Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Glaciers, Droughts, and Worms

To take my mind off the uncertainty of my immediate future--my present hospital, due to a lack of foresight in their hasty termination of my doctor, has no ability to offer ECT, and the ECT alternatives they suggest, Cleveland Clinic (2 hours away), does not want my referral, and Western Psych, in Pittsburgh, has long waiting list—I have been devouring books. Is there a limit to Kindle’s storage space? If I am not happy these days, Lord knows Amazon is ecstatic at the One-Click buys I seem to be making on an almost daily basis. Perhaps a psychoanalyst would argue that my ingestion of words and images are a substitute for the ingestion of food. The alphabet rolls across my tongue; I swallow sentences whole; paragraphs quell the hunger pangs; stories stuff me silly.

Over the past few days I’ve read several intelligent murder mysteries by Scandinavian and Icelandic writers, which means they tend to be set in icy, snow-covered landscapes. Rigid, blue bodies, frozen blood. Nothing warm; all breath crystalline and jagged. Imagery that seems to run parallel to part of my internal landscape. Even though it is summer and mosquitoes and humidity persist, I feel like I’m walking naked through a barren, arctic plain, the vise of depression cranked tighter and tighter, toes and fingers aching with cold, my heart, too, aching with cold. Looking at all the people I love and believing it would be better just to turn away and continue walking into the white-out conditions ahead.

Then there is the book I’m reading right now. Rose Tremain’s TRESPASS, set in Cevennes, France, during a decimating drought, and concerning two sets of siblings: one pair, consumed by a damaging love for each other; the other pair by a vitiating hatred for each other. Here, the landscape is mountainous, craggy, windy, planted over in lavender, grape vines, and apricot trees. Once upon a time, the main village was home to a silk worm industry, so there was the background noise of millions of silkworms, chewing and chewing their way through tons of oleander leaves. This, too, seems to run parallel to the other half of my brain’s emotional hemisphere. Scorched, burned over, the dangerous bipolar landscape, up the hill and down again. Maybe depression’s drought conditions: brain parched of serotonin and dopamine. Then there are the competing forces: love the world, hate the self; love the family, hate what I do to them. And the constant background chewing-- IT chewing ITs little wormy holes through my brain’s intelligent sponge, leaving me with less resolve, less resilience, less belief that the cisterns will fill again.

But I’ll finish this book tonight. So what do I read next? Too many of the treatment programs I was in suggested the pat, sentimental, inspirational, affirmative drivel (Tell us how you really feel about “100 Ways to Heal the Ironic Woman’s Soul”). What can melt the glacier? What can end the drought? What can drown the worms, stitch the holes?

Maybe the answer is not what I should read, but what I should write. Maybe I need to start feeding the imaginative fires myself. Using my imagination = an act of hope = believing I will see tomorrow.

Maybe I need to smear rainbow paint on my cheeks, strip down naked, glue feathers to my ass and hoot and holler my own rain dance. End my own drought = fire up the synapses = my own version of ECT = write my novel.

Maybe I need to follow my own daughter’s lead and kill my own worms. Sophia has a Chinese Water dragon and feeds it a diet of superworms. One of the more disgusting things that she has to do though, is crush the head of the superworm before hand-feeding it to her lizard, otherwise the worm could chew its way out of the lizard’s stomach, thereby killing it.

Sophia, fearless daughter of mine, champion of what is necessary and practical to sustain life, takes the sharp edge of a soda can tab top, pinches the worm between her fingers, holds it still on the table, then squashes its brains flat. Couldn’t I approach IT and Its wormy ways with the selfsame unsentimental determination to make IT a mash?

Maybe I need to stitch my own holes. Language, the logic and magic of one word after another = the thread of narrative = the story unspooled, soon sewn.


  1. " strip down naked, glue feathers to my ass and hoot and holler my own rain dance " --- yeeeeeeeees!!! This is what all we not-writing writers need, to get naked and dance in the rain. You've nailed it Kerry: go, and I'll follow! love to you and that fantastic family of yours. xxx

  2. Beautiful, Kerry. You leave me in awe.