a need to refocus on this blog as my personal place to get fresh perspective and rejuvenate my creative process – to get back to a purer creative process. And to take a hiatus from sharing my process in small spurts on Facebook and Instagram.

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.

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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)

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See also:

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The Sparrow’s Nest

Behold, within the leavy shade,

Those bright blue eggs together laid !

On me the chance-discovered sight

Gleamed like a vision of delight.

– William Wordsworth, The Sparrow’s Nest, 1807

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Chinamarker, ink, acrylic, watercolour, embroidery on newsprint (12” x 12”, 30cm x 30cm)

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.

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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.

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DEATH CERTIFICATE CLOSEUP 2

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

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Silent interiors…

Fort Langley National Historic Site, Easter, April 21, 2019

I spent a wonderful afternoon with my family in Fort Langley today.

While the egg scramble mayhem and sugar highs rang out outside, I was drawn to the silent interiors.

Form follows function—that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.

– Frank Lloyd Wright

Architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.

– Frank Gehry

I don’t enjoy living in a white box flooded with light. I like shadows, small spaces, old furniture.

– Kevin McCloud

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Every city is a ghost.
New buildings rise upon the bones of the old so that each shiny steel bean, each tower of brick carries within it the memories of what has gone before, an architectural haunting. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of these former incarnations in the awkward angle of a street or filigreed gate, an old oak door peeking out from a new facade, the plaque commemorating the spot that was once a battleground, which became a saloon and is now a park. 

Libba Bray

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Give yourself the opportunity to discover your own imagery

Dreams of my art being attached to some kind of imaginary romantic self-sustaining monetary outcome no longer serve me.  If my creative process is to continue to be my sacred practice, continue to develop, if my creative process is where I let go of attachment, let go of comparing myself to others, let go of control, then I also let go of those dreams.

Let

Them

Go.

And instead embrace the simple and healing journey of process.  Of self-discovery.

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From Revolution From Within- a book of self-esteem, by Gloria Steinem (1992, Little Brown and Company, New York, NY):

… But the point of the journey is not just the healing.  It’s also recovering the truest, most spontaneous, joyful, and creative core of ourselves.  If any of the stories you have just read strikes an emotional chord, that’s a possible signal from your inner self.  If anything in the present brings you unreasonable pleasure or sadness, that’s a clue, too.  The important thing is to make the connections between past and present.  And, of course, not everything is in our power to know.  We need faith in a future that will redeem the past…

… Any one of our human capacities, if unused out of fear or shame, leaves a small hole in the fabric of our self-esteem.  Think of the times you have said: “I can’t write,” “I can’t paint,” “I can’t run,” “I can’t shout,” “I can’t dance,” “I can’t sing.”  Since this was not literally true, you were really saying: “I can’t meet some outside standard. I’m not acceptable as I am.

… Give yourself the opportunity to discover your own imagery… your true self made visible.

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Vision 2019: COURAGE

Recall My Big Vision and Mission for 2018:

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Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes. – Carl Jung

This vision board has stayed on my bathroom shelf all year as a daily check in.  And as I reflect on a year that just sped by, much faster than expected, I feel the greatest gift of this past year is that I found an ability to speak my truth (out loud).  Even if my voice shook.

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In 2018, I came to understand that my core value is TRUST- to be trusted that I know what I am doing.  And I have been challenged in this regard both by myself and by others many times this past year.  Even today.  Even in this moment,  As I encounter(ed) and work(ed) through those challenges, I hear(d) myself (not perfectly, mind you, and not always in the most succinct way) speaking up.

Inktober was life changing.  Bringing me into a deeper creative process- allowing me to experiment with colour and narrative.

COVER INKTOBER

Molly has been in hiding (as some producers took a stab at her) but I am “taking her back” and my life’s biggest creative project now enters a new draft, a new creative process.  I hear the voices of the ghosts again and a sense of emancipation flows through the work.  (And a relaunch is imminent)

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I explored my 1977 diary on the blog and though I haven’t been working on it of late, being too busy with my bread and butter work, I had a great sense of peace working on it.  A pure comic book version is the ultimate goal.

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I simplified this past year.  Savoured family.  Visited San Francisco.  Twice. Here at home, I retreated from invites.  Staying in with the cats.  Working, constantly working.

I pulled an angel card before I started writing here, asking for a message as to how I should approach working on my Vision for 2019:

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Angel Card bowl by Alison Donnelly.  Angel Card holder, a gift from Emily Cowan.

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The card is blank.

We have to be willing to accept that “drawing a blank” to our questions is sometimes the very best response we can receive. It calls for us to look inward for the truth and access our own authentic power instead of looking to others to tell us what to do or think. – Angela Rider

So as I have been reflecting on the year in the last month, one word keeps circulating in my mind for 2019: COURAGE.

courage (n.)

c. 1300, corage, “heart (as the seat of emotions),” hence “spirit, temperament, state or frame of mind,”from Old French corage “heart, innermost feelings; temper” (12c., Modern French courage), from Vulgar Latin *coraticum (source of Italian coraggio, Spanish coraje), from Latin cor “heart” (from PIE root *kerd- “heart”).

Meaning “valor, quality of mind which enables one to meet danger and trouble without fear” is from late 14c. In this sense Old English had ellen, which also meant “zeal, strength.” Words for “heart” also commonly are metaphors for inner strength.

In Middle English, the word was used broadly for “what is in one’s mind or thoughts,” hence “bravery,” but also “wrath, pride, confidence, lustiness,” or any sort of inclination, and it was used in various phrases, such as bold corage “brave heart,” careful corage “sad heart,” fre corage “free will,” wikked corage “evil heart.” – SOURCE

Why this word?

I have become more and more aware of when the anxiety arises within me.  When the floor opens up and I fall through.

And a journal entry at the airport on my way to an extraordinary adventure in San Francisco clinched the work I need to do in 2019:

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That question often came up this year– what happened to my courage?  Asking myself that question actually kicked my ass into motion even though anxiety feels like a cheese grater scratching at my heart.

Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences — good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as “ordinary courage.” – Brené Brown

And so-

I will use my own esteem heart exercise:

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And focus on the word COURAGE as a tactile connection to my 2019 Vision.

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Head up.  Straight back.  Panic arising?  Yell- BRING IT ON!!! 

Speak.  Speak UP!  

Listen.  Carefully.  Mindfully.

And create.  Create.  Create.

Anytime you write something, you go through so many phases. You go through the ‘I’m a Fraud’ phase. You go through the ‘I’ll Never Finish’ phase. And every once in a while you think, ‘What if I actually have created what I set out to create, and it’s received as such?’
– Lin Manuel Miranda

It’s not that I don’t know what to do.

Regarding my passion project Molly- a true crime analysis2003-2016 was all about researching, drawing, accumulating, writing, collecting.  2017 was all about creating an online weekly draft, telling the story with images, words and music in whatever way it unfolded, sharing it openly, publicly.  2018 has been all about allowing others in, and letting go of control, and hiding the project and process away so that those others could take a run at it.  The outcome of all this is still unknown.  I admit it feels odd and strange.  

But what has been brewing inside me is another version of the story– one that only I know how to tell.  And I keep pacing about it.  It’s not that I don’t know what to do.  It’s that I  KNOW what I am supposed to do and it somehow scares the shit out of me.

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2019– I am ready.

Keeping a “don’t know mind” is important during this time as you may be somewhat confused and in a state of not knowing. Let spirit and your inner truth, wisdom and intuition sort it for you. Let go of any attachment to how it is supposed to look, who should be in the picture and how it needs to unfold.

There is freedom in trusting that everything will land where it should so take some time and enjoy your life, enjoy your community, enjoy the outdoors and enjoy your unique talents and creativity. Worry and obsession about whether or not you are “doing it right” will only rob you of your sleep. Let the energy of TRUTH assimilate into your being without any effort or hyper-vigilance. The word of the week is TRUST.

The Power Path November 2018 Forecast

 

On this one year anniversary since Asterix passed, something poignant happened.

In the early morning of September 24, 2018, it will be one year since I lost my beloved parrot, Asterix.

Recall:

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Losing him was deeply painful.  I lost my companion.  I lost our family history keeper.  I lost my parents’ voices.  Taking care of his little body, saying our goodbyes, wrapping him in a little shroud– all felt deeply ritualistic and tender.

Recall:

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Photo 2017-09-24, 7 31 57 AM

I have been thinking a lot about how I might mark this day, an especially powerful anniversary with the Autumn Equinox and the Harvest Moon.

This morning my daughter and I were in the living room, and I said to her, “Isn’t it amazing that not before or since the day Asterix died has a bird landed and looked in our window?”  (I was remembering the crow that landed on the windowsill the day Asterix died and sat there looking in, acknowledging.)

Our cat, Reina, was playing with my china markers and my daughter said, “Reina is channeling Asterix’s spirit!”  (Asterix LOVED playing with my china markers.)

We carried on Sunday morning lounging, me drawing and Squeak, our other cat, snuggling with my daughter.  After only a minute or two we heard a sound, like a knock on the window.  A poignant thing happened.  Our cat, Reina, came into the living room and made a strange and unusual meow.  My daughter checked and she was very surprised to see a dead bird on the rug.

We have not had a cat bring us a dead bird since Riley brought them in when we lived on the Sunshine Coast when he was an outdoor cat.  (We moved from there 15 years ago and Riley retired to become and indoor cat in 2003.)

Reina was shooed away from the bird and we took the cats into my bedroom.  My breath was taken away when I saw my pillow and bedding sprinkled with little feathers, in the sunshine under our window.  A bird had obviously hit the window and Reina had grabbed it.  But this was more that that.  The timing, profound.  This seemed nothing less than magical.  Especially considering my deep connection with birds.

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I went back to the living room and picked up the bird carefully and placed it in a container and placed it in the freezer.  (We have not had a dead bird in the freezer since we wrapped Asterix, a year ago, and gently placed him in there for safe keeping until his cremation.)

Before taking the bird to the park to bury it, I took some photographs.  Thanking this sweet heartbreaking creature for its life and message.

I went alone and walked into the park to find a special place.  A little squirrel guided me to this spot.  I dug a deep hole, gave my thanks and left.

 

“A bird is symbolic of perspective and freedom.  When a bird hits your window the spiritual meaning of the bird is something you need to take notice of.  Due to the fact that birds swoop up high up in the sky, it is believed that birds are God’s messengers – providing a bridge between the spiritual life and the mundane.  They can be a positive sign of great luck.  Since time immemorial, birds are in folklore symbols to many cultures.  Now, to see one single bird that approaches your window peacefully or just sits and looks inside your home – in ancient times was thought to be a sign of the spirit of your dead loved ones.  In some folklore books, a bird hitting the window can mean an angel wants you to take notice. I t could be that your angel is trying to communicate that they are around helping you, and watching over you or spiritually.  Make sure you are aware of the day – it could be an anniversary when the bird appears.  Look up the date, does this day or month mean something?  It is a lovely sign and you can use your intuition to get the right message from the bird.  The message is of a loving nature.  sparrow hitting your window represent emotions, heart healing, socializing, generosity, romance, and the power of spirit.” – auntyflo.com

I love you, Asterix.

Bird School: The first rule

I am obsessed with birds.  I have this strange belief that I will not uncover truths that I seek in my art without first understanding birds fully.  So I am taking myself through my own Bird School– developing my own rudimentary curriculum and drawing out the answers and stitching together the truths.

Recall:

Parts of a Songbird

Head Feather Groups

Today’s lesson: The First Rule

Sketching and taking notes in the field are exercises that will force you to look more closely, reinforce your memory, and greatly increase the rate at which you learn.  The joy of small discoveries is part of the great appeal of birding, and patient study is always rewarded. 

– David Sibley

The first rule is simple: LOOK AT THE BIRD… Watch what the bird does, watch it fly away, and only then try to find it in your book. 

 

Resource:

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Bird School- Parts of a Songbird

I am obsessed with birds.  I have this strange belief that I will not uncover truths that I seek in my art without first understanding birds fully.  So I am taking myself through my own Bird School– developing my own rudimentary curriculum and drawing out the answers and stitching together the truths.

Today’s lesson: Parts of a Songbird

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Resource:

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I can feel the planet churning…

And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. – John Muir

When I am in the forest in Stanley Park, and sit down on the forest floor, I am acutely aware that I am on a sphere.  In fact, I swear that I can feel the planet churning.  I place my hand on the ground- it rumbles.

I even seem to hear the planet turn over the sounds of traffic.

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… your breath is locked forever in my ears where once the name was whispered, and I defy eternity to take from me what is mine! – Gwendolyn MacEwen

Push it. examine all things intensely and relentlessly.
― Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

 

Allow nature’s peace to flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. – John Muir

Every stitch a thought- problem solving embroidering drawings.

I’ve got a lot to think about these days.  (Not really any different from other days, I guess, but seriously, there is some amazing stuff brewing).

To stay on track with massive projects, to dos and ideas racing around in the head, I have found great solace in pulling out embroidered drawings.

As I stitch, my mind relaxes and somehow- magically, solutions arise, anxiety dissipates, energy refreshes, ideas come to light.  Fascinating.

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It’s all about following the lines of my drawings, just wandering along the pathways, new ways of looking at things, no attachment to the thread or how things unfold.  Just let it unfold.  And I think that is my greatest lesson in all this- let it unfold.

When you can step back at moments like these and see what is happening, when you watch people you love under fire or evaporating, you realize that the secret of life is patch patch patch. Thread your needle, make a knot, find one place on the other piece of torn cloth where you can make one stitch that will hold. And do it again. And again. And again.
Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair

You have to keep taking the next necessary stitch, and the next one, and the next. Without stitches, you just have rags. And we are not rags.”
Anne Lamott, Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair

 

Books are life rafts.  I climb into them to keep moving forward…

Books are life rafts.  I climb into them to keep moving forward when life seems in limbo and my energy is fully depleted.  Here is a sampling of those I return to repeatedly.

I return to this quote to address my subject of research and remind myself why:

A cheap Saturday night took you down.  You died stupidly and harshly and without the means to hold your own life dear.  

Your run to safety was a brief reprieve.  You brought me into hiding as your good-luck charm.  I failed you as a talisman– so I stand now as your witness.

Your death defines my life.  I want to find the love we never had and explicate it in your name.

I want to take your secrets public.  I want to burn down the distance between us.

I want to give you breath. 

– James Ellroy, My Dark Places

I return to this quote to trust and let go of attachment to outcome:

As I’ve said, falling for a suspect is a lot like the first surge of blind love in a relationship.  Focus narrows to a single face.  The world and its practical sounds are a wan soundtrack to the powerful silent biopic you’re editing in your mind at all times.  No amount of information on the object of your obsession is enough.  You crave more.  Always more…

The feast of data means there are more circumstances to bend and connect.  You’re tempted to build your villain with the abundance of pieces.  It’s understandable.  We’re pattern seekers, all of us.  We glimpse the rough outline of what we seek and we get snagged on it, sometimes remaining stuck when we could get free and move on.

– Michelle McNamara, I’ll be gone in the dark- one woman’s obsessive search for the Golden State killer

I return to this quote as a goal:

Writing a book is a strange job.

“Here you go,” a publisher says at the outset, handing you a salary of sorts, and a deadline, “we’ll see you in two years.”  And there you go indeed, in a state of high alarm, without any day-to-day ballast– no appointments, no tasks assigned each morning, no office colleagues to act as sounding boards, no clue as to what you are doing” equipped solely with a single idea, which you cling to like driftwood in a great, dark sea.”

Patricia Pearson, When she was bad: how and why women get away with murder

I promised myself a library…

When I turned 10, my parents gave me this book– Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales illustrated by Jiří Trnka (published by Hamlyn Publishing Group Ltd, ©1959, 1972).  My father had purchased it at the Vancouver Airport.  I remember so clearly being woken up, with breakfast on a tray and receiving the book.  The $4.95 in pencil marked on the inside.  It smelled of that glorious new book smell.

I loved (and still love) this book so much– so enthralled by the stories and the illustrations.  The book was not my first, but it is my most memorable.  I promised myself  on my 10th birthday that I would collect myself a library.  My parents were always so supportive of the love of reading and never said no to book shopping.

And so, after multiple moves across the Atlantic back and forth, multiple homes, multiple life challenges, multiple spaces, multiple bookshelves… I kept my promise and still live surrounded by my beloved growing library of books.

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library. – Jorge Luis Borges

Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors. The library connects us with the insight and knowledge, painfully extracted from Nature, of the greatest minds that ever were, with the best teachers, drawn from the entire planet and from all our history, to instruct us without tiring, and to inspire us to make our own contribution to the collective knowledge of the human species. – Carl Sagan

I know each and everyone of them, read or not.

Check out:

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Journal entry April 16, 2018 San Jose Airport

Journal entry April 16, 2018 San Jose Airport [unedited]

It is so odd to take time out from the trajectory of every day in these journeys… to get off the tracks so to speak.  The experience both relaxes the brain, and creates unease.  You feel like you spend too much money and you are wondering about day to day reality, but you also give yourself to the situation and throw caution to the wind.  

Does it shake off the cobwebs?  This importance of eating well, looking at new things, and INPUT before gearing up to hustle when back home.  

But what if I RELAX into the RETURN as well?  NOT worry about it.  TRUST and FLOW and let the sand sift through the fingers?  Just release.  

Not only trust that others are allies, but that LIFE is an ALLY.

Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” – Seneca

Staying in process…

Just when I think– Oh shit, I put myself out there, and now I am all vulnerable and shit and feeling old pangs of, oh shit, what am I doing, where is this going, how will I get there, will it go anywhere, what is this creative career bullshit, shit – a flood of creative process infuses every cell and I am back at the drawing board, literally drawing and working because I never left…  Even though there are times I feel lost and off the rails regarding my creative process, I am starting to understand that my insatiable habits of writing and drawing every day, no matter what the technique is– be it copying a quote, scratching out a doodle, sewing a stitch– is working, keeping me on track, even if my inner critic tries to convince me otherwise.

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Bears repeating:  “Start writing. I don’t mean to sound dismissive, but START WRITING. There is NO SUCH THING as “too late” in the arts. Trust me. START.” – PATTON OSWALT

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CHECK OUT:
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“Ted Hughes gave me this advice and it works wonders: Record moments, fleeting impressions, overheard dialogue, your own sadnesses and bewilderments and joys.” – MICHAEL MORPURGO

 

The third letter home. November 18, 1968

Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.

– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Previous posts:

Package of letters to Sweden

A letter home. November 1, 1968

Dream. Letters. Thought and Memory.

Writing exercise.

The Second Letter.

As these translations focus on the letters from my mother to her best friends in Sweden, I will not be including letters from my Dad (this project is for mom, Drawn Together  was for Dad).  I will however include some interesting bits and pieces from Dad’s letters that give insight into mom and home life.

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Mom’s third letter, dated Monday November 18, 1968 

[Note: my nickname in my family is Nina]

Thank you for two very interesting letters the other day,  I both cried and laughed when I read them.  Cried when I read that Eivor is starting to bring in money, which led to, amongst other things, us heading out on the weekend in search of a larger apartment.  It is true that it is quite nice here, but a little awkward.  You enter the living room onto wall-to-wall carpeting and that is a pain, you understand, as you know our angels.

At least we found a townhouse with access to a swimming pool.  Super fancy, 4 large bedrooms, combined living room and dining room, gorgeous kitchen with a dishwasher.  Two washing machines and two dryers in the basement.  Beautiful colours on the inside and a whole new neighborhood.  

We have a view of the mountains even here.  One of the bedrooms is downstairs and three up with thick, luxurious wall-to-wall carpets, with hardwood in the living room (which I am so grateful for).  There is even a front hall when you enter.  It will be much nicer for hosting and having guests as there are two floors.  We are making our decision in the morning.  

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Otherwise things are moving along well.  I miss you all.  (strangely)

Last Saturday we were invited to an English family.  He works at Sandwell.  They live close by in an absolutely adorable log cabin, with a wood stove made of rough granite.  It turns out they are real tough people.  Every year they do a road trip with boat and tent (they are in their 60’s) to Alaska and the Rocky Mountains.  On the last trip, they were out in the wilderness the whole holiday.  They didn’t see any humans, except maybe for natives and farmers.  It takes about 8 hours to drive to the Rocky Mountains from here to a place called Williams Lake.  It is supposed to be a great place.  

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He showed us slides and you, Rolf, would have cried if you saw the trout they caught every day.  There are several small cottages built in the wilderness for any visitors– anyone can use them.  They would repeatedly run into moose and bears.  Anders will go crazy with anticipation before we get there.  But there is no point to going there until the Spring as it is really cold up there in the winter.  It is better head South in the winter.  In two days we can be in Florida.

It +10ºC here today.   Girls are still wearing ankle socks.  But not Nina.  She has to wear leotards.  But it rains a lot here during the winter.  Last Saturday, we took the kids up the gondola.  Maybe Roar already wrote about that.  He bought a book and mailed it to you (as temptation), but it was not sent by air mail so it will probably take awhile before it arrives.  I haven’t received photos from Åke yet– maybe these were also sent by boat.  

It is going really well for the kids at school.  Nina goes 9-1 and Anders goes to 3.  There is no bad day for grade 1.  I am surprised.  And they really go hard.  Nina has to write long essays.  She has such a great accent.  It helps when they have start so young.  Sometimes she is grumpy when she comes home for lunch, but after she has eaten, she is satisfied and happy again.  

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I can’t believe this is true– girls are not allowed to wear pants at school.  Luckily, it does not get that cold here.  I think it is a bit more strict here, and they don’t have the same approach.  Vern’s two young girls are already reading fluently.  I can’t believe it is true.  Nina (and I) hope that she will be able to be in the same class as Ann-Christine in a few years.  That’s the story I use when Nina doesn’t want to go to school. 

This coming Friday, we are going to the boss for dinner.  Blah!  I am not allowed to wear my long pants according to Roar.  Otherwise he doesn’t dare to go.  The old bag called me the other day.  I thought it was Fru Koppel.  I have never heard anything more close.  She is Danish and has lived in Stockholm for six years (stewardess), so she speaks Swedish.  She is supposed to be really attractive (gross).  But she actually sounded rather fun.  Everyone is pretty much a bunch of old bags and bitches otherwise, I think.  

Yeah, I guess one will survive this as well.  There is so much to arrange, and one can’t catch up.  Just imagine how much we will have time to do this summer when we come.  We won’t need many clothes.  Just money for the trip.  The rest we can take care of.  By the way, what the hell did Eivor receive from Roar through the window?  Luckily it wasn’t at the door.  

On Saturday, we are going to Vern for dinner because the kids are going to the ice rink to skate.  Vern is the same.  He must be so clever.  He has built a large house with three storeys.  His kids are girls ages 15 and 14, boys ages 12 and 10, and twin girls ages 6 and a half.  Sheila is really nice but not exactly a party gal.  Everyone seems so damn well-behaved here.  Lucky for me, Roar spoke to the neighbor the other day and I asked if he was cool.  Roar then said, “not as cool as Rolf.”  (Which I agree with)  Roar was quiet for a bit and then said, “and the broad wasn’t as perky as Eivor Carlson either.”  And somehow that was followed by me saying, “and that I am very thankful for.”  It just came out of me.  I am going to ensure things are relaxed and calm for awhile so I don’t have to chase Roar, etc.  

But I miss other types of exchanges of course.  Who knows, maybe a moose hunting family will show up this summer.  NOTE!  But not without the kids.  If I have to pay for them, I will.  

I am writing myself to death.  My fingers hurt.  Roar is also writing letters.  

I must tell you, we had some problems the other day.  They aired Bonanza, Laredo and High Chaparall on three different channels at the same time the other day.  This drove Anders crazy.  One channel is just cartoons.  Batman and the sort.  The boss’s wife told me I should watch TV as much as possible to learn English, but I actually just write letters.  

Say hello to Gunhild, with best wishes on the baptism.  The same happened with Katarina, if you remember.  The ceremony lasted an hour and Stake had dementia but there was just six of us, so it worked out anyhow.  

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Now I can’t write anymore.  I will write another day.  Please write back or I will die an old man.  I play Sven Ingvars every day and long for home.  But time passes quite quickly.  Pan and Pia [the dogs] are welcome to sneak around outside our house some night.  I will let you know when Rolf should give Moritz arsenic in a few years.  Or Max could have snuck it into the coffee.  I assume Rolf can buy it cheap.

Karin

PS.  Excuse the handwriting.  I have written to Dad, Helga, Ulla-Britt, Sivan as well.

EXCERPT: Dad’s letter dated November 17, 1968

… There is a hell of a difference between Gruvöns Sågverk where one was only an errand boy to Moritz.  If I only get over this initial uncertain time, it will be an astounding school in which one learns to become the boss.  Hope this will be of value when we return to Sweden in the future.  

Well, I will end it here– will write more later.  Please write again soon, it is so nice to hear from you both.  I am starting to get over that difficult day when we left you– but I will never forget it.  

Heartfelt greetings. – Roar

Writing exercise.

1. Put the timer on for 10 minutes.

2. Write stream of consciousness about whatever- whatever comes out of the pen onto paper.  Keep the pen moving.

3. Review your writing- read it out loud.

4. Circle the main words- the words that stand out for you- try for about ten.  Ten key words.  Trust your gut.

5. Write the words you circled.

6. Trim them down further.

7. Read your final selection out loud.  Does it ring true?

8. Repeat daily.

Journal entry p 1

Journal entry p 2

My results:

Trust myself.  Trust me.  Trust Mom.  Her letters.  Her pain.  Her addiction.  My heart.

Journal entry p 3

I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 a.m. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. Joan Didion, On Keeping a Notebook

Ear to the ground… Another recurring theme…

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There are repeated themes in my work and obsessions that satisfy my creative process and my explorations into grief.  Like human faces, birds, dead birds…

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I hadn’t noticed one theme recurring- ear to the ground.

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Ear to the ground: to devote attention to watching or listening for clues as to what is going to happen…

In my work, it seems to be about listening to the messages, about dissolving control, about weight and grief, about vulnerability and solitude.  And dying.

I often go back to the image of lying in the forest moss, listening…  like this panel-

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… your breath is locked forever in my ears where once the name was whispered, and I defy eternity to take from me what is mine! – Gwendolyn MacEwen

Practicing neutrality.

I know anxiety.

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I know depression.

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And now it seems these days like I am practicing neutrality.

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Allowing things to be.  Just be.  Letting fear crumble through my fingers.  Sighing it out.  Letting the little bird free.

… keep some middle ground of neutrality amidst the chaos to stay out of other people’s drama.– Lena Stevens

I am practicing.  Every minute of every day until it becomes a habit.

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Gnight! Lay out your worries. Some you’ll pay down a bit every day, some evaporate upon being named. Don’t bring them into bed, they cast grotesque shadows and leave crumbs like a muhf***ker. Sleep easy. – Lin Manuel Miranda

Until we meet again… dropping off Asterix 

Letting go

In order to hold on

I gradually understand

How poems are made…

– Alice Walker

 

Recall September 24, 2017:

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Well, I did it.   Finally.  It was time for Asterix’s cremation.

I pulled my parrot out of the freezer this morning and placed his wrapped body (decorated with a drawing by my nephew) inside an IKEA freezer bag(!) and then placed him in a tote.  In all honesty, I have found it comforting to have his body in that freezer, but it was definitely time.

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I wanted to do the trip alone, so I didn’t remind the family and headed out to the bus stop, grateful that the weather was below zero.

A gorgeous Fall day.

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I carried my buddy, my companion, my secret onto the bus and headed across the bridge.

The herons usually don’t return to the rooftops till February in the West End, but when I stepped outside my apartment with Asterix- I saw three were sitting on the roofs on Chilco Street.

 

And little birds and seagulls and crows everywhere.

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Oh my goodness!  Until We Meet Again.  Such a sweet place and two cats greeted me! Their cremation services are on site.

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Asterix will get a lovely cedar box with a latch.  He loved chewing on wood, so I found it appropriate.

I pulled out the angel cards he had chosen to chew on a while back:

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Forgiveness popped out as well.

His shrine gives me comfort.

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My sweet sweet boy.

 

Related:

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The crown ripped away. Journal musings.

My head hurts.  Not the inside of my head.  The outside.  The muscles on top of my skull.  The ligaments.

I sat under a young tree yesterday and leaned my head back and my head was and is tender, so tender.


I swear my skull has changed shape in the past few years- at the very top.  It feels like it has sunken in- or maybe it has always been like that since the top of my skull met a lamp post on my 5th birthday— I didn’t know how to use the kick brake on my new bicycle and I headed straight into the lamp post at the bottom of the hill by the grocery store.

 

I don’t know.

But the indentation feels different.

I’ve lost hair of late- my already thin hair is becoming a whisper at the crown of my skull.  I can chalk it up to menopause, but it feels like something else.

The top of my head is tender, yes, like an open wound.

Like the old crown I wore in my old life (the skin having grown around it) has been ripped away and exposed the dermis.  My crown that sat there for 55 years and is now pried away.  All my old roles stripped away.

And it’s OK.  It’s OK.  Oh my god, it is OK.  All as it should be.

But it is quiet and strange.

And sometimes I scramble around on my knees with blurry eyes and the light so low, searching for the crown, with pieces of old skin still attached… thinking I need to put it back on.

I feel the air brushing against the exposed part of my skull.  Perhaps it is a new fontanelle… for certainly this, this life, my life is all anew.

My parents released like birds.

My kids all grown and flying.

The apartment, my nest, so quiet.

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As a woman, as a daughter, as a mother, as a human, I do not want to take this lightly.  To let it pass unnoticed or to try to numb it all away.  This is truly something to PAY ATTENTION too.  To allow the emotions.  The quiet.  To not rush this.  To allow the sacredness.  To know the tap tap on the shoulder by the darkness is creativity daring me now to step into my time.

With breadth, space, grace and humour.


And it is GOOD.  This stunned/stunning graduation.

And what now?  Do I await a new crown?  A stepping into… what?

I feel kind of like that deer in that church, walking around in a silent house, a little lost, a little curious…

Growing.  Not a crown.  But protective horns.  A new cycle.  A new chapter.  Regenerating.

My @TwinPeaks fan art helps me hold on to the dream

We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream.

I process my obsessions through creativity.  And there is a lot to process as we have reached “the end” of Twin Peaks: The Return.

A Lynch fan since Eraserhead, deeply deeply influenced and inspired by The Elephant Man and Blue Velvet, I recall cutting out the news article about the pilot in early 1990.  It showed Ronette Pulaski walking across the railroad bridge.

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I recall the cultural shift when the show aired on April 8, 1990.  The camaraderie as the weekly episodes were inspected and analyzed voraciously.

Our family’s countless trips to North Bend and travelling to all the sites from the show.

Staying at the “Great Northern” (The Salish Lodge) and walking down to the falls.

Meeting the one armed man and the man from another place (the arm) on the streets outside of the RR Diner during the first Twin Peaks festival.  They signed our copy of Lolita- she is filled with secrets.

Drinking coffee and eating cherry pie at the RR diner.

Multiple trips, multiple times.

Being FREAKED OUT by Bob (to this day).  On a visit to Las Vegas Fall 1990, I saw Bob silhouetted by the lights outside, in front of the sheer curtains, sitting in a lounge chair.  He leaned forward and turned his head towards me.  I leapt out of bed.  JEEEEEEEEEZUS.

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My son recreating the Laura wrapped in plastic scene at the exact location in 2010.

Reading Laura Palmer’s diary a gazillion times and collecting every clipping, article, book, collecting, collecting.

Trading fan art on instagram.

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Buttons and magnets by @skyyedawl

Looking for clues in every other Lynch film.

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This new season was so much about my generation aging.  Beautifully aging.

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Aging is celebrated, honoured by Lynch.

I have wept for my own losses.  All the life markers experienced since that first episode aired.  (The log lady looking so much like my mother before she passed.)

We are like the dreamer who dreams and then lives inside the dream.

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The dumbest and greatest and deepest show.

ART.

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My illustration (2016) for Matthew Roy’s incredible speculative fiction novel could be renamed “GOTTA LIGHT?” (Episode 8 Season 3)