Sista Fågeln, “last bird”

this is how the story ends

Birds, Berta Hansson
BERTA HANSSON (1910–94), Erik på soffan

Dear Sarah,

What a weird time of life this is, this coming to the end of it. I was invited to a birthday party tonight and I fussed for most of the day trying to decide among my meager choices what I was going to wear. And, just now, the call came that the call came that call came [sic] that the party was canceled due to the death of the honoree. What a relief! Not a whiff of remorse or disappointment or even sorrow. Just relief that I do not have to think about what I was going to wear.

Sista Fågeln (the last bird), Berta Hansson, 1991

Berta Hansson’s sight continued to decline during the last years of her life, and yet she gained a new world of images: birds. These were “Not ornithologically specific birds — just the mental images of birds”. As she could no longer distinguish between colors she worked in black and white. Her large oil painting called Sista Fågeln, from 1991, was Berta Hansson’s closing comment on her artistic output.

Berta Hansson died in Stockholm in 1994.

(from one of the few biographies I could find in English)

To be perfectly honest, I am disappointed: Charlie was the man I had picked out on my arrival (at the assisted living facility) that I hoped to get to know. He seemed so interesting and maybe even that he was interested in me!!

Too bad.

Her 1984 book Kamratporträtt includes raw and loving depictions of her friendships with fellow painters. What they all had in common was that they lived alone. Berta Hansson was very protective of her ‘alone’ time. During the latter part of her life she had a long relationship with a man, but she was unwilling to cohabit with him. She believed that a woman must have time to herself in order to be able to work. “Women today, just like before, are pulled between being loyal to life itself — childbirth and caring — and their desire for artistic creation. It seems to be a permanent dilemma”. (from the bio)

Berta Hansson in her studio in Stockholm circa 1991
Mom with her grandaughter circa 1991

When I was leaving Quaker Meeting I got up to speak and realized that whatever I needed to say, I had already done so. And that was such a relief! “Let your light so brighten the world….” and people commenting to me about some message or other that they have enjoyed or been moved by has attested to the power of that. Stop trying so hard and just go about being me! It’s already happened or happening.

Sitting across the room…. (and there the letter ends).

Mom’s last birthday party at home



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