Nov 25, 2018

Sorella in memoriam June 24 2007 - November 16 2018 / In the aftermath

- It’s so easy. Like Sorella herself, everything about her was easy. Trouble 2 said.

I am finding that what’s the most difficult is the transitions. Getting up from the couch. Moving between the rooms. Especially the change of floors. Coming down in to the mudroom. Opening the front door. And she isn’t there.

It’s been a week now. I see her in the corner of my eye when passing her favourite spots. I here her at my every move.

As Sorella became more of a dog she always heard my moves and reacted on it. Getting up from the couch she got up too, wherever she was. Walking down the stairs she followed me. And if already downstairs she met me in the mudroom. 

As long as I am on my couch working on something, I am quite okay. But moving and the house is yet still, that’s painful. The absence of her gentle steps.

Sorella was such a gentle soul. Her body little even with that long and fluffy fur of hers. Her approaches to people were shy. Her love and affection was subtle. Her territory was small, calling for her she was never far away, the front yard and the nearby fields her queendom. And she backed out of every fight with fellow neighbour cats crying for my help. But boy, what a hunter she was!

It was on Tuesday that Trouble & Trouble and I buried Sorella. We picked one of her favourite spots. On the brink of the ditch separating the front yard from the fields to the west. When the old mountain ashes were still there she used to sit in them getting the perfect overview of her grounds. Later, a bit desperate, on the stumps of them.

Now mountain ashes replaced by the young cherry trees, she always could tell when I was watering them. Wherever she was, her ears found the sound of running water and came drinking from out of the craters around the trees. The most appreciated was the one next to the baker’s cottage. It’s also the most beautiful of the three trees.

That’s the place we chose for Sorella’s grave.

Now, digging in the ground at my place here at the end of the road is tough business. Almost impossible. Stone, stone, stone. Wherever you put a sharp pointed iron bar to the ground it says “klonk”. My poor sons have never experienced putting a shovel in the ground, the soil giving way for it. Until this Tuesday afternoon. They kind of went all in, just kept on digging until I stopped them: i think it’s deep enough now. Yeah, but it’s just so easy!

- It’s so easy. Like Sorella herself, everything about her was easy. Trouble 2 said.

The shovels dug a perfect shape for Sorella’s coffin. Yes, I don’t call it a box anymore since Cathrine had wrapped it in beautiful white wallpaper. We covered the coffin with the clump of grass we first took out. It’s looking good. Perfect even.

I sang my favourite evening hymn to her again. It didn’t go that well. But I told her I would sing to her all summer when watering her tree. 

Afterwords we all went inside. We lit a fire in my yellow kitchen. The candles at the table. And had a funeral fika. We talked about how bad we (people in general) are at taking care of death. How we are shying away from it, and studies show we are even doing it more and more. 

Funerals aren’t an efficient contribution to society. Coffins are getting more rare which is not helping the grieving process. Memorial parks are often beautiful and soothing but your loved ones are thin air and hard to grasp. 

To take half a day off from work for saying goodbye to someone close should be a natural priority. To face the body shaped coffin is painful but that’s where we need to be. To design a tomb stone for the past and the future is hard work but it is an important one. And to take care of it is an act of love and respect. 

I told Trouble & Trouble those hours with the passed away Sorella in my arms right after her death, that’s what I would have needed with my father. To be with the body who carried his soul through my life. The body I knew so well. Now empty and still. Quite. To stay with his death. To not be moderate and sensible and well-behaved. But to feel his death on my skin. Until I could let go.

The first two weeks of November was all Seattle weather here at the 64th latitude. Hazy, foggy, humid, rainy. Dark. Horrible. The day Sorella passed away the sun came out. And it has stayed that way. It sets early of course. Today 1.13PM behind Dry Mountain. But the mornings are clear and crisp. Frost on our grounds. When taking my brief morning stroll I am greeting Sorella. As I do locking my door for the night. I feel at ease. Because I know where she is. On her favourite spot. And we are still here together. 

Nov 18, 2018

Sorella in memoriam. June 24, 2007 - November 16, 2018

Waking up the first morning of a new reality. That.

Today is my second day. I lost her on Friday. My Sorella. Sorellina. Principessa. My best friend. A brushy grey little ball of fur on white paws and a tail like a waiving plume. The cutest face. And the most adorable cat the world has ever seen.

Sorella (which means sister in Italian) and her brother Piccolo (he was so tiny) moved in with me when Trouble 2 moved out. I needed a family. When the siblings became sexually mature Sorella didn’t tolerate her brother any more and Piccolo moved in with Trouble 1. A perfect solution.

Sorella and I didn’t have the best of starts. The two little kittens left their mom and seven other cats jam-packed in a one bedroom apartment. The switch to a large house in two floors was overwhelming. Those little creatures were totally lost and so unsafe, especially Sorella. I can still feel the pain that first August evening, trying to make them tuck themselves in on my couch under the blanket with me. Sorella crawled away in-under the couch and I couldn't reach her. For the longest time she was afraid of my hands and me and I felt like the worst of mothers, I couldn’t even make the tiniest kitten safe. My self confident as a human being was at the very bottom.

Eventually she started seeking my company. At the breakfast table - which I of course let her since I was so flattered. At my desk. It suited her well since I needed to be working and wouldn’t bother her that much. I waited her out and with time she chose me. And she wanted me to herself. Never really liked when there was people around. Her behaviour became more like a dog. She followed me around the house. To start with I found it really annoying. I got used to it though and it changed to be something nice that I appreciated.

Sorella has been my companion for eleven years. With me through all the difficulties and every life change. She has listened to my cries and seen my tears. Been happy for me (I think) when things have gone well. I’ve shared everything with her and she has been a patient listener. Mostly quiet herself.

I’ve been dreading the day I would loose her. That’s eventually bound to happen. This fall I’ve been worried about her. She hasn’t been up to speed. Her behaviour changed. I think. Or was I paranoid? Out of fear of loosing her.

On Friday morning something was definitely wrong. I needed to get her to the vet. I called my friend Cathrine who lives a couple of villages from here and luckily she could help me out.

The vet was as adorable as Sorella. So compassionate. When the labs were back he delivered the result. As I expected, he said, it is a kidney failure. That’s actually the precis words as he was Irish and we spoke English. His name was Oliver.

I’m so sorry, he continued, but we have to put her to rest.

That’s what I had been thinking all morning. The worst case scenario. I was prepared. I hade been preparering all fall. I had already showered her with gratitude for wanting to share her life with me and everything she does for me. But you are never prepared.

She was sedated from the examination. Wrapped in a blanket to keep warm. On my lap while waiting for the labs. I had buried my fingers in her long fur, feeling her breathing and warm body. Knowing it might be the last time.

On the table again she opened her eyes. They looked dim. I caressed her flaggy fur and beautiful face. Thanked her again. Oliver walked me through the procedure. Then he gave her the injections. Checked her breathing. Listened to her heart. Is she gone, I asked. He nodded.

I hugged him. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us. I am so sorry, he said again. I think she had a good life. Oliver.

My hands were on her body all the way home. Fingers in her fur. The sun shining. I am so happy it was. Cathrine driving. A rock. She is an animal person with her own kennel. I couldn’t have had a better person at my side this day.

Back home I lied down on my couch. I placed Sorella at my chest. In my arms. Her face and nose to my neck. We lay there as the sun set behind Dry Mountain. I talked to her. Buried my face in her fur. That stillness. Her body not warm anymore. Flaccid. I sang to her. My favourite evening hymn. I sang to her. I sang to me. I sang to us. And I cried.

I know it all might sound morbide, but it was the right thing for me to do.

Cathrine was back when the room was dark. She had been home seeing to her six dogs. For the last time I told Sorella we had to move. To get up from the couch.

I found a beautiful brown cloth of plush in my fabric storage. Lighting the candles on the dining table in my yellow kitchen we placed Sorella on the plush. I kissed her adorable face one last time. Thanked her one last time. I said my goodbye. Bid her my farewell. My love. She wasn’t flaccid anymore. We wrapped her in the cloth. It matched her colors. And put her in a box Cathrine brought. It was the perfect size.

Then Cathrine made me dinner before she returned to her dogs. I was by myself.

A week ago I felt such contentment. I was good. Finally filling my house up all by myself. Happy in every room, even my yellow kitchen. But I had forgotten about Sorella. My companion. We were such a happy couple. I haven’t been by myself. Now I am. And my rooms are all empty.

Nov 11, 2018

My yellow kitchen

The other night fragments from a couple of songs for children suddenly on TV, washed over me. And I needed to let my tears out for a moment.

Here is the story.

After 17 years in our house here at the end of the road we were finally ready for our dream kitchen. I designed it to work with the house finished about 1920. Skilled carpenters would build it and the colour would be yellow. As the sun. 

At that point we realised we needed to divorce.

As the work was already in progress we couldn’t back out of it. For many months we lead the project while not knowing who would live in this kitchen, if any of us. The room turned out the way I had imagined and designed. It was gorgeous and the cosiest and most welcoming you could ever dream of. And a trauma.

The years passed. Husband and kids moved out. Moved on. I was by myself in the yellow kitchen. That wasn’t what I had pictured in my dream. It was wrong.

Over the years I have turned room by room in the house into mine. It’s been a process. But the yellow kitchen has been an unhealed wound. A heavy weight. Too tight on me as well as too spacious.

Unexpectedly, this spring the old water leak from some years back became the key for change in the kitchen aspect. 

It turned out the insurance company would pay a grinding of the floor! The pine planks were marked from a twenty year long life, as well as damaged from the water, so that was indeed a treat. And while I was at it I had that dirty old wall paper painted, as well as the ceiling and the fireplace. Mohammed worked all last winter to clean the sea-stone tile above the stove and then covered it with glass. And my friend Irene is this dark November scrubbing the yellow woodwork from grease and sot, building up during twenty years. I tell you, it takes a 70 year old lady to know how to do that!

So what happened the other night? That thing with the songs? I will tell you.

There was these two musicians, Karin Ljungman and James Hollingworth. In the seventies they released two albums with songs for children. The songs were different from anything you’ve heard before and became hugely popular among children as well as their parents. Hear, at the end of the road, those tapes were played over and over again year after year. As well as in the car. They’ve even been in Seattle, a fun company traveling the Olympic Peninsula and Highway 1 down to San Fransisco. Did the tapes eventually brake? Or are they in a box at the baker’s cottage attic? I don’t really know.

This week Karin Ljungman passed away. And it was in the news coverage fragments of those songs were played. And I had to take a moment. 

Music is such a powerful tool. For traveling in time and age. Heart and soul. Mind and body. 

Suddenly my house was full of life. I could here Trouble & Trouble's happy high pitched voices singing, running around. I smelled my husbands dinner cooking. The wet winter clothes drying on the heated mud room tile floor. The annoying sound of the washing machine doing it’s job. The sounds and smell of a family.

I took my glasses off. To make room for the tears. There were some. But not as many as I was preparing for. 

I made room for all those feelings and images. But within minutes a different room came up. My yellow kitchen. MY yellow kitchen.

The kitchen that now has the most beautiful white stained pine floor looking like new. A white ceiling as well as fire place with no traces of sot. Light-haze-pinkish walls, perfect for creating the gallery that’s been on my mind for so long. And the yellow wood work is actually yellow. 

For all these years I’ve been wanting to repaint the woodwork in a different colour. That yellow was making me sick. The original dream turned into a bad one and I’ve been feeling the need of wiping it away.  

And in the aftermath of the fragments of those songs, the fragments of a vivid memory, I am realising that’s what I’ve been doing these past months. I am good now. I am lighting the candles in the morning while having breakfast. Listening to Sting, Mercury Falling. There is no need for change of colour anymore. After all, yellow was my choice. For the kitchen. My yellow kitchen.

Nov 4, 2018

The new normal

A photo lens capturing an object at it’s natural shape has o focal length of 50mm. It sees pretty much what your eyes see. It doesn’t tweak or twist in any way. The lens is often called Normal.

A regular mobile phone lens is about 28mm, also called Wide Angle. It’s perfect for shooting landscapes as it catches a wide perspective. It stretches the picture. But a landscape is forgiving. The photographer doesn’t mind, nor does the object.

Shooting portrait with a wide angle is a different story. As a straight forward portrait stretches to the sides, your nose looks wider. And a profile shot gives you a long nose. 

In this case the object is not as forgiving, it turns out. And the plastic surgery industry is flourishing.

Do you remember when the era of group selfies started, how weird people looked? This was before pretty much every individual went narcissistic and turned the camera towards him/herself. Yes, this was when we realised we could document a fun gathering with everyone in the picture, even the photographer, how amazing!

But to squeeze everyone in we are on different distances to the lens and we all look tweaked and twisted. Distorted. Or should I say, looked, because we have now gotten so used to these distorted pictures we hardly notice it any more. The Wide Angle shot has turned Normal.

But. When it comes to noses on portraits I would say our brains have gone distorted.

I could of course write a whole chapter on the subject selfies. How we have gone from shying away from cameras to being obsessed by documenting ourselves from every angle and in every situation. How even children at an early age learn how to pose in front of a mobile phone. Does this sound healthy?

Back to the nose. As most photos in this time and age are shot by a phone, most pictures are captured by a wide angle lens.  That’s pretty much all we see. Younger people who have never owned a camera don’t know of anything else. All they are aware of is a world in a wide angle view.

Including themselves. Noses captured by a 28mm lens. Distorted. Long. Or wide. And as their phones are jam packed with long nosed selfies, that’s how they perceive themselves. The 28mm lens has distorted their brains. And they have no idea.

That's why the plastic surgery industry is going through the roof. Because that’s where the distorted brains end up. There is nothing (in most cases) wrong with the nose. It’s the new Normal Wide Angle playing an ugly trick with our brains.

I wonder how short of a nose you need to make it look normal on a profil-posed mobile shot. Will the world be inhabited by people who look normal on their selfies but distorted In Real Life? How distorted is that?