Thursday, March 20, 2008

Staying busy. with outside things....


I recently wrote here that I would try not to write about myself but about things outside myself.

I saw my shrink this morning and he changed my antidepressant. I couldn't help weeping in front of him, something I've tried to spare others in my latest strategy of ignoring depression.


It's the first day of spring and the raven in the tree outside is honking annoyingly. I love ravens, I love to watch them in flight, but I must admit their vocalizations leave something to be desired. Their calls remind me of those old brass car horns with the black rubber bulb. What does it mean that a bird calls at a lower register? I have no idea, but it is clear that larger birds tend to have lower voices, as the flock of wild turkeys outside demonstrates.

There are mountain lions in this area and we can't figure out why they don't make a quick snack out of this flock of wild turkeys. I'm tempted to wring some necks myself for a feast but can't face the boiling and plucking it takes to get the carcass ready to cook. These turkeys ought to taste good, though. The only food I see them eating are insects in the abundant grass, and they are definitely free-range turkeys. Who began this flock and when and why are questions we have yet to answer. But it is fun to see the turkeys line up at twilight near the eucalyptus grove, waiting for the precise moment to fly up into the branches to roost for the night. They tend to ascend one by one, occasionally two flying up together. And once they are ensconced in their protective grove, they know that they have succeeded in surviving another day.

Although it caused me great anxiety, I looked up six vegetarian dinner recipes and made a list of the required ingredients and went shopping for them. The anxiety might be normal, in that it's something I've never done before. Last night I made a swiss chard fritatta, which Kathleen truly enjoyed. Today I have made a mushroom-barley soup. I had to do it this morning because I won't have time when Kathleen returns from work, so I have it all done and refrigerated already.

Having something to do with my hands is a blessing. I recall prior to my ECT that I generally made Kathleen lunches and tried to make dinner, but just like my former exercise regimen, ECT seemed to amputate my past from my future. The threads of things I was doing before the treatments I have had trouble reconnecting with. There was a chapbook contest I intended to enter, for example, and I had the chapbook done, but I no longer know where to send it. And I found myself published in a journal I didn't know was publishing me. I think the entire experience of ECT resembles a major concussive syndrome, with selective anterograde amnesia and a general disconnect with one's former life. If I were to do it over again, and I never plan to given the recent results, I would take the time to write down in a notebook beforehand all my ongoing activities and goals in a detailed fashion, so that I would have a guide for resuming my life. As it is, things crop up--”I was going to do that?” “I had promised to do that?” “There's a deadline for what?” “I owe whom a letter?”

ECT is a great interruption in the flow of one's life. Naturally anyone considering it would not call their life normal. But even depressed, as I have been, there are connections and recollections that seemed to have been whited out by ECT.

Of course, underneath the inevitable progression of my bipolar disease lies the grief at the loss of my first-born daughter, Rachel, on July 29, 2007. At the time I welcomed the sad feelings because they were legitimate grief, and grief felt better than depression, but in the emotional economy of the human psyche one wonders if that great loss has not been feeding my depression at some level. Experientially I can't say so; theoretically it makes sense.

I've been worrying a lot about old age lately, where we might live, how we will afford to live and all the attendant worries. But I like what Bob Dylan said: “He who isn't busy being born is busy dying.” Also, T. S. Eliot: “Old men should be explorers.”

Fine quotes to live up to. Fear is the mind-killer. Once faith in yourself is undermined, faith in anything else becomes near impossible.

So, outside myself, I've shopped and cooked two meals. Tonight I will be playing a tune I wrote for a Spring Equinox ceremony. The performance, of course, fills me with fear. But the way around my basic fear of non-being, or global incompetence of my person, is to do the things of which I'm afraid. I know this and have done this many times in my approach to life. I even called the Medical Board about the status of my medical license renewal today. (They told me to call back Monday.)

Oh, I fed the cats and brought Kathleen coffee and provided her with a lunch today. Every little useful thing helps. I don't know how it is for others, but in my advanced mental illness I have so much trouble trying to inhabit my body. My body becomes a thing, not part of my person, and to heal my mind must slow down or speed up to the rhythm of my body, so that in washing dishes, for instance, my hands and mind can work in concert. This idea hearkens back to the “moral treatment” enlightened Christians first used on the mentally ill after saving them from asylums. Farming was a big part of that therapy. My capacity for abstraction puts me at risk of losing contact with the material universe and my necessary role in it.

I have tried to keep today's post from undue solipsism. This does not mean that I am necessarily better, only that I am trying to follow my own prescription for improved health.




  1. your writings have made a great impact upon me. i do hope you keep allowing us to travel with you upon your journey. i hope you don't mind but i have created a post in your honor. i think so many would benefit from reading your blog.

  2. Your post below, and this post reminded me of a song that I haven't thought about or heard in a long, long time.

    "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."

    I've been walking around all evening singing it to my cats, and whistling.

    Reminded me that my father was always humming and whistling, usually classical music or old standards. And reminded me that I never saw him sad or sulking or depressed. It's hard to be down when you're carrying a tune around with you.

    I think I'll try singing as a form of therapy since the sunlight hasn't done much to improve my mood.

    Chin up, kid.

    We're all rootin' for you.

  3. Indeed, we are all rooting for you. I should have been gardening today with the sun out, but I needed to retreat...spent most of the day in my studio, painting, playing music louder than anyone in the household allows...they know when I go to my speace, play baroque music loud, to back off! : ) Played some Dylan, Morrison, a new CD I love, too...

    Maybe, for the time spent, I got a card to sell locally out of the day...but actually so much more...I re-couped a bit from a tough spell.

    I sense you two are doing that, too.

    Happy Spring!

    Write or call me when you feel like getting out for a bit.


  4. Anonymous2:00 PM PDT

    From one QMS fan to another...

    listen to Floyd...,

    Happy trails,


  5. Steve, thank you so much for a link that I have never seen. People often ask me why the heron is my totem...I have never had the words to explain why. You led me to them:

    Zachary Sussman interviews his former professor, Eamon Grennan, about Grennan’s poem “Drained Lake, Heron in Mud,” published in the Spring 2007 issue of OnEarth Magazine.

    Drained Lake, Heron in Mud
    When I saw the heron standing up to its spindleshins in mud
    where the lake's deep water yesterday caught the light
    and cracked it into a scatter of small flames, each fragment
    of fractured mirror gripping a coloured shard of sky or leaf
    or the glancing glimpse of a wing flapping over (taupe
    for a goose, stony bluegrey a heron, various shades of white
    the gulls), when I saw this statued heron, light burning its beak
    to an aluminum triangle, a tapered hammerhead of glass,
    it could have been the sign I was searching for: a solitary creature
    dealing with this unsettled set of fresh conditions, not stuck
    in the mud but surrounded by it, trying to draw something
    to live by from it, some surprise live morsel that would make
    survival possible. So I walked the bank and looked at it
    from every angle, hoping to winkle a hint or two to help
    shed any ray of light on things. But it just stood hunched,
    ruffling once, twice, its shoulder feathers, the gleam of its beak
    flashing back unreadable semaphore. I imagined its keen eyes'
    amber, their fixed gaze, and that it was not at ease, but patient.

    Thank you again,


  6. Meryleme? (it doesn't show up well on my puter) thank you. LKD--I can see why your grief for your father continues. He sounds like a wonderful man. Pat, glad you got some alone time. We'll get together soon. "QMS" I took to mean Quicksilver Messenger Service, then the link went to _On Earth_, a magazine distinguished by the fact that its poetry editor publishes his wife more than anyone. It never occurred to him, apparently, that such nepotism is not kosher. I've already been rejected from that magazine, so hereby throw caution to the winds if the poetry editor should ever read this. But who cares? Only middling poets with a high sense of fairness, so often violated by connections. I do have a poem in Blue Fifth Review, I just discovered, "Home Surgery." But I have a great deal of trouble actually getting inside the magazine to read it.

  7. That was not BFR posting above, which would mean Sam Rasnake, just me trying to put a link in.


  8. Anonymous4:01 PM PDT

    "My capacity for abstraction puts me at risk of losing contact with the material universe"

    Amen. I can drift that way too.


  9. Anonymous10:38 AM PDT

    What a difference a 't' can make.

    Try the url again, this time going to the audio file with the interview with 'Skloot'.

    I hope you find it helpful.

    Pat, glad you 'found' a poem that resonated...that's always cause for celebration!



  10. Anonymous2:42 PM PDT

    Understanding the pungentcy of eucliptus and speaking of croatia, the crimean sea, stainless colander helmets and boring fundamental natures -- ona different note in siders kept telling me i should get with the program and have the old cats oral hygine tended to even if content with the current -- long-story-short, he never woke up from anesthesia... this in human yrs would make coroner's case... not to mention apricots, firepits and cromagnon wearing a shade of green.
    What did you make of it?
    Ravens? Hugin and Munin?
    Pass on the peanut M&Ms and snickers ---
    I've some very bad dentistry in my day,,, crowns etc.Though he'd claimed the only camera can see into those types of cavaties.... ahh... if you claim it they will come? 1st rnights?... and before you know it they'll be trading glow in the dark grills --- say cheese.

    Simply put, look to the guides of discovery.... but count me out.

    Here's a ding-hummer for ya:


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