Quiet Insects

The program I've been attempting all summer to heal my limbic system is called the Dynamic Neural Retraining System. I will refer to it here as DNRS. It requires you to deeply concentrate on good memories in order to flood your brain with happy, calming hormones. When I do my DNRS rounds I often think about the White River in Hartford, just down the road from the house I grew up in. I swam there many evenings this summer. The water is so warm and clear you barely know you're underwater; instead, it feels as if you're being gently suspended. 


I also think about my friend Joanna's house in Barnard. It's a farmhouse right on the road, the all houses used to be built one hundred years ago. It's such a peaceful place, with a big garden and a deep creek winding through the back yard. I would go over this summer and we'd put all three kids into the creek and try and talk over their noise. We've been friends for over twenty years. I took this picture of her daughter about a week before I left.


John Hodgman says that Nostalgia is the most toxic impulse, and I know he's right. But that doesn't stop me. 

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A few days after I came back to Asheville, Dave and I went out to dinner with our friends Francie and Matthew, who live down the street. As we were leaving their house, we noticed a slew of police cars and an ambulance gathered out on the street. There were no lights and sirens and nobody seemed to be in any hurry. There was also a truck marked Forensics. Now I know that a Forensics Truck means that someone has died, but at that moment I wasn't really sure. I thought maybe someone had committed a crime. And maybe they had. 

We stood their watching for a few minutes, until we saw two EMTS making their way up the steps to the front door pushing a stretcher. One of them was unfolding a black bag. Then I told Francie and Matthew that I wanted to keep walking because if I saw the bag on its return trip out of the house I'd probably lose my appetite, and I really needed to be able to eat. 

Today, just three days later, I saw the Forensics Truck outside another neighbor's house. I wonder if people are overdosing. If you want to read an excellent book about the opiate crisis, I recommend Dreamland. You won't be able to put it down. I heard an interview on Fresh Air with the author of another book on the same subject, called Dopesick, and I think I'll start it tonight.

Part of DNRS is restricting yourself to only feel-good movies and books, and really cutting back on any news that makes you feel stress. Granted you wont catch me watching any scary movies or harrowing TV shows, but I have a hard time putting limits on what I read and what I listen to. It might do me good to ease up on the Political podcasts but I feel like if you're not listening to them all the time there's no way you'll be able to keep up or have any idea what's actually happening right now. 

I was listening to one in the park today as I pushed Olive in the swings, which she loved. If anyone else had been at the park I would have turned it off. I'd never let a device or a radio blair if anyone was in earshot, that would be highly inconsiderate. I wish my neighbors held themselves to such standards but they do not. 

Which is why it can be very difficult, at times, to transport myself back to the White River, or to Joanna's home on the quiet road, both situated between still green fields where fireflies cut diamond paths in the summertime, never making a sound.  

This is what I was meant to do! This is me!

I was editing photos tonight at my kitchen table and I came across this image of a little boy from one of my last shoots in Vermont. It actually made me laugh out loud in delight. I love the shape of his head, his little neck, his stance. There was a storm that afternoon and it lingered on until sunset, but I know enough now not to cancel shoots, but to sit back and wait out the weather and the light until it gives me what I want. It doesn't always work out but it's worth taking the risk. 

Of course this photo, taken in East Barnard Vermont, makes me very very homesick. 


Today was a good day. I saw my doctor. I brought Olive along and made the mistake of bringing a wooden stacking toy which kept crashing onto the floor as she played, making a big racket. Next time I'll have to bring something plastic or plush. My doctor is completely captivated by Olive. She takes me very seriously and she will do anything she can to help me

Last night I typed out some details about my current pain crisis and sent it to her as a document. That way I don't have to say certain things out loud. They sound overly dramatic and I don't like  talking about them, I feel almost disingenuous which is strange because it's all true. I still don't identify as a chronic pain patient even though I am one. Then again, I'm not sure anyone who hurts all the time thinks, "This is what I was meant to do! This is me!" 

We talked about weaning Olive so that I could have more options for medicine. I asked my doctor if I could at least nurse Olive until she is one and she said, "It's up to you. Everything is up to you, you know."


This evening David and I fought over who got to snuggle Olive to sleep.  We were sort of joking but we also both really wanted to. I held her for a little while but then handed her over, it's only fair because Dave works outside the home all day and misses her. I try and tell him that during the day she's just running around and I never get to just sit down and hold onto her, which is true, but it still sounded thin. She's only ten months old and she's wearing 18 month old pajamas, the only pair we could find amongst the hand-me-downs in the basement that came close to fitting her. It's a pink zip-up onesie with a white mouse on it. It's the sort of thing that looks really ugly and then you put her in it and realize it's cute. 

We took a bath yesterday but I left my clothes on, which somehow seemed easier at the time. It turns out it wasn't the right choice, really. 


This afternoon I had to email myself a few photos, and a second later I saw that I had a new email and I felt excited. But of course it was from me, I'd just sent it half a second later and already forgot. 


Mammoth Mash

Here let's do this: let's see what pictures are on my phone and then what immediate thoughts are in my head. I'm letting perfection be the enemy of progress in just about every realm of my life right now and I'm trying to actively work against that. (Thank you to everyone on Instagram who reminded me of that phrase, by the way. That was driving me nuts.) So here are some unedited everyday iphone shots from the last few days. 

And here are some accompanying thoughts for the night, presented to you in a similarly rough and unvarnished manner, as it is late and we have had a long and busy day:

Olive does solids now I guess. If you can consider apple sauce to be a solid? It's not a liquid, anyway, so that's a big step up. Yesterday she tried to dive from my arms onto a hot pizza sitting on a hot pizza stove on the top of a hot oven, and I told that while indeed she could one day eat pizza, she would have to start with a puree. Or a puff. Or a chunk. Just SOMETHING other than mom. Then I sat her down and offered her some apple sauce on that very nice wooden spoon of hers, and she reached out and took the spoon and put it in her mouth. Just like that. Then she took two more bites.

The face she made was hilarious. It's face the lights up the heart of every parent that's ever fed their child for the first time, ever since the first cave person put a bite of mammoth mash on a stick and wobbled it into the waiting mouth of their cave baby. Half 'I'm game for this!' and half "what the fuuuuuu.....?"

But right after she took the bite something unexpected happened. I wanted to take the bite back! She totally called my bluff- I don't actually want her to be eating like a big kid yet. Oh shit! Turn this ship around! I can't! There's no going back now! 

Yes, I'm ambivalent about the applesauce but it's more than that- it's the fact that she's sitting and crawling and now climbing and standing without me. And I realize that my level of bias makes me an unreliable narrator here folks but she seems freakishly strong. It just seems to be all happening at once. At the beginning of the week she still wasn't sitting up very well and now it's Friday and she's climbing up the furniture.

When she was first born and I was feeding her, I kept thinking that there was water dripping down my face but it was only her- her hands reaching out and touching me, her fingers and her skin were so pure and soft that when they grazed my cheek they felt like water drops. Now she has ear wax and wakes up from her naps all sweaty and loopy looking.

The weird thing is, I have this dichotomy going inside my head. On the one hand I realize that Olive is just another baby like all the millions of cherished and beloved babies out there in the world, that she's going to grow up to be another person on this planet, no different and absolutely no more special than anyone else. I know that. But on the other hand I also know -with equal certainty- that she is simply the most glorious and magnificent thing to ever happen and everything that is unfixed in the universe will orbit her in big starry loops for every moment of her life. 

I imagine that's how you feel about your children, too. That's how the cavepeople felt as they lovingly mashed up their mammoth meat and double checked it for gristle and sinew. 

It doesn't make any sense at all, and yet it works. Olive is a particle and a wave, impossible, but still lighting up my every day.