This morning I found out that someone I didn’t know had died. I didn’t know him but I’d followed him online for years, ever since he randomly started reading and commenting on my livejournal because he liked my list of interests. I watched him fall in love, get married, welcome two daughters into the world, get divorced. He stopped following me when I left livejournal, but I still kept tabs on him. LJ, flickr, instagram

I don’t know how he died, and it bothers me.

Amar, what happened? The world is less colorful without you in it.

Shortly after I found out he was gone, I drove my husband to the hospital for one of those routine tests they love to give people over 50. I told him that if I died suddenly, I wanted him to post here and on Facebook to let people know what happened.

Larissa was eaten by a grue. Larissa was in a horrible car accident. Larissa fell down the stairs and broke her skull. Larissa succumbed to the Poltroonian Oyster Flu.

I waited around the hospital all morning, and I drew. I started a little side project to work on when I feel stuck, or when I am waiting. It’s based on something I wrote first thing on a Monday morning in August 2017. This first page is a little busier than I like, but it made the time fly. And I like the way it sinks through layers of fiction into the there-and-then of my actual life: a house, a meadow, insomnia, the moon.

(Mooncop, by Tom Gauld)

the forgetting game

The book has a name now, and its own website.

It is a deep rabbit hole. It is a friend longer than a city block.

I get stuck a lot. It doesn’t seem to matter. I write my way through it. Sometimes I make little comics from the writing. They are not part of the book, but they do seem to be part of the process. Here are a couple of fragments:

comic therapy

I hit a rough patch a couple of weeks ago with the graphic novel. There’s a serious frantic tooth-grinding energy that sometimes rises when I’m drawing. I think it got to be too much. It wore me out.

All my life, I’ve never had the stamina that I thought I should. Now that I’m over 50, I’m finally starting to get over being ashamed about my inability to ignore my body’s pleas for rest. I am built for sprints, or for walking, not marathons. And that’s okay.

So I’m training myself to draw in a healthy and sustainable way. For now, I’m doing single pages about nothing important. I set a timer. I’m allowed to draw for 20 minutes, and then I have to stop and stretch and have a sip (or several long gulps) of water. I find characters in photographs I’ve taken over the years. Often the words they say are just the lyrics to a song I hear while I’m working. Here is one of the silly things I’ve drawn recently:

Both of these characters are things I saw during a trip to Iceland, many years ago now. One is a piece of graffiti near a cemetery in Reykjavik. The other is an antique telephone that I saw in a museum. (The little guys at the top are me riffing on the graffiti).

page 4

In some ways, this page feels like a long time ago. I’ve moved on to another chapter – different characters, different textures, different self.

In other ways, it feels like exactly where I am right now – suspended between the past and the future, between the known and the unknown. Not much to do but breathe, float, dream, and panic. And keep drawing. Lather, rinse, repeat.

page 3

Let’s see if I can post directly from the iPad where I’m making these images! Usually I transfer the images to my laptop because I like to do my writing on a device with a real keyboard. But I’m in the studio today, and it’s raining. The laptop is at home. I’d have to get wet before I could use it.

(I love that it’s raining. We’ve been having a drought here, and it was a very hard summer for my garden.)

Sometimes I feel a pressure to get the whole story out. But it’s impossible. Stop. Rest. Kiss the ground. This book is not a sprint, or even a marathon. It’s a pilgrimage.

Drawing is seeing. Seeing what moves through the body, the mind, the soul. After I finished this page, I cried for the better part of an hour.

Writing is seeing too. I might cry again when I finish this post. Left Otter and Right Otter (yes, it’s true, I’m terrible at naming things): off they go, into separation.