Any Twin Peaks fan worth their weight in coffee and pie can't imagine the show without the mysterious Margaret Lanterman, nicknamed the "Log Lady" and played by actress Catherine E. Coulson. So news that Coulson died Monday from cancer at age 71 hit me and other fans hard.
Here's a woman who not only transformed a side character into a major player on Twin Peaks, but spent decades working alongside director and Twin Peaks co-creator David Lynch.
"Today I lost one of my dearest friends," Lynch said in a statement. "Catherine was solid gold. She was always there for her friends. She was filled with love for all people -- for her family, for her work. She was a tireless worker. She had a great sense of humor; she loved to laugh and make people laugh. She was a spiritual person, a longtime TM meditator. She was the Log Lady."
The Log Lady was the kind of unusual character that made Lynch's oddball TV series of mystery and murder extra special. Coulson gave the Log Lady a personality that made her both bizarre and beloved at the same time. She would be the first to say in interviews, though, that she thought of her character as the only normal person on the show.
I'm even more gutted knowing that the Log Lady would have been part of the new Showtime revival of Twin Peaks. According to fan site Welcome to Twin Peaks, Coulson confirmed in November that she would reprise her role as the Log Lady in the new episodes of Twin Peaks, which went into production this month. We have no idea if her appearance had already been filmed.
To me, Log Lady personified everything I would be had I been a character on Twin Peaks. The whole town thought she was crazy for having a special bond with a small wooden log she constantly carries around and speaks to.
But as the series progresses, we learn that her husband was a lumberjack who died on their wedding night in a fire many years before we meet her, which gives the log extra significance.
It's not hard to imagine her husband's spirit inhabiting that log, especially after Deputy Hawk mentions that the wood "holds many spirits." Throughout the series, the Log Lady predicts more than one creepy event, and even attempts to warn Laura Palmer of dangers ahead five days before she's murdered.
I admired the Log Lady not only for being a clairvoyant, however, but for always speaking her mind and not caring if the citizens of Twin Peaks thought she was bonkers. Her dedication to her true love, even after his tragic death and then odd possible reincarnation as a log, was downright romantic.
She'd go to the Double R Diner and sit in the booth talking to the log, probably telling it all about her day, and how screwed up the townspeople of Twin Peaks were. If left to my own devices, I would rather converse with a log than go on any more Tinder dates. (Yes, I made a wood pun.)
Coulson infused the Log Lady with a certain spark that resonated deeply with me, to the point that I not only dressed up as her character for Halloween, but also for Arbor Day and various picnics. In fact, I still own the log pillow I would lovingly carry around at costume parties, talking to it like it was my date. Most of my imaginary conversations with a log pillow proved more rewarding than half my dates at the time in college.
'What would the Log Lady do?'
The Log Lady was a kind of alternate persona I could delve into when life got rough. It's a lot easier to handle awkward social situations if you're carrying around a log pillow to use as a conversational ice breaker at parties. Granted, I didn't always try to look like the Log Lady or have a piece of wood on hand, but I would often ask myself "What would the Log Lady do?" if I was cornered by a catty frenemy or insulted by an intimidating professor.
Channeling the Log Lady was more than a hobby for me, it was a way to get through the day when college relationships, as well as the usual "what am I going to do with my life?" anxiety, got too much to handle. She helped me cope and laugh at the world. The Log Lady was my hero.
I will miss Coulson's wit and woody wisdom. I will also miss seeing Coulson pop up in random places from time to time, whether it be as a marionberry farmer on Portlandia or a serious character in the indie movie Redwood Highway. Most of all, I know that both "Twin Peaks" and I will never be the same without her.
Born in 1943, Coulson starting acting in theater and film at age 15. But when she met Lynch in the '70s, the meeting sparked a collaboration that would last over four decades. She played a woman with no legs in The Amputee. On Lynch's breakout film Eraserhead, she worked as his camera assistant.
It was while working with Lynch on Eraserhead that the pair came up with the idea of Log Lady, which she turned into an iconic character on two seasons of the TV series Twin Peaks and the 1992 prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.
Fellow Twin Peaks actors, writers and producers expressed their sadness on learning of her death.
"This is a sad day in the land of #TwinPeaks and around the world," Madchen Amick, who played waitress Shelly Johnson on "Twin Peaks," posted on Facebook. "So many will miss her beauty, talent and grace and that heart-warming smile!!! We love you #CatherineCoulson #LogLady4ever."
Outside of Lynch projects, Coulson also worked as a camera assistant on such films as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Modern Romance, Youngblood and Night on Earth. Coulson also was active as an actress in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.
"Many of you will remember her passionate performances over the 22 seasons Catherine graced our stages," Oregon Shakespeare Festival organizers Bill Rauch and Cynthia Rider said in a statement. "We will miss her deeply, and we send her friends and family our sincere condolences."