Yesterday, driving along the East Bay shoreline in the late afternoon, the bay at low tide was a sheen of silver water barely covering ripples of sand, like a shimmering washboard in the slanted light, a flock of black crows swooping and diving above it. Absolutely breathtaking, the sun moving in and out of dark clouds, white egrets in the shallows, the Bay Bridge looming in the background.
It is the time of king tides–the highest high and lowest low tides of the year, when the sun and moon align for maximum gravitational effect on the earth. Low-lying areas are flooding, the Great Highway along Ocean Beach is closed, tides are rushing up rivers and spilling over into nearby communities, and scores of people are out with their cameras photographing surf smashing against the Pacific coastline. Some of their pictures will be posted by the King Tides Initiative, to show people what the area will look like when normal tides reach this height sometime later in the century; but for now, it’s a once or twice a year phenomenon, both nuisance and spectacle.
The house is quiet now, just the tick of the furnace and the sound of the wind. My neighbor has replaced the faded prayer flags blown down in last week’s storm with bright new ones sending out their prayers and mantras to the world with each flap in space, spreading good will and compassion. A welcome idea, even if I’m not a believer. The colors–blue, white, red, green, and yellow–are said to represent the five elements: sky/space, air/wind, fire, water, and earth. It’s a far cry from the elements of the periodic table, especially the Tom Lehrer version:
I’ve started reading a book on depression that a friend told me about, Speaking of Sadness, by David A. Karp, and Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon is waiting in the wings. I want to learn more about depression, since it seems to be an unwelcome passenger in my life, and get more idea of various approaches to treatment. John Folk-Williams’ website, Storied Mind, has been a great resource. If people know of other books, articles, or internet sites, I’d love to hear about them, anything that sheds a little light on “The Bad Thing,” as David Foster Wallace called it:
“The Bad Thing.” I like this phrase because the state it describes doesn’t deserve a more nuanced name. The Bad Thing is not nuanced. The Bad Thing is a compassless darkness; it is the bottom of a foul deep well whose view of sunlight exists only to taunt. But even as I say this I know it’s too poetic. There’s nothing poetic about depression. This is why, most of the time, it’s no fun to read about. No matter how gifted the writer, nothingness — not the philosophical kind, but the experiential — is not much of a subject.
–Laurie Winer, from “David Foster Wallace: Defining voice of depression?” on Salon.
In a sense, I’ve been thrown out of the frying pan into the fire with this onslaught of depression. I thought alcohol was my big problem. I did the necessary: quit drinking, learned about it, found a support network, developed a set of tools to get me through the rough patches–and then, whammo! The Bad Thing. Little did I know I was self-medicating all those years. No wonder I never found that pink cloud.
We live to be surprised.