Posts Tagged ‘The Black Dog’

Letter From Claverack 09 30 2016 Reaching for the stars and more…

October 1, 2016

Something like sixteen or seventeen years ago, my friends, Medora Heilbron and Meryl Marshall-Daniels, began having weekly phone calls to shore each other up as we were all in transition points in our careers.

That wonderful custom has continued to this day.  Almost every week, except when one of us is traveling, we have had calls, sharing the highs and lows, the concerns, the fears, the triumphs of our personal and professional lives.

Today, we had one of those calls.  When it was my turn to comment on my state of affairs, I burst out with, “I am verklempt!”

Yesterday evening, an email that should have come in on a project I am up for did not come as promised and, for reasons that are hard to explain, released what Winston Churchill called, “the black dog.”  Discouragement and depression.  I woke at three in the morning and read for three hours before falling back into a fitful sleep.

It has been amazing to me the number of times in the last couple of years that I have awakened with a sense of happiness. Today, it was all I could do to speak my usual morning affirmations.

After our phone call, always good for the spirits, I made a decision to do NOTHING today but work on my physic wounds and get back my equilibrium.  Three loads of laundry and tearing recipes out of the newest issue of “Food & Wine” was as ambitious as I got.

The day matched my mood; grey, hostile, chill and rainy.   Marcel, the dog I am caring for, and I curled up on the couch.  He napped, I read.

Now that the day has slipped into evening, I have to say “the black dog” and I seem to be getting distance from each other.  Largely because of the wonderful support group that is our weekly call.  Together we have laughed and cried.

It wasn’t until late in the afternoon when my spirits were beginning to lift that I even looked at the news of the day.  The sound of uplifting jazz plays in the background.  Happier than I have been all day, I am sipping a martini and typing.  Getting back to the happy Mat.

What did make me happy today was that Alabama’s Chief Justice, Roy Moore, was suspended for the rest of his term over his urging state officials to refuse to grant marriage licenses to same sex couples.  Interestingly, this is not the first time he has been kicked out of being Chief Justice.  Last time was his refusal to take down a statue of the Ten Commandments.

And I was both sad and happy that Rosetta, the first spacecraft to orbit a comet, did a belly flop onto the comet’s surface and went silent, leaving behind reams of data for scientists to parse.  He/it/she was a plucky fellow.  What do you call a spacecraft anyway?

Elon Musk wants to send people to Mars.  He is thinking of a million or so colonists over the next fifty to a hundred years.  He has envisioned a rocket to take them there.  And they should be prepared to die, he said.  It made me think of the first colonists who came from Europe to the Americas.  They had a hard time too.

The thought excites me.  More than likely, I will be gone by the time there is a first rocket to go but if I were here, I would volunteer.  Wow, what an adventure…

The New World captured the imagination of the Old World and millions upon millions poured into North and South America, looking for better lives, something different.

My father’s family came from Germany.  My mother’s from Sweden.  We are a nation of immigrants and we always seem to forget that.  I am not sure how we manage to forget that but we do.

Growing up Catholic in Minnesota was nothing like growing up Catholic somewhere else as I have learned in conversations with friends over the years.  My good friend Bill told me once that he wouldn’t have been allowed to know me where he grew up in rural Missouri.

So I look forward to a time when we go out and populate the planets and then the stars.  I think it’s in our blood to do that.

Letter From New York 03 05 2016 From Churchill to Yemen…

March 6, 2016

Winston Churchill used to say he was chased by the “black dog,” depression.  It chased him his whole life and he ran, mostly successfully, from it his whole life. Sometimes, when the “black dog” felt particularly close, Winston would sometimes go off to Morocco and paint, drink and think and probably write.  He wrote more than Dickens and Shakespeare combined.

He may well have been a manic-depressive.  During the war he was followed around by his personal physician, Lord Moran, who prescribed upper and downers to manage the moods of the great man.

He was black dogged by depression and I was thinking about that last night as I rode home on the train, black dogged myself.  I had gone down to the city yesterday, had a full day of appointments and when I stepped on the train last night I was exhausted and felt the old black dog nipping at my heels.

When I got home, I went to bed almost immediately and fell asleep early watching an episode of “Doc Martin,” about an English doctor only marginally more cranky than I was last night.

When the morning broke, I was my usual sunny self and, while sipping tea, worked on next week’s lectures.  The day was spent on that and the Saturday chores.  Young Nick was here and we did things that needed to be done, mounting a light fixture, cleaning, sorting, rearranging, bringing in wood and dealing with the trash.  The things we do on Saturday.

Going down to the Dot, I welcomed Alana back from three weeks in Costa Rica and then, after an omelet and a Bloody Mary, came home to write my letter, which often is one of the most pleasurable times in the day. 

Turning on the floodlights so the creek is illuminated, I sorted through the last couple of days.

The rise of Trump has been a constant cause for conversation though as I returned home, I discovered Ted Cruz had won the Kansas caucuses and he is at least as frightening to me as Trump.  Both of them seem to me to be wack-a-doodles from some other dimension.  This earns me no points with my conservative friends but it’s true; it’s how I feel.

Caitlin Jenner wants to be Ted Cruz’s “trans ambassador.”  I am not sure he’s interested in having one.

Popular comedian Louis CK has implored his fans not to vote for Trump, likening him to Hitler.  Trump, not necessarily looking to support Louis CK’s view of him, announced he would increase the use of torture if he were President.

“Downtown Abbey” ends tomorrow night.  I have already seen the last episode as I subscribed to the feed through iTunes.  Let’s tip a hat to Alistair Bruce, who was in charge of making sure it was historically accurate.  He did a magnificent job.

A fire is burning in the stove; I’ve rearranged some lights in the house.  I like the effect as I sit here at the dining room table, the creek lit in front of me, jazz playing and my thoughts running.

Four nuns and twelve others were killed in Yemen during an attack.  Gunmen entered the building, handcuffed the victims and then shot them.  It’s not yet clear who carried out the attack.  The Pope has decried it; the nuns were members of the order founded by Mother Theresa.

Boko Haram, the scourge of Nigeria, is suffering from a food crisis.  With all the people who have fled them, no is left to grow crops or herd animals and they are beginning to starve.  Hungry and desperate, they are ruthlessly raiding which, I suspect, will only increase the cycle they have created.

And in my cycle, I am going to sign off for tonight.  I need to be up in the morning, work on my lectures and then to church.  I signed up to do coffee hour on Easter Sunday, not quite realizing that it was a major, major thing and I am now expected to come up with something quite spectacular.  Cookbooks are out.  Recipes are being reconnoitered. 

I have a meeting about this tomorrow at 12:30.  I think I may have over stretched and I will rise to the challenge.