Oh sweet Squeak. Your body gave up one year ago (October 10) after your brave battle. But Reina and I still feel your spirit here in the apartment. My sweet lady.
Oh sweet Squeak. Your body gave up one year ago (October 10) after your brave battle. But Reina and I still feel your spirit here in the apartment. My sweet lady.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 1933-2020
I am obsessed with a photo of artist Lucy Knisley.
So I had to sketch it in my journal.
Those eyes. That spirit. That talent.
I am, by my superficial definition, an ugly person.
“I often stood in front of the mirror alone, wondering how ugly a person could get.”
I embrace my aging and postmenopausal expansion of body.
More accurately- I am trying to embrace my aging, ugliness, and expanding irrelevant body but…
INSIDE I feel like Lucy in that photo.
OUTSIDE- old, grateful, done. An old comfortable, crumpled, filled with aches and pains, flesh envelope.
INSIDE- I am young. And beautiful. Like Lucy.
My mind dances. A happy sponge.
I’ll take it.
And I thank it.
One day it will be done.
Until then, I am grateful for it carrying me through this strange and exquisite life.
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
Thank you Anna for this transformative experience.
I had MANY strange dreams last night but one really strange one had me entering a suburban house in the midwest and walking upstairs and seeing my mom desperately vacuuming rugs and wall to wall carpeting. She lived there alone. She had all new decor- very Americana- none of our old stuff. Nothing recognizable at all. She kept vacuuming, looked up with angst on her face. Then Tobey, our old dog, walked up and vomited a cat-like hairball on the rug that she was vacuuming. She just kept vacuuming around it. We didn’t do our usual belly laughs. It just felt hopeless.
“Everything can happen. Everything is possible and probable. Time and space do not exist. On a flimsy framework of reality, the imagination spins, weaving new patterns.” – August Strindberg, A Dream Play
These two women- my great aunt Helga, and my aunt Siv, had the most compassionate impact on my life. Helga- she taught me to follow my heart- MY HEART. Mine. Siv- she taught me to stay neutral and in joy and embrace children as fully formed human beings to be celebrated, not moulded. I remember so much laughter. Siv died peacefully in her sleep last night at the hospital after a fall. I am so grateful I had a chance to talk deeply with her in June and we held each other and acknowledged it was likely the last time and we both just knew that it was ok. 🇸🇪♥️💐
Today is your birthday.
I open my journal to share something with you.
We met in dance class at university in 1983.
We found our way to each through dance, through arts and crafts, through books, through pie. And through letters.
We intertwined our bodies in the studio and on stage.
I regret we could not express our queerness and ace-ness in the eighties.
We were trying to fit into a heteronormative world. We had no role models.
We both clumsily lost ourselves and eventually each other.
I regret that I was not mature enough to be fully open with you.
I regret we lost touch as I was caring for my parents and going through hardships.
You died by suicide in 2007.
I regret I could not care for you when you were ill.
Thank you to artist María Hesse, whose art I am deeply inspired by. By interpreting and altering her work in my journals, I am able to process anxiety and depression.
“I think copying someone’s work is the fastest way to learn.” – Lynda Barry
“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
As a child, I desperately searched for characters in books that aligned with my anxious outward ways and my happy reclusive interior. Charlie Brown came close, but he was always seeking connection. I was seeking alone time. Like Charlie, school terrified and exhausted me. Home, my room, my books were my calming tools. I found many characters (especially in Astrid Lindgren’s works– like Lotta, Emil, Pippi) that I looked up to for their passion, ability to express anger, for their independent spirits.
There is one moment, however, in Pippi Longstocking that nailed it for me- when I felt Pippi and I were aligned- and I would read that scene over and over again. To this day, think about it often, and connect with it even more.
Annika was standing at the window of their room in pink pyjamas, looking over toward Villa Villekulla. “Look, I see Pippi!” she called out, delighted.
Tommy rushed over to the window too. Yes, there she was. Now that the trees didn’t have any leaves they could look right into Pippi’s kitchen.
Pippi was sitting at the table with her head propped against her arms. She was staring at the little flickering flames of a candle that was standing in front of her. She seemed to be dreaming.
“She– she looks so alone,” said Annika, and her voice trembled a little. “Oh, Tommy, of it were only morning do that we could go to her right away!”
They stood there in silence and looked out into the winter night. The stars shining over Villa Villekula’s roof. Pippi was inside. She would always be there. That was a comforting thought…
… And the most wonderful, comforting thought was that Pippi would always be in Villa Villekulla.
“If she would only look in this direction we could wave at her,” said Tommy.
But Pippi continued to stare straight ahead with a dreamy look. Then she blew out the light.
– Astrid Lindgren, Pippi in the South Seas (translated by Gerry Bothmer)
Decades are significant.
60 years ago my mother became a mother.
50 years ago we moved to Canada from Sweden.
50 years ago, my mother started to write letters home to Sweden.
30 years ago, my mother’s second grandchild was born.
10 years ago, I had my ear to my mother’s chest and listened as her heart slowed down and then stop. My brother held her face and guided her through. Surrounded by family. Her final exhale liberated her soul and I felt right then she flew straight down to San Francisco to be with my daughter who flew home ta few days later.
On this day, I am lucky enough to work from home and simply be in my space in peace and joy. I did what I learned so well from mamma- I cleaned the bathroom, did the dishes, mopped the floors (making sure to go behind the furniture).
I ate food so iconically mamma- pannkaka and cookies and egg.
Drank coffee. And bit into an apple.
The apple is significant.
Mamma’s full name is Karin Kristina Orwald (Thorsen).
The Emigrant Saga Series by Wilhelm Moberg has so many parallels to mamma’s journey. And the main character, Kristina, is wrapped in the metaphor her beloved apple tree at home in Sweden and on her death bed holds a ripe apple from her tree in Minnesota.
I remember that final year, when I mopped mom’s floors and she lay on her bed and we laughed and shared stories and talked about Pinesol.
I love you, Mamma.
This post is dedicated to my cousin, Dan Orwald, who passed away suddenly last week.
“If You Forget Me”
I want you to know
You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists:
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.
Karin Thorsen Sept. 17, 1936 – Nov. 8, 2008
It is hard to imagine that it is ten years since she passed. I wanted to write a letter to my mother on her birthday. The letter became a portrait, inspired from a photo my father took during their honeymoon. I chose to surround Mamma with her favorites: daisies, lily of the valley and chantarelles.
I hope the exit is joyful and I hope never to return. – Frida Kahlo
Nothing is absolute. Everything changes, everything moves, everything revolves, everything flies and goes away. – Frida Kahlo
Letters are among the most significant memorial a person can leave behind them.
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Why when I close my eyes and think about myself at a young age do I find myself immediately at the age of 6? What makes me go back to that little girl? That time?
These days I feel tears well up easily. Not of sadness, but of fullness. Today I walked home from the bus stop the long way via the heron nests. I stopped, breathing in the scent of blossoms, looking up at the springtime activity as the birds were busy showing off for each other, building nests. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all– my heart full, knowing that I am ready. That tonight I would finally commit to translating mom’s letters here in this sacred space of mine, my blog.
I don’t write this blog for anyone but myself. It is a depository. A way to journal. I only write it for me. Sharing it in the ether gives me perspective. I get a chance to step back. To process. So this is the place for me to translate the letters.
It is November, 1968.
My mom is 32 , the same age my daughter is now, and she is writing letters home to her best friends in Sweden. Newly arrived to Canada. And I am 6. And she is writing letters. And I have those letters in a pile here. I have had them since December 2013. I have only read the first one.
From what I see, as I sift through them, is that they are positive reflections of a young mother sitting at the kitchen table, likely children in bed, or at school, scratching out a connection to her best friends back home. So why have I left the package untouched in my bookshelf on top of my father’s drawings all this time? Me- the person that voraciously sifts through historical documents?
What is it that makes me well up in tears as I make this commitment now to go through the letters? What is it I am grieving? Remembering?
That young woman at the kitchen table, writing to her best friends. The words flowing out of her mind, onto paper, into envelope, into mailbox, over the ocean, into her friends’ hand, 45 years later back into envelope, back across the ocean, into my hands.
Mom’s first letter to her friends was written the day after we arrived in Canada (we arrived October 31, 1968). Today’s letter was written a few days later.
I was so damn mad- the freezer has mould, so I have stood with my head in it all day scrubbing. [We had that freezer until 2004]. I guess I didn’t wipe it dry properly and it has been developing mould for 5 weeks. Now, at least, it is ship-shape. We have now furnished and decorated the house and as usual every corner is full. It actually turned out really well. I am so mad at this wall-to-wall carpeting they have here. They get dirty just by looking at them.
If you only knew how gorgeous it is to lie on the bed and look out the bedroom window. All the mountaintops were totally white this morning. The restaurant [at the top of Grouse Mountain] is always all lit up. The gondola is not far from here. There is also park not far from here with mysterious totems for the kids and a suspension bridge that swings too darn much.
There are quite lovely things all over the place here. It is funny that in the house next door there is a two year old girl named Nickolina. Fredrik’s head is spinning [our friends’ son in Sweden, also 2 at the time, is named Niklas]. Fredrik, by the way, is still saying “damn” whenever something happens. He throws the toothbrush in the toilet every morning and looks at me and there comes the long drawn out “daaaaaaamn.” I am not buying anymore toothbrushes until he stops that.
The meat here is so cheap and juice of all sorts cost just a few cents per can. Other than that, things are pretty much the same. Please say hello to everyone at the grocery store, by the way. I bet there is loss of revenue now that I am not shopping there for hundreds of dollars every month.
How is Rolf doing without me? Hope he doesn’t fall out too badly. Roar is connecting a lamp today and is swearing as nothing fits and he is saying, “What a stupid country.” You know how he gets when he is going to do something.
Have any bills arrived? Please let me know if funds are needed. (Of course, I mean not regarding you!) It is a long weekend here, so Roar has three days off. I guess we will head home to [?] if you don’t invite us on Saturday? How goes the pyramid scheme?
Do you know that we have 11 channels here to choose from every evening? We are up to our necks with TV but I have to say there are some beautiful movies. They run from 10 in the morning to 5-6 AM the next day.
A response is requested within the next three years, otherwise it is too late.
PS. Kiss the kids. Would give a million dollars to look after them while you are at the gym.
On January 31, 2018, a beloved landmark and one of my most favorite places on the planet, Salmagundi West, will close its doors at its current location.
No words suffice for my gratitude for this shop and for Anne Banner.
The objects I have collected from the shop and have been gifted from Anne and the times I have spent there continue to inspire my creative process on a daily basis.
The shop, the objects, the ghosts, Anne- all embody MAGIC.
[Click on image to go to links. They are each filled with photos and wonderful memories from my times there]
I was joined by Jocelyn Louise (who portrays Molly) and stylist Jay Fisher…
… and my daughter Anna Thorsen who took the main shots (to be shared in the book).
Here are some moments I captured. The focus for me was to emulate Molly’s restless travels.
Where dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water-rats;
There we’ve hid our faery vats,
Full of berries
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s morefull of weeping than you
The Stolen Child, WB Yeats
He brushed the leaves aside and uncovered the most baffling double murder Vancouver has ever had.
– The Vancouver Province April 15, 1953
In honor of Claudia Camille
September 14, 1964- February 26, 2007
It is my dance partner’s birthday today.
We were science students and dancers together at the University of British Columbia. I met Claudia Camille in dance class in 1983 and we formed a duo dance troupe, Principia, choreographing and performing around Vancouver. We revelled in all things creative (dance, arts, literature, science), in all traditional crafts and baking, in pies, fresh cut flowers, clove oranges, dried flowers, knitting, letters, in our European heritages, in making life cozy.
Claudia became a pharmacist, but she took a big step to pursue her love for the book arts and enrolled in full-time art school in Portland in the late 90’s.
She changed her name to Claudia Camille in honor of her favorite artist:
Claudia was so gifted. SO GIFTED. Her meticulous rich work embraced both deep introspection and dedication to tradition and craft. She created exquisite handmade books that I will feature over the next while. I collect the treasures in a box.
She was diagnosed with (what I believe was primary-progressive) multiple sclerosis (she went steadily downhill physically) and tragically lost her ability to work, to create. With her severely debilitated condition, she took many months to write a 14-page last letter. The letter was sent out to her network by her family after she passed.
It is filled with pain, love, anger, sadness, despair, determination, truth. HER TRUTH. She chose to take her own life, on her own terms 10 years ago. But because of legalities, she had to be alone.
I worked with my therapist, in 2007, to work through the letter step by step- I recall extending the session to two hours- and I knew that day, my therapist and I were done our work together.
We crossed a threshold that was both liberating and bittersweet- crying together, honoring Claudia, processing to help me let go of my guilt for not being able to care for her in her final years (I was caring for my parents).
Two of my Frida panels are dedicated to Claudia:
In memory of my sweet friend and dance partner, Claudia, I am sharing her infamous CRANBERRY ORANGE pie recipe:
300 ml flour
150 g butter (room temp) YES actual butter
Mix all ingredients and form into dough. Let rest wrapped in plastic in fridge about 30 min before rolling out.
450 g whole cranberries
Orange rind from two oranges (or lemons)
Squeeze the juice from the oranges onto top th e cranberries too
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup sugar
Brush pie crust with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar
Bake at 350-375º F until cranberries sizzle with juices and pie crust is golden brown!
I have the pleasure of working with an extraordinary group of individuals at Mulberry PARC doing art projects that range from drawing, interactive art, sock animals and group painting/quilt! We have had 5 sessions so far and, at this point, confirmed 10 more that will take us into November!
My goal with the art sessions is to not only teach fun arts and crafts techniques to the students, but to build connections and provide a safe and healing space. My students are very courageous, daring to dive into challenging work, working through frustrations, laughing at the outcomes, letting go of attachment to personal projects in order to create group pieces, embracing challenges such as hearing and sight issues, arthritic hands, and anxiety- being present and curious in the moment and meeting it all with a sense of humour! I am very honoured to spend time with each and every one and treasure the experience and grateful to the Mulberry staff for inviting me!
The evolution of the panels:
I am celebrating Frida Kahlo‘s birthday!
Although her birth certificate says she was born on July 6, 1907, Frida Kahlo told people her date of birth was July 7, 1910. She allegedly did so not to seem younger but simply because she loved her home country, according to The Life and Times of Frida Kahlo filmmaker Amy Stechler. Kahlo adopted a 1910 birthday so that her birth would coincide with the Mexican Revolution and the start of a modern Mexico. [source]
Today’s Frida Study:
(2005) The Diary of Frida Kahlo- an intimate self-portrait. Abrams, New York, in association with La Vaca Independiente S.A. de C.V.
Thank you LAURA MACK for this profound and beautiful gift. It means the world to me.
Journal entry re: Frida:
Frida and the 7 chakras
Seventh Chakra CROWN: Spiritual Centre, Enlightenment– central nervous system, muscular system, skin. I am; I understand.
Sixth Chakra THIRD EYE: Wisdom, intuition, visualization– brain, neurological system, eyes, ears, nose. I know; I think.
Fifth Chakra THROAT: Communication, inner voice, truth, creativity- thyroid, esophagus, trachea, mouth, jaw, teeth, neck, vertebrae. I speak; I express.
Fourth Chakra HEART: Love, compassion, unconditional love, hope, forgiveness– circulatory system, ribs, breast, thymus gland, lungs, shoulders, arms, hands, diaphragm. I love.
Third Chakra SOLAR PLEXUS: Power centre, manifestation, self-confidence, esteem– stomach, pancreas, adrenals, upper intestines, liver, gall bladder, middle spine. I can; I do.
Second Chakra SACRAL: Creativity, sexuality, money, career, power, joy– sexual organs, large intestine, lower vertebrae, pelvis, hip area, urinary bladder. I feel; I want.
First Chakra ROOT: Survival, security, family, connections, instinct– spinal column, rectum, legs, bones, feet, energizes body, increase overall health. I do; I am.
I think that little by little I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.
– Frida Kahlo
Today’s angel card[s]:
Only do not forget, if I wake up crying it’s only because in my dream I’m a lost child hunting through the leaves of the night for your hands… – Pablo Neruda
Journal entry November 8, 2016:
8 years ago today, my little brother held my mother’s face and spoke sweetly, guiding my mother. I laid my right ear on her chest and I heard her heart slow then stop. A last sigh. Then she flew. She became everything.
Oh how I love you, Mamma. I see you more and more in my face, in my body. I welcome each sag, each wrinkle, each change in my bones. Your fingers are my fingers (on my right hand), your laugh is mine (and the parrot’s), your worn out recipe book has butter and flour stains and smells like your kitchen. When I hold Henrik and Vivienne, I feel you holding them as well. You whirl around the family and your spirit and love fills the room.
I still reach for the phone to call you. I want to talk about cleaners and the latest soup recipe with you. I want to have you lie on your bed with Asterix as I sort your closet and we laugh at sweaters we have held on to. I want to hop in the car with you and Tobey or Tina or Milton and walk for hours in the forest hunting for mushrooms.
I want to pull out all my Molly research and discuss it with you, head to Molly’s grave and have a picnic. I want to cook with you as the kids lounge in your bedroom watching cartoons. I want to pull out the furniture and dust behind the couch and weed the garden as we gossip and laugh. I want to spend full days in Fort Langley.
I no longer pursue your dreams on your behalf; I pursue mine as you truly always wanted me to do.
You feared to lose me, but you never did.
And as I become more and more myself, I become more and more your love.
Look at the legacy you created.
You are love. You are beauty. You are motherhood. You are the greatest mystery.
I need to process you. I want to write about you.
September 17, 1936 – November 8, 2008
Wow. Emily Cowan, comic book artist, has just completed an extraordinary book:
What a beautiful journey it has been to dive into Paige’s teenage life. My cheeks prickle with familiarity– those hot-nosed, overly self-conscious struggles of a 15 year old.
The book is deceptively gentle, masterfully rendered.
DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND READ THIS GORGEOUS BOOK!
Emily’s decision to create a webcomic has been a huge influence on my own work.
But the journey is not over!
In the words of Emily:
Thank you so much for reading, for sticking with me when I updated late, for encouraging me and supporting me.
I’m so glad I got to share this, my first full-length comic, with you, my sweet readers from the beginning and all the new ones who joined in along the way. I can’t believe anyone read along at all, and the fact that so many of you did is something I can’t even believe.
The future of Boundary: I’m going to be Kickstarting a book, so keep watching this space for news about that! The archives will stay here, free to read any time. And in the meantime you can follow new comic news at my twitter or instagram.
If you like, you can support my Patreon, where I’ve been posting journal comics every day, and will be sharing sketches and plans for upcoming projects.
Thank you all again.
And thank you especially to Julian, without whom I couldn’t have done this. – Emily Cowan
I can’t wait to PHYSICALLY hold that book in my hands.
Hella cool queer brat who makes a comic about sad teens!
SUPPORT EMILY COWAN ON PATREON:
(posted with permission from author)
Portrait of Sophia (Katarina Thorsen, 2016):
So, I’ve been doing a lot of chatting in the past few days about my passion project: Molly- a true crime analysis:
I’ve been chatting, speaking, blabbing, vomiting words with friends and family about it, at the dinner table, over the phone, even on the radio—
Check out my INTERVIEW about Molly- a true crime analysis from January 20, 2017 Radio Interview on ESSENCEtial Conversations CJSF 90.1 FM with hosts Rebecca Mears (catchingfire.ca) and Lucca Hallex (powersourcerer.com):
Somehow, I have NO PROBLEM chatting away here on this blog, sharing verbosity without fear—
And I have no problem, indeed it is my mission, encouraging others to speak as I capture dialogue of participants when I mind map and co-faciliate- I want to make it safe for you to speak freely—
Then why- when I speak out loud, sharing my passion, does a voice inside my head try to shush me? Why does this voice tell me I am talking too much? Why is it telling me to not take up airspace, to not waste people’s time? Who is that voice? Why is it asking me to be apologetic? Is it still that teen that wanders around aimlessly in my brain?
But, on this weekend, of all weekends, as millions of women (and supporters) MARCHED- why would I listen to that voice? What events in my past have trained me to listen to that voice at all?
Instead of marching Saturday morning here in Vancouver, I was busy finalizing my latest section of Molly. I knew that for me, working on Molly was the “march” I personally needed to do for myself- to fulfill this commitment I have made.
So shush, wandering teen, you shush. For I need to SPEAK FREELY. Without restraint, constraint. I deserve it.
“Continue to embrace the things that make you unique even if it makes others uncomfortable. You are enough. And whenever you’re feeling doubt, whenever you want to give up, you must always remember to choose freedom over fear.” – Janelle Monae at Women’s March on Washington, January 20, 2017.
Being Swedish, I was raised surrounded by beautiful handwoven cloths. When I think about Sweden, I see looms.
Textile art is in my DNA. My mother loved to tell me stories about my great grandmother– my name sake, Brita. Brita raised so many children with little money. She’d walk to town and check out the latest fashions in the store windows, then go home and weave the fabric and sew the outfits for her children. Her kids were the only ones at their school that brought along PE strips- cleanliness and freshness always tantamount (a trait my mother inherited). Sadly, her daughter Kristina, my grandmother, died when I was two. But my great aunts Helma, Alma and Helga were a huge influence on my love of crafting. I would love our visits, mesmerized by Helma’s loom in her loom room, Alma’s tapestries, Helga’s button collection.
I love the collection of threads, humble bits, woven together. Cloth is sacred. Humble, yet showy.
The art of the bird is to conceal its nest both as to position and as to material, but now and then it is betrayed into weaving into its structure showy and bizarre bits of this or that, which give its secret away and which seem to violate all the traditions of its kind. – John Burroughs
As we process life, whether we do it well or badly, elegantly or clumsily, our experiences weave a tapestry that colors our personality. It’s a strong, beautiful un-anticipated, splendidly imperfect design.
Check out my weaving journal exercise:
I keep a large basket of family heirlooms, like this runner. Our family has shared so many meals on this woven cloth, spilled on it, used it to play, washed it over and over:
This Christmas, I was gifted a beautiful DOMESTIC INTERVENTION CO. handwoven scarf from my soul-sister, Patti Henderson.
I was MESMERIZED. All my childhood memories flooding back as I held the delicate fabric. I am in awe of this Vancouver artist and her product.
CHECK IT OUT:
DOMESTIC INTERVENTION CO. by artist TRUCKSTOPCUTIE:
Check out DOMESTIC INTERVENTION CO. on Instagram:
Aaaaaaah- a loom room!!! DREAMY
About saying yes to life, every part of your life, and finding how to weave them all together.
― Lucy H. Pearce,
In November 2007, Dr. Ebrahim sat knee to knee with my mother. I was on the other side of the little examination room. I recall it was a sunny day. I think it was. Grouse Mountain shone in the background. I think it did. The room seemed turquoise. Friendly.
We found a mass in your pancreas.
My immediate thought went to Michael Landon. For some reason when he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died shortly after in 1991, it stuck with me. I knew pancreatic was the worst word to hear when associated with cancer.
“The pancreas represents your ability to digest the ‘sweetness of life’. It reflects your feelings and behaviour in relation to responsibility, particularly how you feel about taking responsibility for your own happiness and that of others. Therefore, the state of the pancreas reveals how well you flourish in life, how successful you feel and how joyful you are in your life experience.” – source
We found a mass in your pancreas.
I took notes, we scheduled an ultrasound… but I don’t recall having a heart to heart with mom about the possibilities. I just recall starting a binder. Creating an action plan.
There is so much to write about mom, but for now it suffices to say that we entered what would be our final year together, renewed, wide-eyed, love in our hearts.
It was a year of appointments, insulin shots, chemo, spending precious time with family, laughing in waiting rooms, shopping, cooking even though she couldn’t eat… her final thanksgiving, just a few weeks before she passed- she put on makeup, did her hair, celebrated- a very frail little bird. Fiercely alive.
The Pancreas is the main organic structure that processes the emotion of fear because its function is to maintain the stability of the organism and any threat at the emotional or physical level can cause a structural imbalance entire system. Because the Pancreas is intimately connected with the physiology of the Soul through the fields of emotion and primary feelings, and indirectly to the nervous system, any violent emotion or attack received by the organism will immediately paralyze the digestion, consequently affecting the production of insulin and the liver. It is at the Pancreas level that occurs an evaluation and separation of what elements, emotions, and circumstances are proper for the being, and how the changes may have to be made for the continual survival of the organism. – source
Last night I could not sleep. Processing so much change of late. Positive change, sad change, epic change, all kinds of change.
The clock ticked— midnight, 1 AM, 2 AM, 3 AM, 3:30 AM. 3:40 AM— I got up and peed, drank water, drank orange juice. Wandered. Wrestled with blankets. In some weird stupor of processing. My heart didn’t feel heavy or anxious- just weird, unsettled- thoughts swirling about my mother, about pancreatic cancer, about what I should have done, could have done, should have said.
I must have been in a twilight state as I kept envisioning an eel-like serpent swirling around my heart…
To see a sea serpent in your dream represents an emotional transformation. – source
Sleep eluded me, so I finally turned on my reading light and pulled out a book from my current reading pile:
When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi (a gift from Patti Henderson).
The bookmark lay at p. 100— I began to read where I left off. Strangely there it was again, pancreatic…
All day today that image of the serpent swirling has stayed with me.
That slithering pancreatic serpent.
Historically, serpents and snakes represent fertility or a creative life force. As snakes shed their skin through sloughing, they are symbols of rebirth, transformation, immortality, and healing. – source
The five-year pancreatic cancer survival rate has increased to 9 percent, according to a report released today by the American Cancer Society:
“210 years later, Eliza Hamilton’s orphanage — now a family services agency called Graham Windham — is still helping kids get their shot. Graham Windham serves over 4,500 kids and families each year. Just like Eliza’s husband, these kids survived a tough start in life. Graham Windham provides services like family counseling and treatment, after school academic support, health services, and other services that help kids thrive into adulthood.”
I am SO EXCITED to be connecting with this incredible organization that is so aligned with all my passion and values.
I am buzzing with excitement that plans are in the works to bring sock monkey therapy and creative engagement to Graham Windham when I visit NYC July 2017 (when I go see Hamilton: An American Musical with my daughter who gifted me a ticket! AAAAAAH!!!).
Her eyes “betokened a sharp intelligence [and] a fiercely indominable spirit,” [Ron] Chernow writes in the biography. – smithsonian.com
Grieving, but now out of her husband’s shadow, Elizabeth threw herself into charity work inspired by her Christian faith and her husband’s upbringing. She and two other women founded the Orphan Asylum Society, New York City’s first private orphanage, in 1806. She served as its second directress until 1821 and then first directress until 1848, raising funds, collecting donated goods, and supervising the care and education of at least 765 children. – smithsonian.com
Spreading sock monkey love is one of my favorite things:
Look for Part 1A on January 15, 2017
An analysis in 5-acts.
… to dissolve the very boundaries between fact and fiction, life and art, memory and imagining. The result would be a five-act narrative tragedy comprised of materials gathered from everything from journal, diary, memoir, novel, poem, play, to mission order, policy document, news report, popular song, G.I. anecdote, advertising slogan, and latrine graffito.
– Philip D. Beidler on John Clark Pratt’s Vietnam Voices
Circumstantial, physical and genealogical evidence converge in multiple timelines.
How do you escape from a convincing story? After enough repetitions, the facts come to serve the story and not the other way around. – Errol Morris
I began working on this PASSION PROJECT in 2003 when I was a volunteer criminal profiler on the Babes in the Wood task force in Vancouver, Canada. And I have been working on it ever since.
But I have come to a crossroads.
That tap on the shoulder was a message. I knew I needed to pay attention. And I have been.
thinking hoping the message was:
“Await the magic moment when a publisher responds, or that phone call comes from that lead down south…”
Sitting on the dock with lines in the water…
But no- I knew in my heart that my HOPE was actually blocking my ability to truly listen.
So I sat down with my main character the other day.
I asked Molly- what do you want from me?
I raged at myself- walked the lagoon, again and again-
… sitting with the questions, still awaiting news from publishers, producers.
Awaiting the signal to restart the manuscript- its parts all laid out and ready. Yet- feeling a nagging churning in my heart and gut that this is not how I naturally work.
Then- AH HA!
Molly pushed me off the dock into the water.
I AWOKE from my stupor!
Molly- who was an ACTUAL LIVING BREATHING HUMAN between 1924-1947, who reached out across time and space and grabbed my heart, asking me to tell her story, whose life I have pieced together from research, who seems to guide the show if I am willing to let go of what I thought it should look like- has made it so clear to me that—
I need to start telling the story in my way.
It wasn’t the right time before. I have uncovered new things.
But it is also no longer OK to wait.
Narratives are ubiquitous. They are part of the way people see the world, part of the way people think. All of us. Myself included. Without them we would be overwhelmed, with undigested, raw facts. But that doesn’t mean that all narratives are created equal. There is fiction, and there is nonfiction. And one of the differences between fiction and fact is that a fictional character is controlled by its creator. It has no reality off the page… It is easy to confuse a search for revealing plot details with a search for evidence. But there is a difference. In one case, we are wandering through a landscape of words. In the other, we are in the physical world. – Errol Morris
And so, me, the creator am controlled by the non-fiction character, Molly.
23 sections (two parts per section) released over 45 weeks.
January 15-November 5, 2017
The work is presented in an experimental graphic novel form.
… a crime analysis to determine the general characteristics of the most likely suspect for the crime. – Henry Lee, Crime Scene Investigation (1994)
Vancouver’s ultimate cold case…
– Eve Lazarus, author of Cold Case Vancouver: the city’s most baffling unsolved murders
Katarina Thorsen’s work Molly weaves empirical discovery and her own imagination. While many people know of the tragic deaths of the two children from the Babes in the Wood case, Thorsen introduces another tragic death in Vancouver history near the same time, that of a young woman named Molly, whose demise was a brief and lurid headline back in the day. It is a story about history and mystery, and how these two tragic stories intersect- or don’t- as the case may be.
– Pamela Post, journalist, 2015
THIS IS A WORK IN PROGRESS AND I WILL INCLUDE YOU IN MY JOURNEY.
AS MY MANUSCRIPT UNFOLDS, I WILL SHARE THE PROCESS WEEK TO WEEK STARTING WITH WEBSITE LAUNCH JANUARY 15, 2017
It will unfold as it should in the only way I know how. It will be workshopped, if you will.
“History is so subjective. The teller of it determines it.“ – Lin Manuel Miranda
“Don’t figure it out. Create it.” – Maryam Hasnaa
I love the evolution of the street art creative process- the pasting of original art and letting it go into the world…
Like the journey of my Frida angel pasted on Valencia Street, San Francisco, three plus years ago:
August 24, 2013 (photo by Anna Thorsen)
November 28, 2016 (photo by Anna Thorsen)
What motivates someone to put something out into the world? Why do it?
– Keri Smith
And what motivates me to draw Frida? Over and over and over again…
Is it meditation?
Is it an anxiety tool?