Bright blue and breezy, and somewhere in the distance a western scrub jay squawking. Some wispy white clouds are drifting by, two turkey vultures circling high in the sky, uncommon in city skies. Yesterday I saw a jay perched on the very tiptop of my neighbor’s prayer flag tower. I don’t know what else to call it, really. You can just make it out to the left of the bug (amid cobwebs) who was the original subject for the photo. The jays and mocking birds both like the tower and vie for occupancy. Generally, the jays win out.
Haven’t felt much like writing the last few days, a combination of family commitments, pain and low mood. Lots of stress right now in my daughter’s family, my son-in-law coping with a work injury just as the company’s closing down his section, balking from the insurance company handling his workers’ comp claim, no money coming in until it’s settled, bills to pay. They’re worried sick, and the tension’s spilling over onto the kids. Almost 50 million people living in poverty these days, and a great silence about it. It’s the vanishing middle class we talk about, not the burgeoning poor.
I had an MRI on Monday. Very odd to register at the clinic, sit in a waiting room, then get escorted to a parking lot behind the building into a massive trailer containing the machine, a mobile unit. I lay on my back on a narrow moveable platform. The technician stuffed pillows here and there to make me comfortable, gave me ear plugs, an emergency cord to hold, told me not to move, then pushed a button and the platform glided inside a tube, the top only a foot or two above me. Over a speaker, I heard the technician’s voice saying, “We’ll get started now,” then loud bams, bonks, booms, rat-tat-tats, then his voice again, “Doing okay?” It went on and on. After a while my back really hurt. I asked if I could move between takes. “Not your back,” he said. Oh. I breathed, repeated my TM mantra, sang songs in my head. Finally it was over.
I chatted with the technician as he led me back to the clinic. He was from rural Pennsylvania, had moved to San Francisco five months earlier to get full-time work with the company that provides the mobile MRIs. Outsourcing, I thought. I had assumed it belonged to my HMO. I hope someone does quality control on the machines once in awhile. You never know anymore where anything comes from, who’s in charge. Like the compounding pharmacies and the steroid injections contaminated with fungus. Like the banks and the bundled mortgages. People trying to head off foreclosure can’t even find out who holds their mortgage.
It’s a very weird way to run a world. Is there someone I could speak to about this?
I’ve just been reading Anne Lamott’s book, Traveling Mercies. She’s a very funny writer, vivid, personal, poignant, yet…I dunno…at times I found her so glib and self-absorbed I could hardly stand it; then, just when I was ready to throw the book down, she’d say something brilliant:
I listened to the sound of the ocean over the sound of my own breath. I used to lie on beaches stoned and think I was hearing the sound of the universe breathing. Where else can you hear this? Hardly anywhere, although sometimes crickets have the same wonderful sound of infinity, of something lightly sawing away.
When I was a child, I used to lie out in the evening against a little hill in the front lawn, listening to the crickets tuning up as the sky darkened and the stars emerged. They were so joined in my mind, I was sure the stars were making that sound. I thought that’s what people meant by twinkling. One night I made the mistake of putting forth this theory in front of my older brother, who laughed uproariously and told me it was “crickets, stupid!” Sigh. Anyway, I can relate to the infinity sound of the crickets–listen:
A quick added note to share an insightful post from Storied Mind, John Folk-Williams excellent blog on depression, which so many of us with alcohol and drug problems contend with. The post begins:
Getting well depends in part on changing core beliefs of depression that often begin to develop early in life.
According to recent neuroscience findings, putting together a narrative about who you are is one of the most important parts of mental life. The narrative integrates many dimensions of mind: memory, emotion, thinking, sense perception, awareness, every signal that flows from the farthest reaches of the nervous system into the brain.
I call it a story, but that word isn’t meant to suggest that it’s artificial or even a conscious creation. The autobiographical narrative is central to the way you make a coherent person out of the multitude of activities and impressions that your mind is taking in and interpreting.
It makes sense of your life and, hopefully, balances all the faculties of mind in a healthy way. Sometimes, notably in depression, the story isn’t balanced at all and can put you on autopilot toward disaster.