Letters from St. Kevin

This all started because of a family Vacation Summer 1982 with my Dad, Mom, little brother. I am 20 at the time.

The route:

  • Nanaimo
  • Campbell River
  • Port Hardy
  • Prince Rupert
  • Hazelton
  • K’san
  • Smithers
  • Houston
  • Burns Lake
  • Fort St. James
  • Prince George
  • Quesnel
  • Williams Lake
  • 108 Ranch
  • 100 Mile House
  • Cache Creek
  • Kamloops
  • Vernon
  • Kelowna
  • Summerland
  • Penticton

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

See you

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 timeAlso, I sent a lady flowers and a pot of gold (chocolates) for her return overseas.

 

 

February 7, 1984:

Hello Katarina

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,

Bill

 

Christmas 1984:

Merry Christmas

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. 

 

Christmas 1985:

Merry Xmas

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.

Well, I may see someone when walking one day?

From UP North

Home where in the west

I build a Little Nest,

A place that known to God alone.

We will be the nest of the world.

So Bye

BILL

Related:

Journal entry December 1, 2020: I Can’t Write Right

When I can’t write, when I don’t feel right, I feel the black ink of angst/depression well up in my brain. And I pace around and around in there, first splashing in the black ink, then wading in it, then swimming, then oh oh – am I drowning?

Ok, ok. Slow down. Use the ink. Practice what you preach, and pull out the journal. Writing is simply mark making. Make some marks tonight. That’s enough. Quiet the brain.

(Ink, water-colour and coffee doodle inspired by young Princess Margaret in The Crown.)

Any story we write or picture we make cannot demonstrate its worth until we write or draw it. The physical act of writing or drawing is what brings the inspiration about. Worrying about its worth and value to others before it exists can keep us immobilized forever. – Lynda Barry

10 years since “Olivia Saves the Circus” stop motion animation project at Keith Lynn!

Dolls and stuffed animals make me happy. Very happy. They always have. Some of my faves are hand-sewn little pig characters… but I will get to that.

I am 58 years old and I still have dolls, still rescue dolls, make dolls. love dolls, receive dolls.


I still have the first one (“Lisa”) I received from my parents in the early 60’s:

I also collect sock monkeys and crafts made by me and those made (and given to me) by my past students (of all ages) and friends:

I just dusted, aired out and re-organized my giant collection of old dolls and stuffed animals… Including a treasured basket of props from 2009-2010 school year at a school I worked at in North Vancouver:

I just realized it has been 10 years since that very special  stop motion animation project at Keith Lynn Alternative Secondary School!

During the 2009-2011 school years, I had the pleasure of co-facilitating (along with my colleague, Ian Powell) an animation course at Keith Lynn Alternative Secondary School.

In 2009-2010, the students recreated (with incredible ingenuity) the story of OLIVIA SAVES THE CIRCUS by Ian Falconer:

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A few years later, I rescued the collection of props from the project that were mixed in with items to throw out when the school had moved locations to become Mountainside Secondary.

Much love to past Keith Lynn students and staff and to all my present colleagues at Mountainside. Thank you for enriching my life!

“Familiar” – a documentary short by Anna Thorsen

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One year ago, my daughter proposed a project. I am so happy I agreed. It was a powerful and transformative experience.

Familiar is a short documentary about my Swedish mother, Karin Thorsen. Her story is told through the letters she wrote to her best friends from 1968-2001.

This project was my daughter’s Grad Film for Langara’s Documentary Film Production course.

Director: Anna Thorsen
Executive Producer: Annat Kennet and Langara College
Writer/Editor: Anna Thorsen
Cinematographer: Anna Thorsen
Lighting/Sound: Anna Thorsen
Original Score: Julian Bowers
Research Support: Katarina Thorsen
Translator: Katarina Thorsen

To watch, go to: FAMILIAR

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Thank you Anna for this transformative experience.

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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

“She drank alone…” Journal entry

She walks– arms crossed, cold hands tucked into armpits, chin tucked into chest.

The familiar dark ink pool spreads around her feet.

She bends down this time. Curious?

Her reflection- just fragmented spirals.

She slips! lurching upward and backward, around.

The black ink fills her mouth.

Hog-tied, she lets out a fluid-filled silent scream.

A violent blow to the back of her head.

The angel sings

Do I hear 21, 21, 21…

I’ll give you 21, 21, 21…

Lub dub, lub dub, lub dub.

She floats now… in a soft pool of light, enclosed in a red tomb, bathed in an oxygenated salted sea,

Lub dub, lub dub, lub dub.

A shadow moves across the the field.

She inserts her thumb into her mouth and sleeps.

For Kajsa

 

A quick creative project on last day of 2019: The Death and Burial of Cock Robin

Rainy stay-inside sick day today. I have stayed in PJs and creative process.

I spent the last few hours interpreting The Death and Burial of Cock Robin with ink, watercolour and salt. [Source: Gutenberg Press. Original text by anonymous circa 14th-17th century]

Chanticleer, what want you here, So early in the morning?

“Cock-a-doodle-doo,” says he, pray don’t you see the day’s already dawning?

All the birds in the air fell to sighing and sobbing,

When they hear the bell toll for poor Cock Robin.


Thou cruel Sparrow

Thy pointed dart

Has robbed me of half my heart;

Ah! he is, no more,

Who us’d with me to fly –

He is slain, he is gone –

And I follow – I die.

Goodbye 2019. CHEERS TO A CREATIVE FULFILLING 2020!

I don’t bleed anymore. Finding solace in journal pages.

“These are the days of tweeting, blogging, posting, instagraming, snapchatting, you name it. Everyone seems to be doing it. Some people seem very comfortable expressing every morsel of their living and breathing and eating into the world. Not that this isn’t totally fascinating to the one sharing, but most people (including me) don’t care about what you ate for breakfast, who you ate it with, and what you were wearing. However, when someone writes with a raw vulnerability, expressing with exquisite clarity a thought or feeling that I recognize in myself, I tend to sit up and take notice. Truth has a way of getting my attention.

In my work with grieving clients, I find that one of the most helpful activities I can encourage them to do is to write. “Write about what?” they say. Write about what is on your mind. Tell your story. Share your experiences, the secrets that need to be let out. Open your heart, feel the love, anger, pain, joy, sorrow, gratitude, regrets – whatever is present in the moment – and put it on the paper. Write letters, notes, poems, rants. Anything. Just express.”

– Carrie Doubts, Finding Solace Through Writing

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

Here were valleys filled with tiny trees and minuscule, tangled vines…

I am a collector.  I love the details of seemingly mundane little objects.  I collect discarded plants and nurse them back to life. I collect bits and pieces underneath the heron nests.

I collect chestnuts.  They remind me of my mom, who would often tell me she collected chestnuts in shoeboxes as a child.

I collect buttons.  They remind me of my great aunt, Helga.  I loved going through her button jar when I was a child.

And the collecting habit continues with my niece and nephew as we drag home treasures from the park and the beach.

And what do I do with all these treasures besides put them on shelves and look at them regularly?  I use them as illustration references.

I was at the craft store today to purchase foam board for a portrait order and came across a bag of dry moss.  Oh wow!

I have been planning to get some reference photos of the forest floor for a project.  I had an idea.  I purchased my supplies and the bag of moss and ran home.  I would try create my own little slice of the forest using our found treasures and the moss.

The moss felt warm and spongy, several degrees warmer than the air around it, and far more damp than she had expected. It appeared to have its own weather. Alma put the magnifying lens to her eye and looked again. Now the miniature forest below her gaze sprang into majestic detail. She felt her breath catch. This was a stupefying kingdom. This was the Amazon jungle as seen from the back of a harpy eagle. She rode her eye above the surprising landscape, following its paths in every direction. Here were rich, abundant valleys filled with tiny trees of braided mermaid hair and minuscule, tangled vines. Here were barely visible tributaries running through that jungle, and here was a miniature ocean in a depression in the center of the boulder, where all the water pooled. – Elizabeth Gilbert

Adding some water awoke the plants and the smell of a mossy forest floor (one of my all time favorite smells) infused the room.

Then I added treasures such as pine cones, shells, heron egg shells, pebbles, beach glass, driftwood, sparrow’s feet.

I am all about the nooks and crannies.  Therein lie the secrets.  The truth.

But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.
― Alan Watts

 

So what is the relationship with the blog? It begs to show more of your life in it…

Journal entry July 20, 2019 

Sometimes I feel overwhelming sadness that has a type of mystery and release.  Perhaps it’s [binging] Queer Eye S4 that hits me in my most vulnerable low self-esteem spots, maybe it’s seeing Squeak lose weight and anticipating losing her…

Squeak

… maybe it’s the awe of knowing I am… have overcome incredible hurdles and life markers and I am at the last 20-30 years of my life [if I am lucky] and I am struck by both the relief and the unknown AND the temptation to retreat further into my cave.

I try to share creative collaboration ideas and afterwards I feel embarrassed and want to cut myself off even further.  I feel ashamed by my enthusiasm and in my heart I know it is all just a process and probably won’t result in anything anyway- so why try.  Plus I want [an] autonomy that [seemingly] clashes with my manic oversharing.

I am still “detoxing” from IG and FB.  I was feeling like I had no authentic place [there] plus was [honestly] sick of [the me] in it.

So what is the relationship with the blog? I need to make it mine again.  Ask not for whom the blog tolls, for it tolls for me.

Then I remember that I can do WHATEVER I want in my ART.  WHATEVER WHATEVER WHATEVER I want.  I can FAIL, I can SUCCEED, I can DO, I can WRITE, DRAW, CREATE whatever I… I… I want.  I can SHARE whatever I want [about me].  I can feel dumb and ashamed and excited and inspired.  And just FLOW with it.

I AM STILL HERE BREATHING, BEING

ACCEPT IT ALL

But please please please [Nina] hold your head HIGH.

And TRAVEL

And SEE

GO

LEAVE

COME BACK

Be yourself.  Be that little 2-year old finding her voice and raging and laughing with/at the world and finding your place.

You are allowed to rage, laugh, feel.

AND EXPAND.

Keep stealing and interpreting

 

Reina

See also:


 

Stream of consciousness #writing and #drawing as #anxietytool

I am diving into a therapeutic and academic exploration into anxiety disorder to wrangle and understand the beast and to build a creative curriculum of tools.  Besides lots of reading, my daily routine includes stream of consciousness writing and drawing, with no attachment to outcome.  

I believe with all my heart that just understanding the metapurpose of the anxious struggle helps to make it beautiful.  Purposeful, creative, bold, rich, deep things are always beautiful. – Sarah Wilson (2018), first, we make the beast beautiful- a new journey through anxiety