Love in all its surprise, its beauty, its infinite colors
Words and images by Peter Bruun
Love had never been so unexpected. This drawing is inspired by a letter – a text, really – to me, from a woman named Nicky, whom I met within a year of my daughter Elisif dying of an overdose on February 11, 2014. In that she was young and hurting badly from addiction, Nicky reminded me of Elisif, living aloud with all the darkness I had not wanted to know when Elisif was alive. For my own healing, I wanted to know all of Elisif – that dark side – and Nicky gave me that chance. Right through today, with so much along the way ostensibly unhealthy and even dangerous, I have had a kind of relationship with Nicky, full of giving and taking and using and abusing. In and through it all, love still rises; I am forever grateful for the unique gift of healing only Nicky could have given me in her acceptance of what I could offer her. Nicky has been my amends to Elisif, and for that and more I love her, just as she – somewhere deep beneath her own dark urgings – loves me.
“An offhanded glance at the newspaper stopped Doug’s heart. There she was, his first love, beaming at him… from the obituary page. She had been his constant, his North Star, the secret piece of his heart he could never give away, the love he’d hoped to win back.Gone.” So wrote Leigh Perkins, who (in an aspect of this project ultimately deemed too ambitious to be fulfilled) wrote a handful of backstories to drawings, Doug’s being one of those. In this drawing, I have opted for complexity, for the love story behind the letter is complicated. Doug loved M., and while the particular kind of love for which he longed did not last, loving kindness – so apparent in these words – did. M. ends the letter bidding Doug good night, a poignant closing in light of Doug’s keeping this letter for more than 20 years as a kind of talisman of wellness. The drawing: Doug enveloped in healing color, the missed yet eternal truth of M.’s love. Everything is okay.
I trace the genesis of the One Thousand Love Letters project to several things. One of those is what happened for my wife and me after our daughter Elisif died unexpectedly in 2014, leaving us each tumbling in pain, the only thing sustaining us the rush of love from friends, family, and even strangers, holding us up when we could not hold ourselves: our community. Thus, when these words from Anne came my way via Anne’s sister, Rebecca (one of the recipients of this letter through email), I entirely understood of what Anne wrote as Bill’s imminent death approached. I have tried to draw that catching web of love, there for all of us if we only can give ourselves over to it, trust it is there – like one of those team-building exercises where we alternatively fall into the arms of our partner, and she into ours. What I learned in those days of Elisif’s passing, and what is affirmed anew in this letter from Anne to Bill’s community: love is everything and the only thing, and it matters most.
In recent months, Facebook has received justified criticism, and at the same time there is a very good reason it is a platform used by over one billion people: Facebook’s mission to “bring the world closer” works. The letter – or rather Facebook comment to a post from Eden – that inspired this drawing is a case in point. Eden was hurting, and took the bold step of posting on Facebook with a call for love – her people responded in droves, including Katie. In this drawing, reflecting on Katie’s words “we lived inside each other,” I have tried to convey both the specifics of Katie’s expression (a person inside a person), and also to suggest a more universal truth. That as we sit in our most despairing moments of isolation, it is wise to recall all the love surrounding us… holding us in embrace: in my drawing, I have sought to depict a self – our self – enwrapped in the loving heart of the universe.