This daily archiving series is about organizing and dating my journal collection, as well as acknowledging the self-directed violence as important therapeutic shadow work.
Today’s journal spans poignant time. My father, Roar Thorsen, was unwinding and had just a few months left to live. We shared a deep friendship. We were working hard on our book knowing time was of essence.
Wow. October 25, 2018 will mark the sixth year since my father passed away. I am so aware of all the dates in October… so aware that he was winding down.
Interestingly, more October connections: on October 12, 2005 (13 years ago), my father drew for the first time after his life threatening stroke (September 21, 2005).
My father, the Viking, my greatest cheerleader, infused in me the joy of creating, the joy of hard work and the importance of never giving up.
And so we wrote a book together. And on October 15, 2012, as he was navigating the fog of morphine, surrounded by reminder posters on the wall as to where he was and what year it was, we pressed send to the publisher. We marked the occasion by signing the inside of our favourite book that inspired the project.
On October 25, 2012, the morning of the day he passed, I played this Swedish lullaby, sung by his favourite actor, into his left ear. Over and over again. Sleep, my little heart.
Six years. Why does it feel so significant?
In our Viking heritage/ Norse mythology, the number 6 represents the leash Gleipner.
Gleipnir was the name of the super strong leash used to hold the dreadful Fenrir Wolf. The Fenrir Wolf was one the monstrous children of the trickster god Loki. The dwarfs had made this extraordinary leash.
The Fenrir Wolf only agreed to try the leash if Tyr put his hand in his mouth. The wolf bit off the right hand of the god Tyr. Tyr gave his name to Tuesday. Gleipnir consisted of six items:
1. The sound of a cat walking
2. The beard of a woman
3. The roots of a mountain
4. The sinews of a bear
5. The breath of a fish
6. The spit of a bird
The Vikings explained that the Gleipnir was the reason these six items no longer existed. The Fenrir Wolf will not break loose from Gleipnir before Ragnarok (the end of the world). source
I kind of see my father as Fenrir and the stroke as Gleipnir. And my father has broken free now, and devoured Odin. But there is so much significance to this myth that I will write about at a later date.
What makes you breathe in and breathe out in a full-hearted way?
For me it is ART.
And so it was for my Dad.
I was so blessed to witness the healing power of art as my Dad thrived at his extended care facility, carving out a life for himself. He had purpose, routine, passion. He had reclaimed his emotional life through art. And he created till the end. With a full heart. What can be greater than that? Wow. Deep breath of gratitude.
2. Capture chapter highlights:
Our story opens with the last breath and closes with the first…
The last breath of life leaving the body behind. The connection severed between the light body and the heavy body. The end of this life…
Let yourself die. Let go now. Hold to nothing. Trust the process…
Float free in your original spaciousness…
Watch as something slowly approaches. It is the first breath of life.
– Stephen Levine
3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:
I was screaming into the canyon At the moment of my death The echo I created Outlasted my last breath
My voice it made an avalanche And buried a man I never knew And when he died his widowed bride Met your daddy and they made you
I have only one thing to do and that’s To be the wave that I am and then Sink back into the ocean
This panel– I copied a panel from the book and drew it with china marker and oil pastels and olive oil of Siberian Pine– is so comforting for me as it reminds me of the beauty of caring for my parents. It eases my heart.
Read this book!!!!!
2. Capture chapter highlights:
What words would you actually utter as you expelled your last breath?
This stage of growth, of looking ourselves squarely in the eye and recognizing the work still necessary to become whole, the hearts to be touched, the amends to be made, and the thank-you cards to be sent, is painful and life-expanding for everyone…
Prepare now for death so as to intensify and fulfill your life. Don’t imagine your endorphins are going to do it for you “when the time comes.” When the time actually comes, what is found then will be what is found now…
We die the way we live.
3. Explore another source regarding listening to the messages from the heart:
“He smelled the garden, the yellow shield of light smote his eyes, and he whispered, “Life is so beautiful.”
Yes, he thought, if I can die saying, “Life is so beautiful,” then nothing else is important.”
― Mario Puzo, The Godfather
4. Today’s angel card(s):
You can read the book I created with my father here:
I love family. And we have shared so much- all the life markers, the ups and downs of life and through it all there is that special glue that connects us.
We had an impromptu get together at my place on Saturday- somehow ALL of us (niece, nephew, brothers, sister in laws, daughter, son, daughter in love, parrot) were together in my creative mayhem- my crowded delirious delicious chaos.
It’s not unusual for us to get together, but this day felt a bit deeper and very special. I was so aware of a feeling I couldn’t name- joy, love, gratitude, what?
I looked around as I sat sewing my nephew’s Cookie Monster costume and smiled, watching the hurricane of activity as everyone ranging in age from toddler to adult was talking at once, doing something, playing with something, eating chicken! ribs! cupcakes!, being real loud and hilarious.
Chaos meets chaos in the name of LOVE! I felt the strong presence of mom and dad and that they were celebrating with us. Celebrating family. I felt Tobey’s spirit walking around snuffling for scraps.
And I really had this sense that we were drawn togetherfor a reason– if nothing else than to just BE together. But in my heart I felt there was something more. I had a smile on my face all Sunday and just had to send a message of love and gratitude to the family today, acknowledging there was something magical about it. It definitely was not a typical family dinner. The palpable connection and vibe harkened back to our vigils around Mom and Dad during their final days. We were all together celebrating our connections.
And so now, we cut to about an hour ago and I receive a message from my cousin in Stockholm that my mom’s brother, my uncle Olle, passed away peacefully on Saturday surrounded by family.
Is this why we were drawn together on Saturday!?
It’s amazing- a family drawn together. Souls celebrating, acknowledging.
My uncle was so funny, so loving. The rest of us were frequently doubled over in laughter. And often woken by his late night cook offs in the kitchen. I recall he was so worried that I would get lost in 1984 when I hopped on the train to visit my friend outside of Stockholm. When I arrived at Huddinge station, he was sitting in his car, ensuring I had arrived OK. In 2009, when my son and I were taking the bus to visit my cousins at their summer cottage, Olle walked us to the bus stop, bought the tickets and thrust chocolate bars in our hands for the trip. He loved history and he influenced my love for American literature- introducing me to the likes of Miller and Heller.
Photo by my son Julian Bowers of my uncle during our visit in 2009. Olle looks out his apartment window over Stortorget in Stockholm.
Say hi to Mamma and Pappa, Olle.
An homage by my son, Julian:
My great uncle Olle passed away on Saturday.
I only met him once during the half a week I was in Stockholm, but he was a really wonderful and warm person and he was one of the many things that made my trip to Sweden in 2009 so phenomenal.
A story mom’s fond of telling is his bashing around in the kitchen at three in the morning to make himself a full dinner. I can relate to this habit.
When I went to Stockholm, he was living across from the Nobel Museum. “See that place?” he asked me. “Yeah, I went there yesterday,” I said. “I’ve never been there in my life,” he laughed. “OUR FAMILY HAS HAD THIS PLACE FOR TWENTY YEARS,” I said. “I’ve been meaning to go.” “IT’S…RIGHT THERE.” “Ehh, I’m not in a rush.”
I always thought that story was funny, but in hindsight, I appreciated the fact that he wasn’t too concerned about rushing in to doing things if it wasn’t necessary. It doesn’t matter if he ever went or not, he was obviously relaxed and satisfied with how his life was going and it was wonderful to see someone content with the flow of life as opposed to fighting it. He was a comforting human being to be around, just judging from the few days I was able to see him.
I took this photo of him in his apartment.
Dedicated to Olof Orwald and Aunt Siv, cousins Annika, Dan, Gunilla, Tom and their families.
Interestingly, today it is 48 years since my family arrived in Canada:
This is such a beautiful tender time of the year for me. The autumn is both a time of loss and renewal. My parents passed in the autumn, yet autumn is a time of new possibilities and fresh starts.
Life/ death. The extremes?
Or two sides of the same coin or exactly the same? For isn’t one simply the other? Is the dark abyssbefore birth and after death simply the same graceful infinity that unites EVERY thing in this finite universe?
The overhead horizon. They want to say something, the dead.
They smoke but don’t eat, they don’t breathe but still have their voices.
I’ll hurry through the streets as if I’m one of them.
The darkening cathedral, heavy as a moon, ebbs and flows.
– Tomas Tranströmer, Deep in Europe from For the Living and the Dead (translated from original Swedish by Don Coles)
Avlyssnad horisont. De vill säga något, de döda.
De röker men äter inte, de andas inte men har rösten kvar.
Jag kommer att skynda genom gatorna som en av dem.
Den svartande katedralen, tung som en måne, gör ebb och flod.
– Tomas Tranströmer, Djupt i Europa from För levande och döda.
Recalling this time of year with my father:
October 11, 2012
Dad and I spent the evening in emergency to replace his catheter. We watched the debate and laughed and talked about life.
October 12, 2005
Dad’s first sketch after his September 21, 2005 stroke:
October 13, 2012
My father is dying. I accept it. He unwinds before me. I let him go. But losing my best friend is more painful than I anticipated.
October 15 2012
My father’s last writing:
And though at times, the wave hits me and that drowning saudade washes over me, I know that without the grounding of loss, I would not have the air with which to fly.
Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. – George Eliot
IN THE MIDST OF COMMUNITY CENTRE ACTIVITY, WITH KIDS PLAYING BASKETBALL AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS OF ALL AGES WALKING THROUGH, DRAWN TOGETHER WORKED OUT BEAUTIFULLY. WE HAD THREE TABLES SET UP IN THE HALLWAY(!) AND THERE WAS A GREAT TURNOUT! THE BUSYNESS WAS INVIGORATING AND PARTICIPANTS WERE AMAZING!
HUGE THANK YOU TO ALISON DONNELLY WHO FACILITATED THE COLLAGE PORTION!
My father’s last pencil box. It will remain untouched. It contains his favorite drawing tools like the black pencil crayon and his instant coffee spoon and his rolled up hand towel that he used to brush eraser bits away.
I went into Staples today and felt the weight of missing Dad. He and I loved shopping for stationary together.
I miss our coffee dates and his to-do lists, but I am ready for the next chapter. Ready to keep going.
What makes an object sacred? Write about it for 15 minutes. Draw. Add thought bubbles. Pull out key words from your journal entry.
Join me on for BIG DRAW VANCOUVER on October 1 2016 10:30 AM-12:30 PM PT at Strathcona Community Centrein Vancouver BC (601 Keefer) as I host a two hour drawing session!
My fabulous artist friend, Alison Donnelly, will be co-hosting!
Try out chinamarkers on newsprint, add to a community art project using wheatpaste, join in as I run through some simple drawing lessons! You can finish some of my pre-prepped drawings, or draw whatever you like!
The OWL is a POWERFUL image and I use it all the time in my work.
The form of the OWL itself is very conducive to teaching the principles of drawing.
The direction quickly create an engaging and intense gaze, drawing both the student and the observer in.
By Aug 24, I’ll have led approx 225 people ages 10-92 through the O.W.L. drawing exercise since June 2! It’s not just about drawing… It’s about paying attention to the inner critic and anxiety, about empathy. Connection. It’s about observe/wait/listen and reflective listening. We share the room, use the same tools, hear the same instructions, all equal, and yet delight in all the differences.
“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” – Henry David Thoreau