60 years ago my mother became a mother. (Karin Kristina Orwald 1936 – 2008)

Decades are significant.

60 years ago my mother became a mother.

img_3627

img_3628
My older brother born Summer 1958

img_3635-1

50 years ago we moved to Canada from Sweden.

img_3423
Leaving Grums, Sweden, October 31, 1968

50 years ago, my mother started to write letters home to Sweden.

 

 

30 years ago, my mother’s second grandchild was born.

12647158_10208769988149215_2134728535419465651_n
My son born January 1988

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.

10 years.

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.

Screen Shot 2018-11-08 at 1.55.04 PM

fruits1
The Apple Tree, by Roar Thorsen, 2010

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.

1918364_1279981081792_339588_n
Karin Summer 2008

I love you, Mamma.

This post is dedicated to my cousin, Dan Orwald, who passed away suddenly last week.

My aunt Siv with my Cousin Annika, Dan in the middle and Mamma holding my older brother, Christmas 1958.

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:

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 7.21.15 PM

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 7.21.46 PM

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:

Screen Shot 2018-09-23 at 7.26.15 PM

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.

img_2639

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.

Saudade waves.

Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.  It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.  It’s related to the feelings of longing, yearning.  

I have written about Saudade before.  For example: November 3, 2012 SAUDADE: THE EMOTION OF MISSING. #GRIEF

December 28, 2012 THE DARKENING CATHEDRAL: PROCESSING THE EMOTION OF MISSING

March 7, 2017 A REMINDER THAT SOMETIMES IT IS OK TO DO LESS.

November 17, 2017 PERHAPS I AM SIMPLY AN EXPLORER.  NOT SEEKING ANSWERS…

Today

I felt a tad out of sorts this afternoon, burnt out– sensing the spaces under my wings too occupied, knowing it is time to shush out those taking shelter there.  [Yep- time for new boundaries.]

My anxiety hovered trying to find a place to land.  Then a familiar intense wave of suadade washed over me.

0

It is that thick-heart feeling right before a deep cry.  It is a longing to visit times past.

Pulling out old photos provided comfort and allowed gentle tears to flow.  I sat all smiling, conversing with the memories.

img_6843.jpg

img_6848

img_6849

img_6850

img_6852

img_6853

img_6855

Thank goodness my father loved to record family life.  And thank goodness for these massive albums and boxes of tactile images .

You are motherhood. You are the greatest mystery. Karin 17/09/36-08/11/08

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

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.

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-8-08-36-am

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 to you 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.

screen-shot-2016-11-08-at-8-31-20-am
public domain

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.

img_3896

I need to process you.  I want to write about you.


Karin Thorsen

September 17, 1936 – November 8, 2008

 

karin-1

IMG_4017

In place of death there was light.

I am preparing myself to draw my mother’s “death mask” from the photo my son took after she passed on November 8, 2008.

I have been preparing for awhile.

I know the process will be an important and necessary one for me personally.  I think about it often.  It’s not about needing to work on something unfinished.  It’s about not shying away from the processes of life.  I don’t want to shy away!

996786_10201409810309369_784401000_n

I have just needed to feel the time was right.  I have had to gain some space and maturity and to heal in order to be able to revisit my mother’s “death mask.”  To explore, in full truth, my profound relationship with her.

Our final year together was the “start” of a deeper more authentic connection.  We had always been so close, but there had always been a layer of deference and fear on my part, and fragility and depression and loss on her part that did not allow us to speak deeply with words.  But that final year was different.  We spoke of our love of each other, our love of family and homemaking and caregiving, our love of history and crime stories and our mutual love of hibernation and desire for autonomy and adventure.

There is a lot I want to write about my relationship with my mother.  I want to explore my old diaries and I want to view it all with these new mature eyes.  But I pick up a journal and read an excerpt and there is such pain there.

With time and healing, I am slowly able to open the pages more gently without being thrown into an existential crisis.

Grief is work!

Exploring the journals is an essential piece in my work on Molly as my story and her story intertwines.  But words aren’t flowing just yet around the relationship with Mom.  There have been starts and stops.  I suppose Mom is not ready.  But I KNOW she wants me to tell it.  We “talk” about it often.

Whatever the truth is, to speak it is a great adventure. – Louise Glück

As I explore and prep to draw Mom’s “death mask,” I am inspired by the work of Sue Coe:

The Last 11 Days is a group of charcoal drawings Sue Coe created from July 20 to 31, 1995 depicting her mother as she lay dying with cancer. The drawings reveal Coe’s private struggle with her mother’s illness and eventual death. [source]

 

From: BROAD STROKES

Unlike her other work, The Last 11 Days were created without the intention of being shown and reveal Coe’s private struggle with her mother’s illness and eventual death. Sue Coe is inspiring in every form, supporting issues that plague the world and refusing to sit quietly in their wake. She continues to be a magnetic force in the complex world of contemporary women artists.

 

Memory:

On a visit to SFMOMA in 2011, my daughter stated that sees her “Mormor” in this portrait by Matisse .  We often talk about how Mormor flew right down to Anna in San Francisco when she left her body.

The Girl with Green Eyes, 1908
Henri Matisse

And so, today I will dig through my files and try to find the photo I hid away deep in my computer in an obscure file.  Once found, I will sit with paper in place and china marker in hand wait to see if mom lets me know if it is time.

In place of death there was light. – Leo Tolstoy

And in place of death there is love.  And mom’s laugh.  And more and more love.

Mom’s parrot, Asterix, lives with me now. I love when he does her GIGANTIC belly laugh and answers the phone in her Swedish accent.

2015 reflections and 2016 intentions.

It’s that time of year to reflect and lay out intentions.

What a journey 2015 was.  It was the year…

[DELETE.]

I had written several lengthy paragraphs reflecting on 2015 and laying out a detailed list of intentions for 2016.  I almost posted it last week.  Then again yesterday.

But this morning I delete it.  There was an apologetic tone to the post that no longer sits rights with me.

And so…

I say thank you for 2015 and simply state:

2016 is the year I meet it all with love. 

(Note: in background- portrait of me by Emily Cowan and ink drawing of trees by Roar Thorsen)

 

Pay attention to the birds: Part 3- Pigeon

Delighted that my dog has entered some kind of remission.  One week after believing it was time for that “family meeting,” he is well enough to eat and walk again.

He runs like a, somewhat lame, puppy after his bath- so it’s all good for now.

I savour every minute with Tobey, knowing he has lived

and is living

a full

and lovely

and loved life.

13670_10206414556064885_1965651311193158400_n

10264420_10206412490773254_8574888053206697081_n

And so I walk with him when he can.  Like yesterday morning at 6:30 AM.  Under blossomed trees at Comox and Chilco.

Tobey and I were enveloped in the whooop whooop whooop sound of pigeons flying and landing on balconies.

What could I learn by listening?

unnamed
China marker on newsprint

The pigeon is a determined creature. It will stay in an area as long as there is food, despite attempts by humans or other birds to chase it away. The pigeon sighting can encourage you to be stubborn and hang in there, regardless of what challenges are thrown in your path.

The pigeon also has strong connections to house and home. If a pigeon appears to you, take a look at your relationship with your home. What does it represent to you? What would you like it to be for you? If these things don’t match up, you know you have work to do. The pigeon is safest in a flock. Don’t discount the strength and support found in a community. Furthermore, remember the importance of communication within that community; don’t assume people know things just because you do. Make sure everyone is in the loop regarding important information. [source]

I like paying attention to those magical moments, standing rooted in my new neighborhood– full of gratitude for the struggles and gifts that brought me to this place.

Birds hold so much meaning to me.  And they always feel like messengers, telling me to pay strict attention.

See also:

PART 1: Kingfisher

PART 2: American Robin

POST: They let their wings down…

POST: Dead messengers

Can a dog live forever? In this case, yes.

IMG_8524

They always love you.

– Alexander McQueen on the joy of having dogs

After my mother passed away November 8, 2008, I inherited my parents’ dog and parrot.  My father was already in residential care.  I LOVE having the pets.  The parrot, ASTERIX, speaks Swedish and belly laughs like my mom.  There is great comfort in still hearing her voice.

IMG_9690

My father lived for Tobey.  I never visited Dad without bringing the dog along.  Tobey would be under the table in the cafeteria,

IMG_8035

waiting on Dad’s bed if we headed next door to the hospital for an X-ray,

IMG_8364

walking alongside the wheelchair when we’d go to the podiatrist, shopping, to the coffee shop or Fat Burger.

My Dad would always ask me, “How can we keep Tobey alive forever?  Is there a pill he can take?”  He LOVED Tobey.  He worried endlessly about losing him.

IMG_8358

Dad passed away October 25, 2012, knowing Tobey was still alive and well.  Indeed, alive and well forever in Dad’s eyes.  THAT IS TRULY WONDERFUL!

tobey1

Tobey Thorsen b. January 14, 2000

Sunday morning visit with my mother.

It’s Sunday morning. I’ve been up awhile. Dog is walked. Pot of coffee almost gone. Parrot loud. Rest of the household asleep. Making pancakes.

On Sundays, with Corrie on in the background, I make pancakes and visit with my mom. She’s there with me and we can talk freely about all the wonderful trivial things mothers and daughters share.

I am feeling especially aware of her these days- not only as I anticipate her birthday on Wednesday (she would be 78). I am really allowing myself to converse with her freely about my life as her daughter. Not idealizing it. Not demonizing it. But celebrating it. Acknowledging the umbilical cord she never cut, acknowledging that when I took steps to cut it, she (coincidentally?) died shortly afterwards. I know at times that the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck. I know also that umbilical cord sustained me and enriched me and connected me to all the women before me and after me.

I know my mom was in pain. I know also that we were best of friends. I celebrate our gentle last year together. I am infused by her. I was scared of her. I adore her. I understand her.

And as the pancake fries, and as the house smells of coffee and melted butter and Sweden- I chat with mom. Lightly fully lovingly.

Though Mom loved the Spring and it’s colourful message of hope and renewal, my mom was autumn. She was born as the leaves turned and she died as the cold set in.

IMG_0200.JPG

IMG_0198.JPG

IMG_0199.JPG

IMG_0201.JPG

IMG_0204.JPG

IMG_0202.JPG

IMG_0203.JPG

IMG_0205.JPG

IMG_0206.JPG

IMG_0208.JPG

Saying goodbye to the life of Riley.

Riley aka Mr. O’Riley 1998-2014

1468713_10202526579707906_837124333_n

My beautiful cat, Riley, passed away peacefully on January 1, 2014.  He wound down slowly all last year and passed away surrounded by love and his favorite people.   He loved the outdoors, so we placed him in the earth in a beautiful spot.  [Special thank you to Darcy for being there with us!]

Riley: A Short Biography of my Cat by Julian Bowers:

 1998: Born. Moved in with us. Kept me up all night with his meowing. We locked him into the bathroom yet he smeared his poo all over the walls. Nightmare kitten.
1999-2003: If there was a closed door, he would try his best to tear it down and annoy us, and it usually worked. He was an outdoor cat and he hunted things I didn’t think were possible to catch around our property. Voles, hummingbirds, bats, snakes, squirrels, every type of small bird you can think of. He was frustrating, but could be affectionate when you wanted it.
2003-2013: We moved to the city, so he had to transition to become an indoor cat. He had some aggression towards the concept initially, but he mellowed out over the years. Still annoying about doors, but a sweet cat.
2013-2014: Started to get skinnier but still healthy up until Dec. 26th when his legs started giving out. He started to slowly wind down. We gave him Fancy Feast and he was still affectionate yet understandably tired. On Jan. 1st, he couldn’t walk anymore and we moved him to a cozy spot. At around 5:45pm, he passed away.
I’m going to miss him, but I can take solace in the fact that he lived a good, happy life and he went out as comfortably as one can.

IMG_5906

1459853_10202803191623031_1889674026_n
A week or so before he passed, Riley managed to climb on to the toilet to hang out with my nephew.
A few days before he passed away, Riley preferred to lie in a spot where he could keep an eye on us.
A few days before he passed away, Riley preferred to lie in a spot where he could keep an eye on us.
The day before he passed, he wobbled in to the shower.  He loved drinking warm shower water.
The day before he passed, he wobbled in to the shower. He loved drinking warm shower water.
A few hours before he passed, I found him in the spot, trying to climb into bed with Violet.
A few hours before he passed, I found him in the spot, trying to climb into bed with Violet.
IMG_5999
Riley then spent his last hours comfortable on my bed. Violet by his side.

IMG_4460

IMG_6016

After he passed, we placed him in the basket he loved to snooze in, with his favorite things- a can of Fancy Feast, a stuffed bird, a catnip mouse, a fresh chicken bone and a vial of shower water.
After he passed, we placed him in the basket he loved to snooze in, with his favorite things- a can of Fancy Feast, a stuffed bird, a catnip mouse, a fresh chicken bone and a vial of shower water.

IMG_4538

IMG_4540

I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul. – Jean Cocteau

Riley and Violet
Riley and Violet

1555491_10202955237584085_948566289_n

Can a dog live forever? In this case, yes.

IMG_8524

They always love you.

– Alexander McQueen on the joy of having dogs

After my mother passed away November 8, 2008, I inherited my parents’ dog and parrot.  My father was already in residential care.  I LOVE having the pets.  The parrot, ASTERIX, speaks Swedish and belly laughs like my mom.  There is great comfort in still hearing her voice.

IMG_9690

My father lived for Tobey.  I never visited Dad without bringing the dog along.  Tobey would be under the table in the cafeteria,

IMG_8035

waiting on Dad’s bed if we headed next door to the hospital for an X-ray,

IMG_8364

walking alongside the wheelchair when we’d go to the podiatrist, shopping, to the coffee shop or Fat Burger.

My Dad would always ask me, “How can we keep Tobey alive forever?  Is there a pill he can take?”  He LOVED Tobey.  He worried endlessly about losing him.

IMG_8358

Dad passed away October 25, 2012, knowing Tobey was still alive and well.  Indeed, alive and well forever in Dad’s eyes.  THAT IS TRULY WONDERFUL!

TOBEY

Tobey Thorsen b. January 13, 2000