366 in 16: February 8 – blossoms

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Spring is here, huzzah!

Honestly, I have always been ambivalent about Spring.  I think that is partially to do with the climate – I have never had to look forward to an end to freezing, biting snow (as my blatant ineptitude at traversing even slightly icy ground when I visit Sophie’s family in winter attests), and part of it has to do with my allergies which yearly at around this time reduce my eyes to red pits of itchy misery and make me sneeze a lot (I used to get sent home from school due to my allergies because my eyes would swell up so much I couldn’t see).  Spring really isn’t the happy occasion for me that it is for some.

But don’t get me wrong either – I don’t hate Spring.  I look forward to the return of the American robin (saw my first one yesterday though I have been hearing them for over a week) and the Red-winged blackbird.  The Spring migrations will be starting soon, and though I am not conveniently on a flyway the way I was in Humboldt County, I hope to scope out some good birding spots this year.  The trees are starting to get their leaves back and the cherry and plum trees are blossoming.  The salamanders are creeping out of the detritus and the whales will soon be migrating.

I miss the Spring rains, which have been so long delayed by our drought here.  This year’s El Nino has dropped quite a bit of promised precipitation on us, which is great.  Still I miss rainy days – meaning days where it rains all day.

Spring is a time of renewal and rebirth.  It is a time of optimism and enthusiasm, when windows can be thrown open in our houses and our minds, where both our dwellings and our hearts can get a good airing after winter’s chilly embrace.  It’s a time for getting out and walking around with a good pair of binoculars and an unknown trail.

Time to start peeking into the bushes again.

366 in 16: February 7 – Books

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Now that Rocket has been placated, I thought I would get back to the post that I wanted to write – books.

I grew up in a semi-reading household.  My mother tried to read widely, but being a single parent seldom had the opportunity.  However, the house was scattered with books from her younger days – college reading, old favorites, etc.  She was particularly fond of Konrad Lorenz (a taste I never really acquired) and psychology texts (which I did).  My aunt Gertrude read, but it was restricted to tawdry “true detective” magazines – the kind that featured women being menaced while wearing revealing clothing on the cover.  I read a few, but I never got what the point was.  They always seemed so shabby and tried so hard to be scintillating but just came out tawdry and sad, especially since they generally wound up with someone dead and someone else in jail.  My step-father was not a big reader, but had subscriptions to National Geographic that everyone in the household read with great enjoyment.  My biological father read a great deal too, though it was mostly obscure literature which was beyond me when I was young.

So I grew up around books.  I loved books.  Books were my friends.  From an early age my preferred form of recreation was reading.  It was great!  I didn’t have to get together with like-minded friends, I didn’t have to negotiate with anyone to do what I wanted to do (“Do you want to ride bikes or play Tonka trucks or read?” was a non-starter anyway), I didn’t have to associate with other volatile children and risk getting punched or made fun of (I wore an eyepatch for awhile in a vain attempt to correct my lazy eye) and best of all, it was an activity that everyone in my family approved of!  I could actually delay doing chores or other unpleasant activities by reading in a way that other childhood activities never could.  “I’m climbing a tree” or “I’m playing with my friend” or other kid stuff excuses availed me nothing, but “let me finish this chapter” worked like a charm – and through the childishly fiendish logic of “I’ve started a new chapter, so the clock is reset!” I could delay taking out the garbage or cleaning my room sometimes for hours.

Reading also helped to pass the time during the long bus rides to and from San Francisco to visit my father.  I had to pace myself somewhat because reading on the bus sometimes made me sick, and it was that miserable kind of sick that didn’t go away until I stepped off the bus.  Normally I changed busses in Sacramento, so I would read for a little while when I first boarded in Oroville, stop reading around Marysville, then start again when I got off at the Sacramento terminal while I waited for my connection.

When I got to be into my early teens, and my mother got sicker, I discovered that reading was also a great distraction for those times when I had to sit around the hospital, sometimes for hours, waiting for my mother to come out of a diabetic coma.  As long as I was reading I could pretty much ignore my surroundings and not worry too much about what was going on.

So I picked up the habit as a child, and never really lost it.  I live in a house full of books now.  There are favorites that I lug around with me wherever I go, and some I read again and again and again.

One of the most fascinating developments for me has been the success of the e-book.  I think that science fiction writers really missed the boat in predicting the effect that would have on the 21st century.  Being able to carry around a library load of literature in my back pocket has restimulated my interest in reading literature, and it has the potential to bring more exposure to the written world to people who traditionally have had less access to it.  No longer do people have to lug around multiple boxes of heavy wood pulp around every time they move.  We had 16 boxes of books (not counting comics) the last time we moved – 16 big, miserable, heavy boxes of books for my aging back to lug onto and off of a truck.  We still have almost all of those books (*SHUDDER*) but I now have a library of comparable size that I can slip into a coat pocket.  Many of our current books are, of course, old friends, and I would no more think of discarding them than chopping off an arm.  And of course our decor is focused on books, with plenty of book shelves for their display.

Still, I think the current trend towards e-books is an amazing and empowering one.  Those of us who are bibliophiles remember the quandry we had at the library as kids (and sometimes have now as adults) – “How many books can I successfully manage to get home?”  With e-books that will be considerably less of a problem.  And e-books have all sorts of wonderful search and annotation tools that can be used, and later deleted if desired, without damaging the actual manuscript.  Many, though not all of the classics are now available online – many for free.  Have that sudden desire to read “Finnigan’s Wake”?  You don’t have to plod down to your local book store or library – you can download it right from your bed, without ever disturbing the cat!  Make some tea, and by the time you are done, the vexatious novel will be right there waiting for you, and in a variety of fonts and type sizes for those of us with ageing eyes.

But, as previously mentioned, books are also part of the decor of one’s house.  They are a form of ornamentation meant to be put on display, to be not only read but also admired by visitors, and to stand as a declaration of one’s literacy and the depth and breadth of one’s interests.  I am reminded of those fake books people put on bookshelves to look well-read.  What will one do, I wonder, with all that bookshelf space when everything moves to e-books?  Will there be a specialty printing market that makes inexpensive, biodegradable book covers for the books you have in e-format, so that you can still display your depth and breadth of knowledge?  Or maybe it will just be a wallpaper for your public access screen at home, cycling through illustrations of book covers that don’t actually exist to show off your vitual “library”.  Maybe access to literature will become so universal, so expected, that books as decorations will largely cease to exist (other than some few that will be held onto as classics).

I love my Kindle.  But I am not going to be shoveling the books out the door anytime soon.

366 in 16: February 6 – “Let the Sun Shine In!”

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See what I did there?  I’m ourside – in the sun!

So, a follow up on the previous post – what it feels like to come out of depression.

It’s like breathing crisp spring air at sunrise.

It really is quite a glorious thing. It’s freedom.  Of course, I know that the depression will be back, and it will knock me on my ass again sooner or later, but for the moment I’m free!  I can walk around and do stuff and go out among people and write e-mails and do photodoodles!  Woo hoo!  Look Geppetto, I’m no longer made of wood – I’m a real boy!

It feels a bit like mania, though it isn’t*.  All of a sudden I have energy again, interest in my surroundings, the ability to make plans that have more far reaching effects than getting to the bathroom and back.  I can make shopping lists and do laundry (and even remember to get it in the dryer afterwards!) I notice real, concrete differences between day and night.  It’s really quite incredible for me.

There is also the sudden realization that a day or two days or some larger amount of time has gone past with no memory.  The recording of my life starts to get sketchy after awhile since hours, sometimes days (occasionally weeks) go past without much being remembered or generating any memory apart from generic misery.  Makes it a bit awkward sometimes – its difficult to answer some questions that most people find easy, like “how are you?” and “What went on with you this week?”  But oh, the glory of actually CARING about questions like that!  Actually SEEING the color of berries or leaves or sky and thinking “that’s pretty!” instead of just dully registering them in passing!  TASTING food!  Taking pleasure in writing or taking photos or doing photodoodles!

And I can feel love – both incoming and outgoing!  My wife becomes beautiful again!  I am entranced by the look of her, the sound of her, the way she feels and smells.  It’s like falling in love all over again!  And like falling in love all over again, I once again feel shy and awkward and unworthy.  I want to write her poetry again.**

Music – yes, music!  I want to listen to Wall of Voodoo, the Ramones, The Beat (of course!) and not Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy,  or Ministry (well, except for Jesus Built My Hotrod)  Music both informs and influences my mood to a great extent.  A great indicator of an impending crash is a sudden urge to listen to NIN and The Cure.  One reason that I like Ska, particularly the old two-tone stuff, is that it is generally bright and happy dance music – it’s good for me.

So today, I’m happy!

 

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*I had a couple of manic episodes way back when they were adjusting my antidepressants,

**You know, that isn’t a bad idea actually.  Celebrate the end of a bout of depression by writing Sophie poetry.  I’ve been meaning to work on my tanka.