Monday, December 21, 2009

Poem For the End of the Year

The days are now as short as they're going to get. Here in Vermont, where we're still looking at months of snow, ice, school cancellations and whatnot, knowing that from here on in we're getting more sun offers some consolation. I thought I'd share one of my favorite Uncle Jim's poems, one that lives in its frame on the wall in front of my desk and speaks particularly to this season.


Even the weather
wearies of it and
slips south. This place is
exhausted. Coming

and going in the
emptiness, the sun
exaggerates me.
I fill it all with

the nothing of me
as once I filled my
mother will myself.
She has gone north with

my father. I am
left alone to watch
the sun describe an
arc barely bent, then

bent barer. I bend
under. It is time
to tire. Look how all
day long the sun sets.

COPYRIGHT 1982 BY JAMES L. WEILHere's our western view as the year's longest night descends. Have a beautiful end of the decade.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Review, Two Posts and a PSA

A round-up:

The Therapist's New Clothes just received a nice, thoughtful review on Carla Cantor's Small Steps blog on Psychology Today. Carla, who I met through the American Society of Journalists and Authors, my professional home, is the author of Phantom Illness: Shattering the Myth of Hypochondria. I'm looking forward to whatever she writes next!

On the Espresso Book Machine front, I did a guest post for West Coast EBM pioneer Village Books in Bellingham, WA. And here's a piece in the ASJA newsletter on EBM publishing. With publishing (not to mention journalism and communication in general) in such a limbo-ish state, I'm happy to bring my bit of experience into the ongoing discussion about the future of books. (I'll be taking part in the O'Reilly Tools of Change for Publishing 2010 Conference in February. More on that later.)

Now for the PSA: For anyone within a jaunt's drive of Southwestern Vermont, the cross-country ski season at Prospect Mountain is underway! I skied a bit as a kid, and still have beautiful vintage Norwegian wooden skis to show for it. But I'm not very good, or at least not fast; I'm one of those who has to step aside when the little old ladies zoom by. Actually, my specialty is uphill skiing. Which I suppose as much as anything describes my approach to life.

Here's a glimpse of our deck after the latest snow.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Reflections on Meaning

This Monday my work was featured on Therese Borchard's wonderful blog Beyond Blue. I had a feeling Therese would respond to my book. But one of the things that makes writing endlessly interesting is that you never know what a reader will connect with most. In her Mindful Monday post, she quoted from the end of the book. Here's a bit:

"Before medication my life's project was to understand my pain. I was ill and in my illness made the mistake of treating my symptoms as metaphors. I tried to ascribe meaning to them. And I understand the impulse behind that quest. Pain that is part of a coherent story is tolerable. Pain without meaning is unbearable. But this proved a dangerous exercise. The pain had no meaning beyond the brute fact of it."

My initial reaction was, wait -- how could this have any resonance for someone without knowing all that I went through: the illusions I clung to; the signs I ignored; the clinicians who colluded with me in denying my depression? But then I read it again and saw the universality of the predicament. When someone holds out the possibility that your suffering has meaning, it's hard not to grab at it. Letting go of the belief that there was an order to my anguish was one of the hardest things I ever did, and one of the most liberating. Several people have bought the book after seeing Therese's excerpt. I'm glad she gave me the chance to reach those readers.

Since few characters embody inner torment like King Lear, I thought I'd offer up this close-up of my son as Lear in the throes of Shakespearean agony -- a kind of grand finale of his many years at Hiland Hall School.Can the kid act, or what?