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.
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.