Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Margaret "The Log Lady" Lanterman (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #48)


The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys eighty-two characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91) and the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) as well as The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. A new character study will appear every weekday morning until the premiere of Showtime's new season of Twin Peaks on May 21, 2017. There will be spoilers for the original series and film.

The Log Lady, eccentric, mystical, compassionate, is the heart and soul of Twin Peaks.


Sunday, February 19, 1989
Laura Palmer approaches the Road House and is surprised to see the Log Lady standing near the entrance waiting for her. This middle-aged woman, cradling a log in her arms, puts her hand on Laura's forehead as if she's a doctor offering a prescription, and poetically articulates her spiritual plight. Then she places her hand on Laura's cheek, clasps Laura's hand in hers, and quietly walks away. Laura is deeply moved.

Thursday, February 23, 1989
Standing outside her cabin in the woods, the Log Lady weeps. She overhears screams from the forest around her, but there is nothing she can do to stop them.

Friday, February 24, 1989
FBI Agent Dale Cooper peppers Sheriff Truman with questions about various Twin Peaks citizens at the town hall meeting, and eventually asks about the lady violently flicking the light switch. "Who's the lady with the log?" he asks. "We call her the Log Lady," Truman explains straightforwardly. She stands against the wall and listens as Cooper describes the murder of a girl named Teresa Banks a year earlier, linking it to the death of Laura that morning.

Saturday, February 25, 1989
The Log Lady notices Cooper and Truman watching her in the RR Diner. She approaches Cooper and aggressively tells him her log witnessed something the night Laura died. She demands he ask the log itself what it heard and when he hesitates she snorts, "I thought so," and storms away.

Monday, February 27, 1989
The Log Lady stands mournfully next to Father Clarence as he delivers the sermon for Laura's funeral. She holds the log with a handkerchief, as if to dry its own tears.

Wednesday, March 1, 1989
Cooper, Truman, Deputy Hawk Hill, and Doc Hayward approach a log cabin with guns drawn (except for Doc of course) and are surprised to see the Log Lady emerge as if she was expecting them. She invites them inside, offering tea and cookies but no cake. Cooper almost declines but the others silence him and accept her invitation. Seated around the table, they listen as she recalls her husband's death (in a fire soon after their wedding) and slaps Cooper's hand away when he reaches for a cookie. Then the Log Lady lifts her log into her arms and Cooper asks it what happened the night of Laura's death. Hand placed sensitively on its bark, the Log Lady recalls that she heard two men and two girls moving through the forest. Later she heard another man passing by with the same two girls as they screamed. And then, she says, "the owls were silent."

Friday, March 3, 1989
The Log Lady sits in a booth at the RR Diner, chewing her pitch gum and eventually spitting it out onto the table before sticking her discarded wad on the wall and beginning to chew a new batch.

Saturday, March 4, 1989
The Log Lady enters the RR and sits at the counter next to Major Garland Briggs. Norma Jennings, the owner of the diner, approaches and warmly welcomes her before asking, politely but firmly, to spit her gum into an ashtray from now on instead of the counter or the booth. The Log Lady seems hurt, but after Norma moves away she focus her attention on the Major instead. A bit harshly, she informs him that her log has something to say. Can he hear it? Courteously, he answers, "No, ma'am, I cannot." She translates: "Deliver the message." The Major takes this to heart, knowing exactly what it means.

Wednesday, March 9, 1989
The Log Lady emerges at the Twin Peaks sheriff's station and tells Cooper and Truman, "We don't know what will happen, or when. But there are owls at the Road House." The trio arrives at the Road House and takes a table to watch the musical performance onstage. The Log Lady devours peanuts with gusto. A little while later, Cooper experiences a vision of a giant and it seems that the Log Lady, unlike everyone else at the bar, sees him too. When he disappears, an elderly waiter approaches the table and comforts Cooper by saying, "I'm so sorry." The Log Lady hears him and turns to Cooper with a pained expression.

Thursday, March 16, 1989
In a cheerful mood at Dougie and Lana Milford's wedding reception at the Great Northern Hotel, the Log Lady sits down with Pete Martell and Mayor Dwayne Milford, declaring "I just love Milford weddings!" Pete seems particularly perturbed by her as she praises the cake; when she watches Dougie and Lana cut it there is a slight melancholy to her appearance, as if remembering her own short-lived marriage.

Wednesday, March 22, 1989
The Log Lady approaches the counter at the RR and places her fingers on the Major's neck, which features a strange tattoo. They go to the sheriff's station together and Cooper draws the Major's tattoo on the blackboard. The Log Lady recalls a mysterious experience in the woods when she was a little girl and shows the tattoo on her leg. Cooper draws that too and listens as she recalls the incident: "I was seven years old. I went walking up in the woods and when I got back I was told I had disappeared for a day. All I could recall was a falsh of light and the mark was on my leg." She also heard the sound of an owl; the only other time she witnessed these two signs together was just before her husband died.

Thursday, March 23, 1989
Enjoying her pie at the RR counter, the Log Lady is agitated by an FBI agent with a hearing aid. Proclaiming his love for the waitress, saying that he can hear her and it's a miracle, he is forcefully reminded by the Log Lady that miracles happen every day: "This cherry pie is a miracle!"

Sunday, March 26, 1989
At the Miss Twin Peaks pageant, local scoundrel Tim Pinkle is groping the Log Lady and she's forced to shove him away. Bobby Briggs watches and then turns to see someone else dressed as the Log Lady. When he turns back to where she was, she's gone. Later that night the (real) Log Lady appears at the sheriff's station where Pete accuses her of stealing his truck (Cooper corrects him: a man named Windom Earle, apparently disguised as the Log Lady, stole the vehicle.) The Log Lady offers Cooper a jar of oil that her husband gave her before he died. According to him (via her), it's "an opening to a gateway." Cooper and Truman smell it and declare enthusiastically, "Scorched engine oil!" Then Ronette Pulaski, the other girl in the woods with Laura when she died, is welcomed into the conference room, where she smells the engine oil and recoils in horror. As the Log Lady (who heard their voices that night) listens, Ronette recognizes this scent from "the night Laura Palmer was killed."

Characters the Log Lady interacts with onscreen…

Laura Palmer

Agent Cooper

Sheriff Truman

Doc Hayward & Deputy Hawk

Norma Jennings

Major Briggs

Pete Martell

Gordon Cole

Tim Pinkle

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through the Log Lady
It's hard to believe the Log Lady is forty-eighth on this list, so integral is she to the spirit of both Twin Peaks the town and Twin Peaks the show. She's a touchstone, someone we don't necessarily turn to all that often but who reminds us of the fundamentals whenever we do. Her first, most striking feature is her eccentricity. Who carries a log around everywhere? That's a very Twin Peaks thing to do, and it's no wonder her face (and upper torso - gotta have that log in there) became a short-hand icon for the show as much Laura wrapped in plastic or Cooper with his tape recorder. It's also significant that the object she carries everywhere is a piece of wood. Twin Peaks is largely defined by wood - the town is surrounded by trees, the primary industry (destroyed in the course of the series) is lumber, and the buildings are usually constructed and/or decorated with timber. That's key too: one of Twin Peaks' design strategies was to bring the outside inside and the Log Lady certainly does that, carrying a piece of the forest wherever she goes, to a town meeting about a serial killer, to the diner for a cup of coffee, to the Road House to crunch on peanuts and witness a spiritual visitation. That mystic ability is also crucial to her importance (she's even linked to electricity in the pilot, though the spiritual aspect of that association won't become overt until the prequel). The Log Lady always treats her log not just as a person, but one imbued with psychic abilities. When the authorities visit her home, she regales them with the mythology of the woods; later she delivers messages to both the Major and Cooper, helping them to express or witness supernatural forces at work. She eventually reveals her own contact experience (which is further explored in other Twin Peaks media) and appears in the final episode bearing one of the show's spirit world totems: a jar of oil that, according to her late husband, was "an opening to a gateway." The Log Lady has gone on to represent Twin Peaks in everything from magazine covers (she was the first cast member interviewed by the fan magazine Wrapped in Plastic, opening a gateway indeed) to merchandise to parodies to offbeat tributes. When John Malkovich portrayed a handful of Lynch characters for Sandro Miller's recent art project Psychogenic Fugue, they included such unforgettable figures as Dale Cooper, the Elephant Man, Lost Highway's Mystery Man, Lynch himself...and the Log Lady. Brad Dukes (who watched the series when he was just nine) has pointed out that the Log Lady's appearance was so sharp and immediately identifiable she could almost be a Sesame Street character. In fact, she was: in the spring of 1991, the show's Monsterpiece Theatre brought Cookie Monster to the town of Twin Beaks where he sipped coffee, munched pie, and ran into a bird carrying...you guessed it, a log. The Log Lady's iconographic quality is so strong that she's one of only two characters to be impersonated within the narrative of Twin Peaks itself (the other is Laura by her cousin Maddy). Windom Earle disguises himself as the Log Lady in the penultimate episode and this distorted version of the beloved figure was supposed to be the last time we saw "her" onscreen. However, David Lynch had other ideas. Because of his intervention, in the film especially, she becomes a key contact with Laura as well as Cooper and thus one of the important bridges in Twin Peaks. As one of the few individuals to actually break through and reach Laura in her last days, and the only one (aside from the killer and a catatonic fellow victim) to hear her final cries, she is a conduit for the energies that characterized and overcame Laura. And I haven't even mentioned the Log Lady introductions (don't worry, they're coming up). The Log Lady is Twin Peaks.

The Log Lady’s journey
To trace the Log Lady's journey it makes sense to consider production rather than chronology, and begin with her cameo in the pilot. Actually, we could begin even earlier - fifteen years earlier to be exact - but I'll save that for the following section. In the pilot, the Log Lady is no more than a featured extra. She wasn't in the script, and most of the time she hovers in the background of the town meeting. She holds her log straight and horizontal in front of her, hands cupped underneath somewhat awkwardly (this may have been because, as the actress later reported, the log was freshly cut and still oozing sap). She's only highlighted, briefly, when hissing "Shhhh!" and flicking the light switch. She's given a more significant role in one scene of the following episode, including her first line: "For your information, I heard you speaking about Laura Palmer...one day my log will have something to say about this." He grouchiness and eccentricity are highlighted and the seeds are deftly planted for a later encounter. Her longest appearance of the whole series occurs after the midpoint of season one, when her importance to the town and the mystery is expanded; the bemused deference that everyone but Cooper pays her demonstrates the respect she commands from the townspeople even as they look at her a bit askance. We also learn her name, Margaret, for the first time (though her title always seems more appropriate). Throughout the second season, she alternates between comical glimpses (spitting gum in the diner, chowing cake at the wedding, fending off Pinkle's advances at the pageant) and crucial plot advancement (two rendezvous with the Major, and two rendezvous with Cooper - plus a sit-down for all three). When we finally see her with Laura in Fire Walk With Me, she isn't grouchy. She's not an outsider regarded with affectionate distance. Laura gets her, and she gets Laura, offering a gentle warning that is less judgmental than prophetic. And then the Log Lady departs with a compassionate gesture that chills Laura but also nudges her forward on her own journey, the most essential in all of Twin Peaks. What began as a goofy quirk woven into the texture of the town has emerged over the course of the series as a core value. The eccentricity has become the epiphany.

Actress: Catherine Coulson
Coulson had a long, storied career in front of and behind the camera, as well as onstage. She was camera assistant on many films in the seventies and early eighties (a pioneer in the field, she was one of the first female camera assistants to break into the union). On films like Opening Night and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, she pulled focus, loaded magazines, and/or operated the camera herself, a craft she learned during her stint as "assistant director" (actually, jack of all trades) on Eraserhead. Because that film took years to make, her actual Lynch debut was the short experiment The Amputee, in which she plays the title character. Counting by date of completion, this makes her Lynch's longest collaborator, spanning forty-four years. On the set of Eraserhead, Lynch and Coulson would joke about making an educational series called I'll Test My Log With Every Branch of Knowledge in which Coulson would play a "Log Girl" who takes her log to various professionals and learns about their trade. When Lynch finally called Coulson up in the late eighties and told her it was time to put the "Log Girl" on film, she agreed but - no longer in her early thirties as she had been on Eraserhead - suggested they update the "Girl" to a "Lady". During her bout of pop culture celebrity in the early nineties, Coulson took on more TV and movie roles but eventually she focused mostly on the stage. (Although she did make one significant TV appearance in "Dual Spires", a 2010 episode of Psych designed as a tribute to Twin Peaks; in a cameo, she appears as a woman carrying wood who appears to be talking to it until a child emerges into view.) She was a long-standing member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival right up until her death several years ago. That event shook the Twin Peaks community, because Coulson not only played a beloved character but had long been one of the most active participants in fan events and publications. (Coulson has given great interviews to Brad Dukes and Cameron Cloutier, among many others - check out this lengthy transcript from the early eighties for example: it's a must-read stuffed with anecdotes about living inside Eraserhead for a half a decade.) Coulson was a steward of Twin Peaks on and offscreen - and she kept that log for the rest of her life, taking it with her on plane flights, insuring it, placing it in a vault where it could be kept moist, and eventually passing it on to her friend Charlotte Stewart at the end of her life. The Log Lady is gone, but her spirit - and her log - live on. (film pictured: The Amputee, 1973)

Episodes
The Pilot

Episode 1 (German title: "Traces to Nowhere")

Episode 3 (German title: "Rest in Pain")

*Episode 5 (German title: "Cooper's Dreams" - best episode)

Episode 8 (German title: "May the Giant Be With You")

Episode 9 (German title: "Coma")

Episode 14 (German title: "Lonely Souls")

Episode 18 (German title: "Masked Ball")

Episode 24 (German title: "Wounds and Scars")

Episode 25 (German title: "On the Wings of Love")

Episode 28 (German title: "Miss Twin Peaks")

Episode 29 (German title: "Beyond Life and Death")

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (feature film)

Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (collection of deleted scenes from the film)

Writers/Directors
The Log Lady was in all but one of David Lynch's episodes, and he directed nearly half of hers (and more than half her total screentime). She was also directed by Duwayne Dunham (twice), Lesli Linka Glatter, James Foley, and Tim Hunter. Lynch improvised her cameo in the pilot (probably in consultation with co-writer Mark Frost) as well as in the finale (at which point he wasn't consulting Frost much at all), and he co-wrote her role in another episode and in the film. Writers Harley Peyton, Robert Engels, and Barry Pullman also contributed to her characterization. For obvious reasons, Lynch tends to get the lion's share of attribution for the Log Lady. She was his concept, played by his close friend, and he directed her more than anyone else; he also placed her at the forefront of the show with his Log Lady introductions. However, Frost deserves a great deal of credit for shaping the Log Lady's persona and her place in the narrative, carving out the particular mythos that has been celebrated ever since. He wrote or co-wrote five of her episodes (not including the finale, since she was added later), and wrote her most sustained sequence in the series, full of artfully-crafted exposition and revealing character quirks. The log cabin scene places her on the vital periphery of Laura's tragedy and gives voice to the spirituality of fire, wood, and owls in ways that would echo throughout the rest of the series - in a sense, this sequence is Frost's Red Room. It's unknown to what extent this background was broadly worked out with Lynch during phone calls (the director was on the set of Wild at Heart at the time, while Frost was handling the day-to-day duties of Twin Peaks' first season), but it was Frost who wrote the dialogue and shaped the scene on the pages of his first solo script. The result has a distinctly Frostian feel, from the delineation of the town's spiritual motifs to its fascination with how "normal" characters interact with Margaret to her placement within a literary/folkloric tradition of wise hermits to the nod toward Great Expectations' Miss Havisham with her romantic life frozen at her wedding day (Frost has often referred to his conception of Twin Peaks as Dickensian, and at one point we even see Catherine reading a copy of Great Expectations). Frost was likely behind the character's other major interventions in the narrative and she has continued to mean a lot to him over the years - in 2016, he wrote a loving tribute to the Log Lady as part of The Secret History of Twin Peaks.

Statistics
The Log Lady is onscreen for roughly sixteen minutes - about a third of an episode. She is in sixteen scenes in thirteen episodes (plus the feature film and deleted scenes collection), taking place over five weeks. She's featured the most in episode 5, when we visit her log cabin. Her primary location is the RR Diner (though the cabin is not far behind). She shares the most screentime with Cooper. Her appearances are so short (however concentrated their energy) that her character is never among the top ten characters of any episode. If we include the Log Lady introductions as part of the story, her total screentime leaps to forty-three minutes (ranking her at #31) and her primary location would be the log cabin by a long shot. The combined length of those introductions is ten minutes longer than her entire time on the series.

Best Scene
Episode 5: The Log Lady invites Cooper, Truman, Hawk, and Doc inside her cabin to share tea and woodland lore.

Best Line
“When this kind of fire starts, it is very hard to put out. The tender boughs of innocence burn first and the wind rises and then all goodness is in jeopardy.”

Bonus: The Log Lady Introductions (1993)
Occasionally during this series I'll add a bonus section addressing spin-offs that star a particular character. Off the top of my head, only two other characters will require this: Cooper and Laura. That's how vital the Log Lady is to Twin Peaks. In this case, David Lynch wrote and directed thirty short segments in which the Log Lady addresses the camera from inside her cabin. These passages were filmed for the Bravo network's re-airing of the series a year after Fire Walk With Me premiered in theaters. A new one screened before each episode, ranging from a few seconds to several minutes in length, and they were later attached to the episodes on DVD and blu-ray releases. They have been transcribed online. This is the Log Lady introducing the episodes, not Catherine Coulson: she is fully in character, existing somewhere between the in-universe world of the show and a recognition that this is all a story being told. She never uses the words "television" or "show" or "series," it's more like she is telling a story by a (boarded-up) fire and the images we are seeing are communicated telepathically. The monologues are usually cryptic, sometimes maddeningly so, although a few are on-the-nose ("There is a depression after an answer is given," she says in the episode where Cooper solves Laura's mystery. "It was almost fun not knowing.") Others remark on touchstones of the particular episode - creamed corn, a death mask, a drawer pull - but only to deepen the mystery rather than offer any answers. How could she, without inadvertently misleading us toward an overly literal viewpoint. As she says near the end: "There are clues everywhere - all around us. But the puzzle maker is clever. The clues, although surrounding us, are somehow mistaken for something else. And the something else - the wrong interpretation of the clues - we call our world." Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the Log Lady introductions is the subtle way they change the overall shape of Twin Peaks, implying that there is an underlying cohesion to this messy series: it really adds up to something after all.

Additional Observations

• Martha Nochimson writes eloquently about the Log Lady introductions in her book The Passion of David Lynch: Wild at Heart in Hollywood: "The ordinary television narrator is a powerful illusionist device. His reality - and it is almost always a he - presents itself as more actual than the fiction it introduces, doing so by direct address to the camera and an appeal to the authority of reason not to the mythology of the story it introduces. The typical narrator adds to the typical fictional narrative even more logic than it already contains, a double dose of the dominance of rationality and social labeling. In contrast, by donning the authority of the narrator, Margaret unobtrusively turns the role inside out. As a part of the fiction, she doubles the dose of the nonrational and subconscious. Margaret does not offer a logical handle on Twin Peaks in the style of Alistair Cooke, the prototypical 'host,' who seeks to ground in logic the events of Masterpiece Theatre's dramatization with his user-friendly plot summaries and his historical contextualizations. In contrast, Margaret never gives us a summary of events- she typically avoids any reference to the story events on the show - or any conventional historical information bearing on the story. Nor does she give us the less formal historical handle - gossip about the making of Twin Peaks - to satisfy the obvious hunger for such detail. Rather, she asks us to come together in a social act of letting go of labels, handles, and formal contextualizations."

• The Log Lady made a surprise appearance during the 1990 Emmys when Twin Peaks was nominated for fourteen awards (she was nominated for two). To uproarious laughter, the camera reveals Coulson in character sitting with the audience, cradling her log and asking who was going to win the next award. "Really?" she says in response to an answer only she can here, and then, in typical Lynchian fashion, she simply moves on without revealing the secret. (As the show returns to commercials, the log tells her something else and she replies, "You should've thought of that before we sat down!")

• Between Fire Walk With Me and her intros for Bravo, the Log Lady appeared in one other piece of Twin Peaks media: Japanese commercials for Georgia Coffee. David Lynch created four quick advertisements that tell an interlocking mystery story using various Twin Peaks icons. In each of the spots, when Cooper proclaims the deliciousness of the product the Log Lady pops up to pronounce, "It's true." She also appeared in a promo a couple years earlier, when the show moved from Saturday to Wednesday. In a parody of The Wizard of Oz, she stands by Cooper's bed as he awakens from a terrible dream and learns that the series will be airing on a new night.

• In Brad Dukes' Reflections oral history, Coulson reports, "I remember some Japanese company wanted to buy [the log] at one time, because the show was very popular in Japan. I wisely said, 'No, the log is not for sale,' but my daughter just graduated from college, and I thought 'Oh gosh, we could really have used that money,' [laughs] but I could never sell the log." She also remembers details of the Test Your Log With Every Branch of Knowledge idea: "I would go to a dentist, and he'd clip a little blue towel on the log and the dentist would probe the rings and talk about dentistry as well as the wood. There would be a different expert every week and that was the idea for the series."

• Coulson first became involved with Eraserhead because she was married to its star, Jack Nance. They divorced later but remained friendly and had a couple scenes together on Twin Peaks, where of course Nance plays Pete Martell. In the first, the Log Lady annoys Pete by constantly talking about the food. In the second, he accuses her of stealing his truck. Both may be amusing plays on marital tensions that Lynch himself witnessed through his long friendship with both: in fact, the particular way that Pete groans "Caaaatherine" to his onscreen wife (played by Piper Laurie) was supposedly a reference to how he would intone Catherine Coulson's name when he was flustered.

• The Log Lady offers us one of our first sideways glimpses of Bob in this character series: when she passes through the door of the RR in episode 9, Andy is hanging up a "Have you seen this man?" poster with a sketch of Bob's face. (We did glimpse this poster very, very fleetingly when Roger and the Mountie arrive in Twin Peaks but it's covered in a quick pan and not the focus of attention as it is here. And of course, the Fire Walk With Me Jeffries sequence is intercut with footage of Bob, but I treated the Missing Pieces assembly as my guide for that entry.)

• Lynch's and Frost's treatment of the Log Lady - especially her relationship with Cooper - is one of the most telling indicators of the different sensibilities. Without Lynch directing, Frost usually cultivates a slightly antagonistic chemistry between the FBI agent and the rural prophet. It's there in an early scene they supposedly co-wrote, and very apparent in Frost's solo script for episode 5 when Cooper must be pressured to enter the Log Lady's cabin (and then she slaps his hand when he reaches for a cookie). In fact, this element is even present in the script for episode 14, but Lynch goes in another direction. As Frost writes the scene, Cooper is hesitant and uncomfortable when the Log Lady tells him something is happening at the Road House; once again Truman must cajole him into accepting her invitation. As director Lynch cuts this dialogue and shows Cooper responding with rapt attention and understanding to the Log Lady's gnomic "There are owls at the Road House." "The Road House," he repeats softly, "...something is happening, isn't it, Margaret?" Impressed by his comprehension, she whispers, "Yes." I explore this dichotomy between the creators in the first few minutes of "Cooper's Story", a chapter of my Journey Through Twin Peaks video series.

• Other directors tend to emphasize the reactions of other characters to the Log Lady. In episode 5, the sheriff and his companions are tolerant of her brusque manner and strange statements, but also a bit condescending with their bemused glances, sneaking smiles, and patient delivery. Lynch often allows the Log Lady act even more asocial - spitting gum on the counter, scowling at Norma, scoffing peanuts at the Road House - but when he directs, everyone else takes this behavior in stride, noticing with little more than a neutral gaze or, in Norma's case, a straightforward admonition that neither belittles the Log Lady nor acknowledges her sour reaction. This puts us in the uncomfortable position of not being sure how we're supposed to feel about what we're seeing, throwing our own reactions back in our face and forcing us to question them. In fact, this is one of Lynch's most distinctive traits (especially prevalent in Blue Velvet), partially explaining why it's so hard for many viewers to determine when his work is being "intentionally" funny, or if it's even funny at all. The normal cues are absent.

• If you want to witness the series' radical tonal shift (its mid-season two crisis) in a nutshell, watch the Log Lady's appearance in episode 14 back-to-back with her entrance at the wedding in episode 18. One moment she is turning slowly toward Cooper in a dark room, as Julee Cruise's music plays on the soundtrack, a deep sense of sorrow and confusion in the atmosphere...and the next moment, fast-paced polka music fills a brightly-lit room as the Log Lady rushes to a table and declares - in some of the most terrible overdubbing in the entire series (it doesn't even sound like Coulson's voice), "I just love Milford weddings!"

• There's a continuity error in the wedding scene - we cut back and forth between Pete at his table and the newlyweds cutting the cake, and the Log Lady is in the background of both shots (she's even eating a slice of cake, before it's been cut).

• About that cake-cutting...though she's unusually cheerful through most of this scene, the Log Lady looks melancholy when Dougie Milford shows off his young bride. Perhaps she's remembering her own short-lived marriage? (Ironically, Lana Milford will soon be a widow too).

 Over the years, there has been much fan speculation about the Log Lady's husband. Two of the most popular theories are that he's one of the woodsmen glimpsed above the convenience store in Fire Walk With Me and that his spirit is trapped inside the log carried by his widow. Is that his voice speaking to her? In what was probably her final interview, with Twin Peaks Unwrapped (begins at 17:36) in the summer of 2015, Coulson frowned on the idea. "Nah, I wouldn't read that much into it. I mean, he did die in a fire but I think we hold fast to totems that remind us of the people we love. I wouldn't say the spirit of him is in the log, I would say that she holds fast to the memory of her dead husband but really the log is just a log. And we never anthropomorphize the log, it's not a he or a she. It's a good log though!"

• In Jennifer Lynch's The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer, a thirteen-year-old Laura encounters the Log Lady at an abandoned gas station after dreaming about this address the night before; to the teenager's shock, the older woman shared this same dream. They talk for a while and the Log Lady even hums her a song. Laura finds her presence comforting: "It made me feel safe, which I think she was trying to make me feel. I feel sorry for her, that people think she is strange and weird. She isn't at all." But Laura is also confused by some of her wisdom, confessing that "a lot of it seemed like gibberish" though she writes it down anyway: "She said that sometimes the woods are a place to learn about things, and to learn about yourself. Other times the woods are a place for other creatures to be, and it is not for us. She said that sometimes people go camping and learn things they shouldn't. Children are prey sometimes... I think that's how she said it. What else...I tried so hard to remember everything. Oh. She told me that she would be watching, and someday people will find out that she sees things and remembers them. She said that it is important to remember things you see and feel. Owls are sometimes big. There! That was the one I had forgotten totally. Owls are sometimes big." The Log Lady also tells her that she is very beautiful and will be loved. Later that day, Laura's mother tells her that the Log Lady's husband was a firefighter who tripped over a root and fell face-first into the flames he was battling. Laura hopes the Log Lady isn't lonely and wishes she had more to offer in return. That night, after a visit from BOB, she writes, "I don't know if the Log Lady was talking about the right Laura Palmer."

• The Log Lady appears relatively early in Mark Frost's The Secret History of Twin Peaks as one of three children (including Carl Rodd) lost in the woods one night in the late forties. When the nine-year-old is discovered the next morning, she thinks she's only been gone an hour or so. She's rescued by Andrew Packard and examined by Dr. William Hayward, who discovers the tattoo we see on the series. The Log Lady is most prominently featured near the end of the book. Under the guise of journalist Robert Jacoby, Frost writes a touching tribute headlined "IF THESE WOODS COULD SPEAK, and, Trust Me, Sometimes They Do." It opens: "You might encounter her hiking one of the many paths she favors through our surrounding hills and forests - paths she helped create, you'll be interested to learn. You might recognize her from community meetings at the Grange Hall, a constant presence, flicking the lights on and off to make sure they start and end as scheduled. The rest of the time she's at her cabin in the woods - a bonus fire ranger, if you will - watching and listening like a wolf, alert to any dangers to our local environment, and - you would quickly realize - never shy to sound the alarm. You might find yourself sitting next to her at the counter of the Double R as she enjoys a late-night slice of Norma's pie - well, not right next to her, she's eating for two, as it were. There's a log on the seat next to her." The article runs several pages, recounting the Log Lady's entire life. We are reminded of her strange disappearance in the woods, and follow her into her life as a passionate conservationist. We learn more about Sam Lanterman, her hearty husband, who courted her for a year and then died on their wedding day, just before they were to depart on their honeymoon. And we witness her stoic acceptance of his death, as if it was something she sadly expected and could not avoid. At the end of the article, the author writes about his own mortality. For Frost, however, writing this in 2015 or 2016, the coda is likely a thinly-veiled meditation on both his own father's condition (Warren Frost was possibly in the early stages of Alzheimers; he passed away in early 2017) and Catherine Coulson's recent death.
"It seems not to matter how long you live because, near the end, everyone reports the same; that it all went by so quickly, water slipping through our hands. There's no answer for it. Live now, that's my only advice to you. I leave not willingly, and haunted by the thought that my job - writing down stories, bearing witness to our mutual journey through time and space - is far from done. But even in this dark moment I take some comfort in a truth I'm now forced to accept: Storytellers don't run out of stories, they just run out of time. It's someone else's job now."

SHOWTIME: Yes, Coulson is on the cast list for 2017. When she died of cancer in September 2015, there was an outpouring of grief from fans (I offered my own contribution) not only for her loss, but the near-certainty she would never be able to step back into the character she had so looked forward to reprising. After all, she had apparently been ill for several months and the production had only just started shooting a week or two before she died. Yet there were rumors that she had managed to shoot something beforehand, and when the cast list was finally released, there she was. And it makes sense. As noted above, Coulson was Lynch's longest collaborator, a close friend, and to so many fans (including herself) deeply attached to Twin Peaks. Perhaps she was able to record new introductions? Perhaps she makes a brief appearance in the town, registering her presence as a blessing for the series to go forward? Whatever the case, one of the most poignant moments in the new series will be when we see the Log Lady for the last time. But the fact that we will be able to see her again at all, that a year and a half after Coulson's death there is still a surprise waiting for us, is something we should treasure.

Tomorrow: Andrew Packard
Last Week: The Singer

No comments: