Mar 27, 2016

Hommage to Peter

- Thank you for everything.

That’s how he started to end our phone calls the last years. I used to yell at him, “don’t you dare saying that!” Like he was going to die on me. From me.

I have a very distinct memory from the first time I saw Peter. Not like in meet, but saw. It was my first day of the TV Production Program. He was sitting down at the door, the room filled with students. Tall. Stone faced. Straight back. The head of the entire Journalist Program said “We will treat you like you are at work. We will require the devotion and ambition as will be expected of you in the news room at a news paper, radio- or TV station. Right Peter?” He responded in one word. “Yes”.

I was thinking: who is that man?

Peter was never my teacher. I was set on TV and he was in charge of the Radio Program. That might be why we became such friends and worked so well together.

I am not expressing “such a special friendship”. Because everybody who Peter touched with his life and presens can witness about a special friendship. That’s just how it was. And I can only tell mine and Peter’s story.

Peter was a radio producer at Swedish National Radio. His field was religion, concept of life, reflection. He asked me to contribute to his shows with my writing and my voice. I developed a special format for Peter’s shows. Short texts. With no agenda. Most often open endings. Leaving to the audience to feel and react whiteout me telling them how to.

We set a date for the recordings. As I recall every other week. How can I not remember which weekday it used to be? Was it Mondays? Same place and time. 7 PM. In the radio studio or the little chapel at the school. We never checked in with another in before hand. Totally trusting we would both be there. We were a solid partnership.

Peter and I loved working together. Every moment of our collaboration was pure joy. And over the many years we developed a strong and close relationship. Our perspectives were very similar. We believed life was a serious task. We bothed aspired perfection in work. We were soul mates in the sense that we in that way were different from others. 

We were both used to being criticized for taking everything too seriously. For over working things. “Nobody can tell the difference, cut yourself som slack, lower your bar!” But Peter and I knew that even though people couldn’t tell the difference, they would feel the difference. And what about ourselves as originators, shouldn’t we be respectful to ourselves? The fact that Peter and I together never ever compromised in our art was unsullied bliss.

Peter worked in three places spread all over Sweden and lived in a fourth. His car was to some degree his home. This man, 6,5 feet tall, who was everybody’s mentor and rock, was extremely sensible, even fragile. He put himself under a lot of pressure and was always waiting for being kicked out from his different jobs because of his strong integrity when it came to his work. He never felt safe.

Did we ever just chit chat? I don’t think so. Life and death were real to us. We used to ponder over our funerals. How we wanted them to be. What we would do for each other. Peter wanted me to read one of my texts, Let Life - Låta livet. I told him he’d better die before me, as he would probably not be at my funeral, surely sitting re editing a show he wasn’t entirely happy with.

The last years we didn’t see each other that often. I was going back and forth between Seattle and my little Swedish village. We were both divorced by then and he had a new love in his life. We still worked together, but not as frequently. We talked on the phone, but sometimes only every six months or even less. When we did though, it was as close and inspiring as ever.

But I was worried about him. His life was too intense. He was burning his candle at both ends. And he knew it. Once, on the phone, when I was leaving for Seattle, I ended with saying “Peter, do you understand how much I love you?” He responded, I remember it as a bit shaken, “Maria, you can not just say such a thing!” 

I feel like we were always carrying each other within us. Our phone talks became more rare, and he was was constantly short on time, what he had to say came out intense, and then he started ending with

- Thank you for everything. I hated it. “Stop it, just stop it!”

And then he was gone. It happened March 21 2006. We had just decided on going out for dinner the week after, celebrating my 50 year birthday. But he was gone. I got the message from a friend calling me saying “Maria, are you sitting down? You need to sit down. Peter is dead.”

I was in my big yellow sofa chair in the Honey Chamber. The chair which rocks a bit. The phone on the wall right beside. How many hours had I been sitting in that chair talking to Peter over the years?

Peter collapsed in a meeting at Swedish National Radio in Stockholm. His heart stopped. Maybe that’s how he wanted to go. At the heart of his work. But he was only 57 years old.

This monday it was ten years ago. I still haven’t grieved Peter properly. The year before both my parents passed away. The first years after, I still kind of expected him to call. Sometimes, when I am in the middle of a project, I miss him terribly. Miss that voice reassuring me that I am not done until I love what I have created. And that that’s okay. That’s how it’s supposed to be. For me. 

And I don’t write the kind of texts I used to any more. My life continues to ceaselessly provide experiences that would work so much better as art than real life, but there is no one to receive and cherish them. And they remain inside me, unedited and in too strong colors.

For Peter’s funeral I arranged a bouquet of blue monkshood and white roses. He was the tall monkshood and I was the white flower next to him. And at the memorial I read my poem Let Life - Låta livet, as we had agreed on.

Let Life
Oh so let my life well happen
let it come and let it dare
And with all my mind wide open 
let my body feel the air

Oh so let my life find streets 
which I have never walked before,
where my heart ventures to meet
hands with keys to secret doors

Oh so let my life play joy and
happiness I sense is here
Living dreams, though wild and weak,
now when my soul is breathing near

Oh so let my life well guide me,
- wishing not to interfere -
longing foreign needs to find me,
in my dread and with my fear

Oh so let my life live freely
living strong and out of will
Rather let my life reveal me
than a life that's doubting still

Låta livet
Om jag låter livet hända
här och nu just där jag finns
och med alla sinnen vända
mot den kropp som inte minns

Om jag låter livet vandra
vägar som jag inte går
och min vilja vågar famna
det jag möter det jag får

Om jag låter livet leka
glädje som jag anar här
och bejakar vilda veka
drömmar som jag ber och bär

Om jag låter livet styra
utan att alls gripa in
och jag längtar detta nya
med den rädsla som är min

Om jag låter livet leva
och det lever som det vill
Låt då hellre tanken tveka
än att livet stannar still

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