Thursday, October 25, 2007


I found this notice taped up on the outside door of my office building this morning. It almost made me cry. The poor kid-- he loves his cat. Look at his little drawing of Spanky-- prancing along, sniffing the air, all stripes. Spanky looks a bit like 9, too, which of course doesn't help. It would make my day if I found Spanky hiding out under the back steps of our office and I could call Andrew with the good news. But I haven't seen any stripe-y cats around here lately.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Sounds Of Silence

It sure has gotten quiet around the Turbopalace. Housemate left in August, moving into the apartment across the fence with her boyfriend. 26 moved to Other Smallish City in September. And then 9, with whom I used to carry on extensive conversations, left earlier this month. There is a new housemate, but she is virtually never here.

Now the storm windows are in, and the sashes all caulked against winter. I can't even hear the neighbor's kids or accordian anymore. It is just deathly quiet, and rather lonely. I have the radio on a lot. Even the TV, sometimes. I lie in bed at night and know that there will be no unexpected sounds until morning.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

American Folk Hero, Or Mental Patient?

From an old obituary:

"The deceased was well known through this region by his eccentricity, and the strange garb he usually wore... He was a native of Pennsylvania, we understand, but his home—if home he had—for some years past was in the neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio, where he has relatives living. He is supposed to have considerable property, yet denied himself almost the common necessities of life—not so much perhaps for avarice as from his peculiar notions on religious subjects... In the most inclement weather he might be seen barefooted and almost naked except when he chanced to pick up articles of old clothing."

Add to this the well-documented fact that the man typically wore a tin pot on his head in place of a hat, and you may rest reasonably assured that Johnny Appleseed would've been committed to a Green Acres equivalent if he had lived sometime after the 19th century, or somewhere other than the fringes of the frontier.

I worry, a bit, that in the process of doing a fair bit of good for a lot of people with mental illness, we may also be medicating away the next generation of American folk heros.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Apples, Apples Everywhere

Oh, it’s the apple-time-of-year up here in the Smallish State. I love apples. I especially love apple trees.

The week before last I bought a bunch of apples and made an apple pie to bring over to 518’s for dinner. 518 have two apple trees in their yard (an enormous ancient one and a tiny new one.) Their dog, H, has developed a voracious apple addiction, eating as many as a half-dozen a day. Reportedly he has learned how to wake them up in the middle of the night, indicating a desperate need to go out and pee—but when let outside, he just grabs an apple and comes back in.

I had apples leftover from the pie, so munched those for a few days. After 9 died last weekend, my kind neighbors left a jug of cider and a bag of freshly picked apples in the fridge, along with a note. I didn’t find them for a day or two (wasn’t really eating for a bit, after 9, so I hadn’t opened the fridge) but then I started in on that bag of apples, too. So good!

Yesterday, back at 518’s, we did a few chores then stood around in the yard surrounded by surplus apples and munched away. I took a few more home. Then later in the afternoon 26 and I went apple-picking down near Other Smallish City. 26 loves apple picking, but sadly has developed a terrible stomach reaction to apples and can no longer eat them. The Matsu apples from that orchard were so outrageously delicious, though, that I could hardly bear to eat them in front of her. I tried to coax her into just one bite. "Couldn’t you just taste it, and spit it out? That wouldn't hurt, right?" "No, too risky", she said. A sort of reverse Adam and Eve apple scene.

Speaking of evil: back in my childhood, before the evil-doers started pasteurizing cider and doping it up with sodium benzoate “for my safety”, you could (and I always did) leave a jug of it on the kitchen counter for a few days, until it started to ferment. You could tell it was ready when the container started to bulge. Fizzy, sweet, and probably ever-so-slightly alcoholic, this ambrosia has no equal among beverages. But these days it’s hard to find anything but the tasteless, sterile, tampered-with stuff that won’t ferment. I bought a jug at the orchard without preservatives, but it was treated with UV light and touts itself as “ultra pure”—I’m leaving it on the counter, but I imagine it will stay inert. (I am intrigued by a post over at Life In The Slow Lane, in which the author describes adding salt and whey to her cider—what does this do, I wonder? Mysterious alchemy!)

At the orchard we picked mostly from ten-year-old trees, which all looked about the same. But we also went up the hill to visit a grove of ancient, gnarled trees, each of which had grown into a true individual of astounding beauty and strength. The branches of these trees felt solid as granite. They were curled and crusted with age, speckled with lichens and moss. They might have been a hundred years old. They were still dropping shiny, sweet, bright-red apples.

At the farmhouse, the proprietors were also selling wooden crates of old apple tree firewood. I turned some of the heavy, twisted pieces in my hands, and imagined the hot, bright, and oh-so-fragrant fire they would make. There is nothing like an apple-wood fire. I longed for a home with a woodstove again.

Back home tonight, I was supposed to go to bed. But looking at five varieties of apples which have now accumulated in the fridge, I could smell apple crisp in my mind—and once that happened, it had to be cooked up. Plus, it gave excuse to use the apple peeler/corer gizmo—by far the best kitchen gadget ever invented.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Green Acres Interlude

Dr. Turbo: "So, do you have any brothers or sisters?"
Patient: "Well, that's a fine idea, isn't it?"
Dr. T: "And are your parents still alive?"
P: "They never were, to the best of my knowledge."
Dr. T: "Do you have any children yourself?"
P: "Oh, I like to think so. But one never knows, does one?"

Yes, back at GA, briefly. Just pinch-hitting for a week. Helps to pay the bills. And besides, I don't get to have conversations like this in my private practice.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Just A Few Overdue Voyage Photos

Tied to the resident pile-driver at Head Harbor, New Brunswick

Heading to the land of great folk singers

How we lived, and what we lived for

A lot of summer days look like this in the Smallish State. Good stuff-- it keeps the timid sailors away.

But then other days look like this. Pulpit Harbor, North Haven

Sunset over Mt. Desert Isle

Mmm, fish-wich

Tucked in on Vinalhaven

Roque Island, a sailor's Shangri-La

Roque Island

Human whisker pole

The Captain & Bro

Singlehanding into fog, Eggemoggin Reach (see first blog post)

With friends at Deer Isle

Posse of friends, heading to Isle Au Haut

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Not Exempt From Withholding

When 9 died, there remained in the cupboard a large quantity of catnip. I'd bought a quarter-pound or so of it maybe six years ago, and I'd been doling it out to him a pinch at a time, on "special occasions", or just now and then when it crossed my mind. He would mmrow and purr and nuzzle around and generally get pretty happy-looking. He knew where the container was, too, and when that cabinet door was open he'd stretch himself up trying to get at it.

But in all those years, we'd barely made a dent in the catnip stash. He was gone, but the container was still almost full. I sprinkled all the surplus over him at his "funeral". As I did I couldn't help crying, and suddenly found myself saying "I'm sorry I didn't give this all to you while you were alive."

Why hadn't I? At one time I had meant to look up, or ask the vet, whether unlimited catnip doping is bad for cats. But I had no reason to believe that it is. Perhaps my stinginess was the result of growing up in the "Just Say No" and "This Is Your Brain On Drugs" era-- maybe I was afraid that a liberal catnip policy would put 9 on the infamous "slippery slope" to hard drugs? Or perhaps it was just typical Yankee sentiments, delaying happiness, suffering the world as it is, and saving the good stuff for a rainy day that may never come? As a therapist, I couldn't help but think there was some psychodynamic metaphor-- something about us so often withholding love from those close to us until after they are gone, then expressing it when they can no longer hear.

I resolved that if I ever get another cat, he or she will have catnip anytime, all the time.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Farewell, 9

I had to put 9 to sleep over the weekend, and have been terribly sad. He'd been struggling with a failing heart for a long time, and had lost half his body weight, but was doing generally okay until I took him to the vet for his shots last week. It was a stressful trip, and he never quite recovered. Saturday morning I found him hiding under the deck, hoarsly meowing in distress. When I finally coaxed him out, he was panting hard and barely able to walk. I carried him inside; he lay down on the kitchen floor. Every so often he would rise to his feet, walk a few steps, cry out, and fall back on his side, barely able to breath. It was obvious he wasn't going to bounce back this time.

I realized that he would probably prefer to be outdoors, and opened the kitchen door to carry him back out-- but in his last act he got to his feet and stumbled outside on his own. Then he collapsed in the grass making sad noises, and didn't get up again. The vet very kindly made a house call (or backyard call) to put him to sleep, so that it could happen in his favorite patch of grass, rather than at the dreaded vet office.

He's buried beneath the crabapple tree, with a bunch of impatiens blossoms and more catnip than he'll ever know what to do with. He was one of the best and most consistent things in my life for the past decade. It's very lonely here without him.

Here are his last two portraits. Goodbye, fur-face, I miss you.