Eva Mustonen, The Big Yellow (Journal)

2021

Audiobook in Estonian with English transcript


The six months of residency are over. It was meant to be spent finding my way back to art-work. So that I could practice and taste the modest fruits of my labour and slowly coax myself out of the still life that had followed last year’s burnout. And in order to support my timid motions in the studio, I had the idea of keeping a diary. A yellow diary because yellow is a cheerful, infectious colour. For some reason I thought that the title itself would lead me to the sweet spot of rediscovering the joy of working, but it soon became clear that what kept surfacing were texts that were either morassed or possessed. And it’s not as if I wrote about what I actually did in the studio. I just got on with it.

(I am neither at the beginning nor at the end. It is entirely possible that thinking about the creative process as a journey is fundamentally flawed.)

In short, the content does not match the title. It is not a work diary. Neither is it a regular diary with dated entries, but as the texts do have the penchant of sounding somewhat confessional, it could be said that they share similarities with diary writing.


As I spend these quiet days of awfully minute significance, I often find myself or somebody cursing, or else asking in a tone of irate restlessness: what do I do now? For potential onlookers, this muttering-under-one’s-breath might seem amusing, but this is serious. Urgent action is required to subdue the nervous aimlessness making its latest ascent, lest that vile lava fill the whole room to bursting.
It generally ends up with me being annoyed with myself. The reasons for this are countless: one memory after the other keeps spinning around in my head and has me alternating between embarrassment and shame. And then for a moment the gaze firms up again, you do the craft or smash out a walk, all but march. The clouds were awfully pretty today, although I have little memory of what kind of pretty exactly. There was a twinkle of spring in the bushes lining the road, a certain shine to the water promising warmer times ahead.

Too much of what I do is done for the future. For some better version (of myself?). All this repair work and sewing – which the quarantine has only intensified – has been like a preparation for the grand opening that should take place, if the fates allow, sometime in May. I will then go carousing about town in my new pair of trousers, share my experiences of baking sourdough bread, I’ll dish out invites to my freshly painted studio or the storeroom that seems to be taking forever… Oh and yes, all the books I’ve read, series I have binged! I will return as a better person! A much-improved version!

Although that’s not exactly the case. I had already been planning a period of rejigging, had even taken some time off to do it. The intention was to live exhibition-free for an entire year. Just fix up my space, organise my thoughts and settle on a direction. I wasn’t up to it in the winter, paralysed by fear and exhaustion, isolation – each taking its toll. I am finally putting things in order, for well over two months now, perhaps three, I’ve been keeping busy, refining life, and still the nagging persists: what do I do now? What do I do? It is no good taking apart shelving units, cleaning windows, sewing pleated trousers, or picking stones on the beach. Speaking of the beach, there is a funny little red brick house there. Lots of windows, possibly an old wash house or something. There is a red car parked in front of it, an older model. It has a sort of aged and angular shine to it. Pairs of jeans and some other anonymous garments hang on the washing line. The entrance is filled with junk, an outdoor grill with massive pipes tucked away under the eaves (rusty much?). The whole picture comes together a few steps away under the birch trees with a yawning hole for compost at their feet, sprinkled over with some apples, rotting away.
I forgot the flower bed with the inane daffodils – strikingly yellow amidst the spring mud.

I have always known that you don’t need a lot to live, yet you still look for something, don’t you? What is it that I am looking for? What do I do now?








Dangling from a broken rhubarb leaf, a while or maybe three
Gathering and grooving
Popping and snapping
Stem ruptured, juice trickling
With a whimpering snarl
I dig my heels in the ground,
Fingers in the earthy womb
I glint and I glisten
I am blood without body
The due reward I reap
And take an idle leap.







CHASING PASSION

The relationship was like a raisin, all wrinkled and dry, there wasn’t any life in it, hadn’t been from the very beginning, you’d think it was quite a skill, keeping everything buzzing at such a low frequency, with one foot always out of the door, we’d converse, as if playing musical chairs where you jump up the moment the music stops, or wait, it was the other way around, you would in fact scramble for chairs because one would always be missing, now that’s willpower, the burning desire to achieve something, even if unveiled in the midst of play, but for us it was the opposite: our backsides barely touching the seats, us nagging one glass after another, always prepared to leap out of the door if the buzzing got any louder.
And it was so our car zoomed from one night to the next, chasing passion, but keeping a safe trailing distance.








that’s the thing, I am a peony
all my petals ready somebody to embrace
something to envelop
all but devour







ON (THE SUBJECT OF) DISTANCE

I am first reminded of a friend who I used to spend hours with, walking by the water, when we each had our own particular heartaches to bear. The way we used to discuss our ordeals was so impossibly cryptic that it seemed much like reading a horoscope – in that there were some things, if not most things, that hit the mark and made you feel better. Interestingly enough, the friendship begun to cool when we started speaking in more concrete terms. It could not withstand the weight of details.

I am then reminded of a friend who stood by the roadside, dressed in clothes usually worn around the house that were in colours that are difficult to pinpoint, because you hardly notice them, especially in the summer. It might have been a pale-yellow cotton skirt and a white t-shirt with some washed-out image. The skirt might have been over the knee and rather busy while the shirt was some light expressionless thing. Sure enough, being in the middle of the forest, it wasn’t as if we needed our clothes to express anything, although I was wearing an inappropriately smart bright green dress which didn’t do well with stains and splotches. It was the sort that fit tight around the legs and made climbing up the side ditch rather inconvenient. I had paid a staggering amount for the dress and now, prompted by a peculiar mood, headed to the country wearing it. Returning to the land of my childhood. Other than that, I was holding a spade and digging out meadowsweet roots. Tussling with the large clumps of dirt and pulling at the juice-slick stems to get at the hefty roots. Plucking and yanking while L observed and talked. Though L didn’t as much observe as she talked about her plans for the future. Her plan was to get craft teacher qualifications and start teaching at a school ten kilometres from here. Apparently, the teacher they had now would be retiring soon. I kept digging and cheered her on. Saying things like yes well teaching is difficult but very rewarding, that I admired her courage to take on something like that etc. It had been a long while since we’d had something we could both relate to. Possibly because it had nothing whatsoever to do with children or husbands or topping up one’s bilberry supply for the winter, of which I could only comment on the latter. Usually, we tended to keep each other at a well-meaning distance. We were childhood friends and had known each other when we were five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten. Even now, she was standing on the road while I was mucking about in the meadowsweet thicket. Neither did she offer to help as the whole business was of more or less questionable value. I had heard that you can get black dye out of the roots and decided to give it a try. I didn’t actually know what I was doing. I would have liked to discuss how strange it felt, holding a shovel. How I was afraid that I had forgotten how to dig. And it was very possible that I actually had done because it seemed to be resulting in an inordinate amount of sweating and panting and of course the dress was getting in the way. The conspicuous dress I had worn as I had no other way of expressing my envy, because I had realised years ago that I couldn’t return to the land of my childhood and build a life here as she had done.

I was all green.







THE MANOR HOUSE

I have repeatedly told my friends the story of my late-middle aged mother who, within the space of a few years, managed to completely demolish an old barn-dwelling, the whole lot, roof and walls and all, so that the only things left standing were the granite boulder walls of the barn that looked like a gaping mouth.
As I moved from one place to the next, starting from when I was a child, any roots that might have connected me to “a place that is mine” seem to have gradually been lost. This could be why my thoughts often travel back to the time, or let’s say period, where a house, as if suffering from a long and debilitating disease, grew thinner and frailer until it disappeared altogether.
While reading Not Only My Aunt Ellen by Mudlum, I get the feeling that all corners of Estonia are brimming with similar cases of old women battling old homesteads. Or perhaps I am exaggerating. Where my mother is concerned, it was rather a case of inversion. She was battling invisible forces and the house just got in her way. She tried a different way of living, one separate from the house, but even then her teeth remained clenched, and the work continued to be hard, as did life.
I still don’t fully understand how she managed this (house) disruption. What devils had her take on such an insane endeavour.

There was another time, this one an image rather than a period, when my childhood friend walked between the berry bushes on the back of her house, down towards the greenhouse. I think she called out something to her old father and I just watched her taking large strides down the hill, framed by their home, shed, front garden, car, the old byre and barn, flower beds, sand box, old rowan trees with a rickety swing between them, sheep and cows roaming somewhere – all this just behind her – and I got the impression that it was all affixed to her back like an enormous soap bubble, elegantly tethered to the plastic ring of the bubble blower. Meanwhile, I was eating peas in the vegetable garden and looking at her “place”, her space that was so abundantly and stupidly large, ending somewhere on the other side of the pasture, perhaps a metre and a half from the enclosure, spilling out in the opposite direction as a dew-damp strip on the gravel road, barely managing to safe-keep its tail from the odd passing car, falling into a ditch behind the sauna and diluting into the old park at the far side of the vegetable garden. The boundaries were difficult to define, but the self-assurance with which my friend came down that hill was unshakable. It just was.
Which is not to say that I was any less familiar with all the nooks and crannies of the place, after all, I had grown up in the house next door. But there was no me in that place, the peas or whatever else be damned.
“You can do anything” another friend told me last year, after I had revealed my extravagant plans of building a manor house. I for one was worried that it would turn into yet another yoke on my back. And I’d end up just the same, an old woman struggling with an overwhelming home. Like a fairy tale, a witch in a castle or whatnot, because the kind of house that I would want is nothing short of a manor. Manor is a good word, that’s where the people with manners live, a mannered house. And the foolishness doesn’t end there. I would build it in the woods, not too far from the village I grew up in. On the site of an old farmstead which is terribly overgrown by now, its apple tree trunks occasionally rubbed by visiting moose. I was afraid of the woods there even as I visited the house as a child. By now the fear has grown into a crippling deafening silence.

One thing is certain, there would not be enough space for anyone else in my house.








A snowbound village road, no houses in sight. There is a sort of black dot on the move, sweating and short of breath. The sheer volume of snow means that the landscape has melted into a featureless mass, disappearing the poky shrubs lining the sides of the road, the abandoned farmhouse halfway to the village, the neighbouring house, the fields. Even the edge of the woods seems to have receded in the face of the big whiteness, one thin stripe forming a backdrop to the rampaging snow. To make matters worse, it is dark still, an early winter morning, half seven or so. I try to walk as fast as I can, plodding through the snow and anxiously stumbling on layers already compressed into icy swells. Ploughing on, somehow. “Straight, straight, straight! Go straight ahead until you reach where the road turns off to the neighbour’s house, and then just a little bit further and you’ll be on the big road. That’ll definitely be cleared up and nicely lit. Now get a move on, before…”
Before what? Before the foxes and hungry dogs take me down and all that is left of me are my innards in a tattered coat, and my boots. The bag. Before I have an ugly fall headlong into a ditch, up to my eyeballs in snow, because it is impossible to tell the road from a field or a ditch – everything is so completely snowed in – and then I’ll be stuck in that ditch, unmoving, until my body, warm from the half jog, starts to gradually cool off and my heart stops beating. (So peaceful, peaceful and calm.) Before the bus drives by without stopping at the bus stop and is off without me and I am left hopelessly behind, all the running and the fear of the foxes and the snow and the stray dogs just an overpriced ticket to hell.
And then I will have to turn around and once more in the half-darkness – or half-dawn, as the light now looms pallidly from every direction, wherever I look, as if someone has drawn a white duvet cover over my head – I would have to tackle the road once more.
I want to give up, sink into the snow, the palms of my hands open to the sky the first to be filled with snow.







THE INTERVIEW

A few days of tinkling(?) ended up with me stood in a shower cubicle, I was freshly washed, dripping wet and delivering a speech? An interview? Whichever it was, I answered the imaginary questions as if I were on a late night talk show, sitting in an armchair, hair dishevelled but somehow worked into “shape” by the stylist, like an actual do etc. I sit there and answer the questions. I might have some make-up on, nothing I applied myself: contouring that is a shade too dark around the eyes, silvery coating on the eyelid creating thin powdery lines in the warren of wrinkles. The eyeliner making my eyes small and flicker meanly, which results in a strange contrast with the nose that is (still) soft and tiny and the flabby jawline.
I am around forty… five, or better yet seven. Or perhaps fifty-five? Never mind. I could be an age-old raven, large and ragged, hardly fit into the armchair, I’d fumble and wave my arms about as if they were wings. Perhaps I am wise, slightly mystical, maybe even a bit dangerous, but I’ve run myself ragged and eaten too much junk. Just an old woman. (Old?) Or the real trouble is that I feel old. The last twenty years have not been kind to me. I look dejected and apathetic and clumsy all at once. I am wearing a tired looking dress shirt, faded black, essentially “presentable”, but well past its prime. And it is both too big on me as well as oddly snug in places. (I don’t mean breasts here. But then where else would it be tight? Seeing as my body type is such that my stomach and breasts expand in equal measure and there has been a clear winner from the word go.) But it was only for the sake of presentability that I pulled on the shirt, it’s not that the shirt has anything to do with me.
It’s not that the shirt has anything to do with me.
I would be wearing a chain necklace or maybe two, one with a cross dangling from it, as per the (talk show) custom. There might be a few rings, although my hands would be wider and more veiny than they are now and the rings would look inappropriately pompous. And then there is the wristwatch. I hope at least that would have the decency to go backwards. The watch would be a present from an old friend who I wouldn’t have met up with in years without feeling the slightest need to, so as not to risk spoiling a fond memory. (This happens, it does.) I am relatively certain that the watch running anticlockwise is the only sign of me spreading roots in that armchair, in that dress shirt and on that talk show, with its subdued reddish lighting blurring the contours of the studio into a gaping whale’s mouth. Between me and the interviewer there is a board with wine and cheese, but we only drink soda water. Or to be fair, it is just me drinking the soda water because it is bad for your vocal cords and the host is being much more sensible about it.
I am spending most of the time with my eyes downcast or directed somewhere, turning my head away for up to several minutes at a time, as if I were the sole observer of a parade of ghouls and marshmallow-men, progressing across the floor with birch branches, torches, and flags in their hands, a few of them with tin cans clink-clonking at their hooves. There is bound to be someone levitating, someone wearing violet over-the-knee patent leather boots, someone who is a crocodile or an impaled bear. And I keep looking with my unseeing eyes, let out occasional word-droppings and gawk at their silent tomfoolery.
The nonchalantly planted pauses would have been full of holes from all the words spitted out like sunflower seed shells, the silent stings of tiny daggers – would that it were! Rather I trudge around with my words, as if not wanting to talk, but appear ever so slightly distinguished, as if I did in fact have something to say. Occasionally I make myself look the interviewer straight in the eye to emphasise my point – about art being more than the sum of its parts or something like that. I might do something with my hands (the gesture where you hold an invisible basketball), only to appear to fall into deep thought yet again.

I am not happy with my performance. The interviewer is not happy with me either. Despite all her best efforts, the program is veering towards boring. Her every attempt at livening it up is struck dead by my masticating mind. There is more than twenty minutes until the end of the show. If it continues in the same vein, she’ll get a proper earful from her boss. Never mind the earful! This twaddle is offending her own professional pride! The nasty crone, who invited her on anyway?

I don’t really have anything to say. We talk on the hackneyed subject of my personal life carrying over to my work. I offer up hackneyed answers until I just about begin to cry. “Which is not to say that art that is based on personal experience… is somehow of less value or boring... I have been tremendously moved by moments where I’ve stood in front of a piece and understood… or rather felt, the work telling me about a person’s experiences and emotions, about what it’s like to live. For that particular person. And even though I have never met them personally and in fact… do not really need to. Because that has been enough. That moment of sharing makes existence lighter, helps alleviate loneliness. And that is definitely something to be grateful for.”







NETTLES

It is all so green. There are lots of leaves here, considerably more than sky. I am slumped on the tiny caravan berth and staring out of a plastic window with curved edges, which happily blend the greenery outside, as if, instead of the garish bedding, I am embraced by a cushion of grass. Later on, walking along the village roads I remain fascinated by the spectacle: the sheer range of different textures! My eyes travel across the reluctant ears of grain, the slippery herbage thriving on an incline, bristling wildflowers and tufts of grass, soft bushes and the tree branches hanging heavy. And then there’s the familiar sight of buttercups, beckoning from the side of the road. The landscape is much the same here as it is in Estonia, if a tad other. I am striding determinately down narrow muddy roads with the purpose of taking a walk. Soon, I find myself chest-deep in a jungle of nettle and bishop’s weed, walking through a no man’s land between ditches and farmsteads, accented by uniform rows of beech trees. It is an adventure after all. I spend a while wading through nettles under the trees until I give up and turn back. Where am I actually headed? And why does me randomly descending upon a thicket in a wayward attempt to “head out into the nature” seem so disgustingly familiar? (There is a repeat here somewhere.)
There is no point improvising here in the backwoods of Belgium. Only about half a kilometre from my adventure, I find a cycle path and an ever-growing number of signposts denoting hiking routes. The planks introducing the local flora and fauna look childish and are not likely to attract anyone, least of all children. Energetically pedalling pensioners cycle past me, cheeks flushed, dressed in top notch gear. Occasionally there is a father and son pairing or a few mothers with their children. But it is mostly old folks that keep rolling by, both unaccompanied and in groups, always on wheels. There has even been a small-scale ferry crossing set up for the cyclists on the nearby river, with boats running them from one side of the river to the other, a few at a time, to rack up the necessary number of kilometres. I eat a bowl of fries in a local restaurant, accidentally ordering something from the children’s menu. Nobody speaks to me, which is nice. Neither does there seem to be much of a greeting culture.

I lie on my berth in the caravan and am reading Fording the Stream of Consciousness by Ugrešić. Have in fact been reading it for several hours. One of the main characters, (non-)writer Pipo spends pages upon pages complaining about a life drowned in soviet mundanities, meanwhile piling up superlatives about the free and orgastic American culture. I am starting to get tired of his whining, he keeps rubbing at the same spot, cramming himself into the same moulds across the printed lines, from one page to the next. There is no nuance to him. After Pipo delivers yet another tirade on the subject, American writer Marc, who is living the parallel life of Pipo’s dreams, suggests he write a big book. A masterpiece. To which Pipo sadly mumbles that he can’t be expected to write a big book when he is living such a small life.

I have come to the countryside to rest, enjoy the peace and quiet. Slouched on a garden chair, waiting for the evening to come, I am looking at the front garden stretched out before me, with its thriving knee-high wildflowered grass, the size making it more of a small pasture, neatly surrounded by hedges. The gate has a padlock on it. Only about ten or so meters from me, behind some trees, there is a summer house where Astrid, the local hippie and proponent of permaculture, lives year-round. As the house, car, shed, outdoor kitchen, privy, firepit, and vegetable patch are hidden by the trees, I can easily imagine that I am utterly alone here.
I imagine acquiring a similar wardrobe-sized caravan and going on strange holidays to Lithuania, Russia, or Denmark, high on strong coffee and turning wheels. I will take along an old dog called Muri for company, occasionally even a friend. I go everywhere. As far as I can, as far as the ferries take me. I keep daydreaming and feel my spine straighten up, despite all the slouching, and a pleasant solitude soughs in my ears in the voice of the world’s seas.

There is a repeat here somewhere or will this time be different? All my ventures out into the countryside keep repeating each other like an echo, aching in an ancient ache, bellowing mutely into a megaphone of grass and bilberry stems, even those ventures that take place in some other country and some other state (of mind). I cannot quite evade the idea that this caravan holiday is an odd introduction into adult life, where a regular monthly income will be accompanied by holidays abroad and fixing up a house in the country to add a bit of colour to life. (I might have been thinking this thought for the past fifteen years.) Only that this is my version so minus the regular monthly income, but it would still be a rewarding addition to the everyday, just as it is for any other upstanding citizen. Or it may be that at this moment, lounging on a collapsible garden chair, I am recognising the hope that one of these ventures into the countryside might end up differently? Boast its own shape and form, nothing like the usual scurrying around, led by failed and past-gobbled compromises. (Why is it that I always feel like an actor, deprived of stage as well as scenery? If I cannot have everything then I will content myself with something. If I cannot get to the woods, then I will go mushrooming on the walking trails near the city. Perform the wordless play Forest amidst some wary-looking willow trees and try to get a sense of what it looked like. What was it made of, how did it taste...)

In my thoughts I am again under the trees and in the nettles, hands lifted under my chin so as not to get stung. Trying to be careful, I stubbornly make my way through the nettles. Much the same as when I plodded through snow on the banks of the river Neris one winter afternoon: resolute but worried that I might stray onto thin ice. Much the same as when I, out of sheer stupidity, picked weeping boletes on the side of the motorway on the island of Hiiumaa. Much the same as when I, on my way back from school and with a mixture of fear and curiosity, made a detour to one of the tree “islands” in the middle of a field which was said to have been a cemetery. Much the same as those times when I, with a mixture of fear and yearning, have taken several busses to reach the other side of Estonia and amble on quiet gravel roads in the early hours of the evening, looking for familiar or unfamiliar houses, but mostly familiar people, the ones that I am close to, the ones that slip through my fingers.

Astrid calls me over to eat some fries. I lie and say that I’m full, not the least bit sorry, and keep staring at the grass.

Before going to bed I pee under the arborvitae, then brush my teeth leaning on an altogether different tree. Once the tiny daylight lamp is turned off, I'm dropped into darkness. Just me and the blanket. And the pillow. It is a bit cold and damp in the caravan, after the long spell of rain. My toes still remember the soaking wet shoes and the tip of my nose is slightly chilly. You can hear pheasants screeching and beef cattle roaring in the night.

A few days later, I read from one of Vahur Afanasjev's old articles, or it was rather a call for submissions for a book award, that the difference between novels and short stories is that by the end of the novel the protagonist is different than she was at the beginning. With short stories such exertions and character improvements are not expected. For whatever reason, reading this has me deep in thought. It suddenly seems obvious why I write short fiction, using snapshots of the past as stamps to impress the paper with the same old rot, again and again, entirely unchanged. At least that’s what it seems like to me. I mention it to several friends during the course of the day and they find my reasoning to be mere nonsense and hyperbole. I remain stubborn. There is a repeat here somewhere.

A snowbound village road, no houses in sight. There is a sort of black dot on the move, sweating and short of breath. The sheer volume of snow means that the landscape has melted into a featureless mass, disappearing the poky shrubs lining the sides of the road, the abandoned farmhouse halfway to the village, the neighbouring house, the fields. Even the edge of the woods seems to have receded in the face of the big whiteness, one thin stripe forming a backdrop to the rampaging snow. To make matters worse, it is dark still, an early winter morning, half seven or so. I try to walk as fast as I can, plodding through the snow and anxiously stumbling on layers already compressed into icy swells. Ploughing on, somehow. “Straight, straight, straight! Go straight ahead until you reach where the road turns off to the neighbour’s house, and then just a little bit further and you’ll be on the big road. That’ll definitely be cleared up and nicely lit. Now get a move on, before…”
Before what? Before the foxes and hungry dogs take me down and all that is left of me are my innards in a tattered coat, and my boots. The bag. Before I have an ugly fall headlong into a ditch, up to my eyeballs in snow, because it is impossible to tell the road from a field or a ditch – everything is so completely snowed in – and then I’ll be stuck in that ditch, unmoving, until my body, warm from the half jog, starts to gradually cool off and my heart stops beating. (So peaceful, peaceful and calm.) Before the bus drives by without stopping at the bus stop and is off without me and I am left hopelessly behind, all the running and the fear of the foxes and the snow and the stray dogs just an overpriced ticket to hell.
And then I will have to turn around and once more in the half-darkness – or half-dawn, as the light now looms pallidly from every direction, wherever I look, as if someone has drawn a white duvet cover over my head – I would have to tackle the road once more.
I want to give up, sink into the snow, the palms of my hands open to the sky the first to be filled with snow.

I hide my greasy hair under a cap and hurriedly pack up. It’s not like I am actually in any hurry, but I always rush on my way from the countryside to the city. (There is a repeat here somewhere.) And soon I am off (I don’t look back), first on foot to the nearest village of gingerbread houses and Porsches, from there I take a bus to a small town where I can get on a dawdling train back into Brussels. Everything goes smoothly. I arrive at the village neither too early nor late; I have enough time to buy an ice cream and eat it by way of greeting the hot weather. The bus arrives on time, I get off at the train station without a hitch and quickly board the train. Even finding my way in an unfamiliar underground station goes relatively painlessly and I soon make my grand ascent, accompanied by the clattering of the escalator, out onto the stone-paved square of Saint Catherine, which is full of scorching locals on this sunny Sunday. You can hear soft beats of Latin American music being played somewhere, as if someone was rhythmically spilling syrup onto the pavement.

I reach the apartment, my bags full of food. I cook distractedly, take a shower, burble to myself soothingly and eventually calm down. There is a repeat here somewhere.







THE EXERCISE

I write a poem. The beginning goes smoothly, the words practically clambering on top of one another. The speed is dizzying: wait, is this how poetry is written? That whatever comes pouring out ends up on paper? It can’t be… I slow down, start arranging the words more carefully. (Should this thing have a point?) It soon becomes apparent that I am stuck. I read the whole thing through from the beginning. The first line has a whiff of upper (lower?) secondary school: as if out of a textbook, it provides a neat introduction, and creates a certain atmosphere. Then it starts to buck up: these appear to just be words that I like the sound of. Then for something interesting: two lines that are completely incomprehensible...
“And then I got scared.”
I spend a while puzzling it out and then tie the lot together with an ambiguous bow, which seems to explain everything that came before and possibly even flirt with some deeper meaning:

the due reward I reap
and take an idle leap







AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ART OF MAKING A RETURN

Before heading home, I sent out five postcards to friends, the corners of each marked with “an introduction to the art of making a return”. The message on the postcards was largely the same if partly tailored to the recipient, referencing a shared memory or a conversation left dangling. I thought it was pretty hilarious. Daft to declare my imminent arrival so vocally and daft to keep replicating what was effectively the same message. I thought all five recipients would find the piece of paper to be as hilarious as I did. Or at least chuckle upon receiving it.
My plan turned out to be more thrilling in theory. Having hardly finished writing the second postcard, I was forced to acknowledge that it had turned out rather different from the first. And a certain melancholy had snuck in between the lines. I plodded away at them all afternoon, sitting under the old trees in the park and writing until I couldn’t feel my rear end, I finished up behind my desk at home in the early hours of the evening.
What had I been introducing myself into so eagerly?

The six months of residency are over. It was meant to be spent finding my way back to art-work. So that I could practice and taste the modest fruits of my labour and slowly coax myself out of the still life that had followed last year’s burnout. And in order to support my timid motions in the studio, I had the idea of keeping a diary. A yellow diary because yellow is a cheerful, infectious colour. For some reason I thought that the title itself would lead me to the sweet spot of rediscovering the joy of working, but it soon became clear that what kept surfacing were texts that were either morassed or possessed. And it’s not as if I wrote about what I actually did in the studio. I just got on with it.

(I am neither at the beginning nor at the end. It is entirely possible that thinking about the creative process as a journey is fundamentally flawed.)

In short, the content does not match the title. It is not a work diary. Neither is it a regular diary with dated entries, but as the texts do have the penchant of sounding somewhat confessional, it could be said that they share similarities with diary writing.
In short, diary or no diary, the stories themselves are a bit like dots on a mind map. And I am still trying to work out what the map is of. I’ve often found that writing provides a much more immediate access to that part of life that tends to lurk in the corners of the studio. Yet both practices have a similar direction and nature: you need to empty your head either by way of writing or doing. And the most burning questions of life must be thrashed out, however embarrassing the results. Perhaps it is through this you learn to ask better questions. We can always hope so.

Translation from Estonian to English by Ragne Schults

BIO

Eva Mustonen (b. 1986, Estonia) has studied textile art and semiotics in Tartu and Gothenburg respectively, and installation and sculpture at Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn. Combining traditional techniques with products of everyday living and DIY solutions, Mustonen creates intricate, yet simple works that manifest her deft hand and sensibility in manipulating with materials. Drawing inspiration from simple everyday life and the abundance of stuff found in the flea markets, her work can be interpreted under the pretext of feminist art, where the personal becomes political.