Why do I keep the journals?  Is there any value in the pain contained within?

Why have I kept all my journals/sketchbooks?

Yes- they are filled with sprinklings of magical memories about raising children- that is definitely the best part.  But they are also filled with extraordinary pain, confusion, stupidity…

I pull out an old journal from 1991, and sit and smile and laugh as I find little scrawls about the kids, but then turn the pages and my heart is ripped out of my chest as I so desperately tried to make sense of what didn’t make sense.  Letters from my family that sting my cheeks.  I lacked tools and experience to navigate the relationships in my life.  I did the best I could, but how did that affect my children?

So why do I keep the journals?  Is there any value in the pain contained within along with the scratchings of creative process, or even those happy memories?  Is the vice that strangles my heart when I turn the pages strengthened by me keeping them?

I have dragged them with me so many years.  From place to place.

Is it time to let them go?  And if so- how?  One big purge and never look back?

They do prove I have tried my best, that I, even in the darkest despair, scrape pen on paper to remind myself- I AM HERE.  I AM HERE.

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“Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.” – JOAN DIDION

On Autumnal endings and beginnings in October

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 abyss before 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



Read Drawn Together (free PDF):


Can we look at sad rants in our journals in a new way?

No doubt my collection of 300 + journals, sketchbooks and image-idea files are filled with more sad rants than with positive day-to-day activities.

For many of us, our journals are a safe harbour in which to deposit racing thoughts- a place of privacy in which to address the darkness that we all struggle with from time to time.

This blog is often that safe journaling haven for me.

It is a way for me to demystify the darkness for myself- and thereby, perhaps, demystify it for my readers as well.  Maybe, by sharing the good, along with the bad, I bring some lightness in and create connection.

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I am driven to drawn dead birds.  Perhaps this is sad ranting through drawing.

Dead sparrow found outside the LGH cafeteria, 2012:


Recall: my post from Feb 20, 2016:

To me, the journal is an essential vomitorium, a depository, a giant worry doll that contains it, holds it- allows for LETTING GO.  It allows me to make sense.

Dead heron, Stanley Park, 2014

Also recall in my post from Feb 20, 2016:

It is evident that the journal was a depository of ramblings to quiet the brain- at the time I felt INSANE and incoherent- but now in retrospect I actually seem to make some sense. Though I want to yell at the woman I was then- for I seemed incapable of seeing the truth behind what was happening, I can now see that I, in the end, worked through to the truth on my own- I worked it out. I GOT IT.


So can we look at these sad rants in a new way?  Read between the lines and yes- accept the words for their face value, but try to find the positive?

For example, on March 2, 2016, I wrote:

What if I stopped caring about ANYTHING?  

This can be read, and indeed it was written during a panic attack, as alarming.  But really- is it not simply about SURRENDER? 

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Maybe it goes the other way as well.  Maybe by looking past the positive veneer, peeling it back, we can perhaps get some answers as to what is really lurking underneath.

… through the sunny cellophane of which not very appetizing frustrations can be readily distinguished. – Vladimir Nabokov

Of course, let’s not forget that sometimes positive is actually positive, and negative is just really about a shitty sad day- nothing more, nothing less!

The key, I feel,  is to spew it out, record it, acknowledge it and, if so inclined, take time to look at it in a different way.

Anyway, I am rambling here.  Not sad ranting– rambling.  But today, I want to celebrate my not very anonymous sad rants.  I celebrate that I am driven to put pen to paper!

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Turning point: reflections on triggers. Part 2- (re)discovery

This week I have been exploring triggers in my life– their roles as fodder for creative work, their potential to help in self-development and their ability to create turning points.


Part 1- archives


As I mentioned in Part 1, a random journal entry may bring me to my knees.

I was organizing my studio the other day and came across a 1998 letter from my father (in the days before email- he always sent faxes)…



I was going to share it here.  But I am not ready.

It’s about my mother– and my father was reminding me of my responsibility to her for her emotional well-being.  A role I carried most my life.  The pain that this reminder from the past causes me is still too intense.

 And something- perhaps my mom’s spirit- is not letting me share it here.


It does, however, give me clues as to who I am, who I was as a daughter, who I was in my marriage, why I was this way and that, what I have lost, what I have gained, the beauty of forgiveness and redemption, the intensity of family bonds, my need for alone time, my need for freedom.  Though the letter triggered deep pain that threw me for a loop last week, I am grateful for the reminder, the time spent examining, utilizing the pain, and staying neutral.

And spending sweet time remembering.  Remembering how incredibly beautiful my relationship with my parents became.

No unfinished business.

And I love feeling their presence.

So I suppose I am grateful for that particular trigger…

And the turning point?

It was the (re)discovery of that fax.


That I am free.

Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there’s a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.

― Tony Kushner, Angels in America, Part Two: Perestroika

Turning point- reflections on triggers. Part 1: archives

Last New Year, my brother and I brought home all my journals and artwork from storage.  We recently brought home all the family photo albums and objects.  I love being the family archivist.  I love seeing the heirlooms showcased in my kids’ collections and in the extended family’s homes.  I love that the next generation is able to touch the objects, hear the stories, hold actual photographs.

 My studio-bedroom space is a womb-room and for me, being surrounded by relics of the past, feeds my creative work.  I know it’s not normal to surround myself with so much shit  (as some have put it).

But it is essential for me.

My dad was a master scrapbook keeper and his ability to archive, write and reflect formed my own habits and processes.  My mom hated keeping diaries.  She often told me-  I just want to forget.  But she kept things.  So Dad kept the scrapbooks and photos, mom kept the objects- and am I grateful to be surrounded by both.

The investigative side to my personality requires access to images, writings, clues that lead to connecting the dots and understanding.  It’s the background on what makes people (or more accurately me) do what they (I) do- and it helps me both in my work on Molly and in my work with youth.

It’s all about the functional behavioural assessment through clues, if you will.

But there is a price.  Within these relics lie triggers and heartache.   A small pamphlet can bring a flood of memory.  A simple receipt can open wounds.  A journal entry (to be explored tomorrow in Part 2) can bring me to my knees.


This week I want to explore triggers in my life– their roles as fodder for creative work, their potential to help in self-development and their ability to create turning points.

There’s something about a roller coaster that triggers strong feelings, maybe because most of us associate them with childhood. They’re inherently cinematic; the very shape of a coaster, all hills and valleys and sickening helices, evokes a human emotional response.

Diablo Cody