We’ve reached the end of March. Spring is just about over. Two months of green separated the brown of late autumn from the new yellow of April. Most flowers have bloomed: I expect the Mariposa lilies to make a show any day now before it is all over.
Spring usually peaks late in April, but we’ve had ninety degree days in February and March that signaled the blooms to drop their petals and get about the business of creating seeds. The poppies at the Native Seed Farm where I volunteer stopped their flash of orange two weeks ago. Lupines crowded the meadows for a few days, then disappeared into the rising grass which, in its turn, has begun to yellow.
We’ve heard stories of the heavy snows in the East. We envy the water that buries houses and that will flood the lowlands in a few weeks there because things are dry here. Legislators in Sacramento continue to put off rationing just in case these next few weeks bring rain. Everywhere mere anarchy reigns in an anti-government climate where people prefer to watch their doom unfolding while hoping for redemption. I don’t hear many people say that there is no such thing as global climate change these days; I am sure that those who say they don’t believe in it at very least dread that it might be true now.
Our best laid plans — the mighty dams and the magnificent aqueducts — have come to naught because they were designed for the catastrophic droughts of old cycles, not for these man-altered climates. I sometimes wonder: did we fight too many dams? Did we let bottled water companies drain too much of our aquifers? Did we fail to see the danger posed by green lawns and golf courses? My eyes watch the edge of the desert. Will it push across the San Gorgonio Pass and storm down the Cajon in the years to come? Will our drought last three more years or thirty five?
What will the land be like in a few years? What will be the new months of spring and what flowers will bloom and which will disappear?
I have added links to the meetups that I lead each month. You can keep up with what I am doing by looking at the right hand column under “Meetup that I lead”.
The most tiring piece of advice that you can receive when you live with depression is “Get some exercise!” There’s merit in the suggestion, but the nature of the condition is such that getting out of your bed and onto your feet can be difficult. The accusation that melancholy is due to laziness wraps its sufferers in a ball of stigma that takes some effort to escape. Buying into the belief that your sickness is due to your stubborn unwillingness to do anything traps you in a downward spiral of self doubt and anxiety.
The advice is overstated. Research shows that exercise has a moderate effect on depression. You’re not inflicting your depression on yourself by not exercising, it seems, but the lack of desire to exercise is one of its symptoms.
Those who want to help us who live with depression or bipolar disorder need to understand that we cannot just throw aside the crutches of our coping with the illness and start to walk again. I would urge helpers and caretakers to review this helpful publication from the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance before proceeding with this blog post. Sufferers stay with me. I have secrets to impart.
One of the sports of my childhood was the capture of lizards. Horned toads were common prey until the pet trade made them scarce: few were able to keep them in the ants they craved, so most died in captivity. Alligator lizards invited a special challenge because they fought back. One fellow I knew bragged that he caught them by getting them to bite him. But most of us were content with what we called blue-bellies or the Western Fence Lizard, a little gentleman that we found underneath rocks and large pieces of wood. (How we never bumbled into a rattlesnake is a minor miracle.)
Lynn at West Pinnacles, circa 1990
Uphills strain my heart. I struggle up inclines listening to the pound of my jugular vein. On especially hot days, I have to stop once or twice to drink water, eat, and regain my senses. I call the dizziness that I feel when I stop the “white blindness” because for a second or two my vision fades behind a speckled curtain of receding blood pressure.
Lynn has little trouble getting up hills. She passes me easily, her walking poles clicking in sync with her effortless ascent. Downhills are another matter. I zip to the bottom, waiting or turning back to see what is taking her. She struggles. The reason for this is a rare bone condition. She recently wrote to me:
Ten feet separated the canyon wall from the railing. Ten feet. But a busload of Chinese tourists crowded the asphalt. A surge of electric panic chilled me. My shoulders shook. My heart thudded. A deep unease roiled in my gut. Every time someone touched me I jumped. A ripe odor worse than a rancid cheese concentrated in my armpits. My fingertips led the rest of my body in a terrified creep along the cliff. A pair of tourists walked towards me along the wall. Unable to speak to them directly, I waved my hands frantically. They saw my terror and conscientiously gave me space.
You’ll never see me doing this!
I edged towards the rail, remembering a trick that I had learned from a photographer buddy who was also scared of the mere proximity of a sheer drop. The camera went to my eyes and I looked at the world through it. Everything was contained and manageable as long as no one bumped me. But they did. I snapped off a few quick shots and scurried back to the wall. The other travelers paid me no heed as they surveyed the wonders of Bryce Canyon from the head of the Navajo Loop Trail. The Bryce Amphitheater yawned as I scrambled back to what my mind told me was the more solid — and protected — ground of Sunset Point.