Poem: Drive to the Diner

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Drive to the Diner

Early in the morning and the sun dusts the farms with perfect light.
It has been warm and dry, a boon to the farmers in their race
to cut and bale the first cutting of hay.

The fields are plowed and covered with manure
saved through the winter. The air is ripe.
Planting will begin soon safe finally, from late frosts.

On the way to your favorite diner, you pass fields
rich with sheep and cows, and their babies prancing in the morning.
The light is crisp. The air is cool.

In the diner, all the windows are open.
You can smell the fresh cut hay as well as the bacon on the griddle.
In ones and twos, your distant neighbors shuffle in.

There is brokenness in their lives. You know much of it,
you and your confessioner’s face hear more than your share.
You feel sometimes like a priest or a bartender,
a carrier of other people’s secrets.

They change your view, these secrets. You see differently for their trust.
More compassionately. More sadly.
Your innocence traded
for honesty.  A fair trade, but a hard one.

You did not have the sense to treasure your innocence,
the ease of it. The certainty of it.
Like so many things, the value was understood only after it was gone,
its cold corpse history now,  pulled down from its pedestal
like statues of Lenin, fallen and shattered.
History rewritten.

You breathe in the smell of fresh cut hay.
You savor a near perfect cup of coffee.
No, you would not trade your life of truth
for the beautiful illusion of innocence.
You would not go back.

But still, on a rare morning of perfection,
you smile at the memory, willing to pretend, for just this moment,
that all is well.

About this poem

Most readers know I spend a few mornings a week working at my favorite diner, Pawlet Station, in Pawlet Vermont. Good food. Good music. Good people. A simple place, but I like it a lot.

It was a beautiful drive this morning. I feel blessed to live in a place of peace and beauty. But it is not a perfect place. Troubles are the same everywhere. Ours just have a pretty landscape.

The picture of the silos was taken about a quarter mile from my diner.

Tom

 

Poem: Clarity

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Clarity

Behind the house, the sun falls.

The birds have fallen quiet
and the tree frogs begin their song.

The tree’s silhouette carves the sky,
clear and sharp.

The air, warm all day, begins to cool.

You sip a glass of wine, red and heady,
it’s aroma mixing with lilacs.

It has been a day, nearly too full,
and it is time to let the details wash over you,
Time for a clarity of a different sort.

You breathe the air. Deep in. Slow out.
You feel your heart slow.
A cat jumps on your lap and settles in.

Some things, the important ones,
come only in the stopping.

About this poem

The picture was taken from behind my house.

Tom

Poem: Beached

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Beached

You lie on the beach, just out of reach
of the waves.

The storm has passed and the sun is warm.
Eyes closed, you savor its warmth.
You are filled with peace.

The tide will rise.
New storms will come.
This you know.

But just now, you lie on your sandy heaven,
breathing deeply in. Breathing deeply out.
A strange creature,
beached in this moment of perfection
by choice.

About this poem

A companion piece to the essay I wrote early this morning.

Tom

Thoughts: A Contradiction in Terms

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I am in a good place just now.

A year into my marriage, I am still in love. My daughter has recently moved and started a new job where she wants to be. She’s ridiculously happy. My son is halfway through his college time, doing well and planning for an exciting future.

It’s spring and the lilacs are in bloom. In the evenings, when I leave the doors open in my house, their perfume fills the air. The cat, holed up through a long winter, wallows in the sun. Neighbors are emerging from their winter homes and we’re all reconnecting. Recently, I got a lesson in forgiveness from a long-ago friend and it’s been a good thing. (Not all lessons are, after all.).

I have interesting work, and the prospects of new challenges are in the air.

It’s a rare thing when pretty much all the aspects of a complex and rich life are aligned and doing well at the same time. Certainly, it seems more often than not life is a strange dissonance of good and bad, easy and hard, clear and confusing.

From time to time, I write of depression here. I write because I fight it. I write because I find writing about it helps me. And in recent years, after hearing from readers, I write because I have learned that sharing my story helps others, if in no other way than to let them know they are not alone. I’ve even written a small book about my story, which, if notes from readers can be believed, has been helpful.

Here’s another side of depression. Even when things are good, depression does not go away.

A lot of people think depression is brought on by events, and to some extent that can be true – events, physical or emotional trauma and the like can certainly trigger it. But it’s not that simple, because depression is also caused by chemistry in our bodies. Medication helps. (I love my happy pills.) and therapy helps (Our brain can do a lot of self-healing with help.), but it’s not a situation where Badthings = depression, and Goodthings = No depression. Good or bad things are just one of a lot of factors.

Life being wonderful is certainly a help. No doubt about it. And I am crazy grateful right now.  But it doesn’t go away. It’s a chronic illness and all you do it manage it.

So to say “Life is wonderful.” and “Getting going was a battle today.” are not contradictory statements. They are just a fact of life for us who live with depression. But mostly we’ve learned to shut up about the depression. People tend to say “But your life is so good, what have YOU got to be depressed about.”.

I can remember hiking along the Appalachian trail once when I was in college. It was well into summer and the trees and the brush were thick and green. I was high on a ridge somewhere near Front Royal, Va. I knew there had to be amazing views, but the undergrowth was so thick, I wasn’t able to see them.

After miles and miles of walking in the tunnel of trees and undergrowth, I finally couldn’t stand it any longer. I plunged into the undergrowth. I got whacked by branches and there were some thorny things that cut into my legs as I pushed through the green prison.

Finally, I got to the edge of the ridge. There were rock outcroppings and I climbed on one. The panoramic view went on for miles and miles. I could see forever. Other mountains. Farms in the valley. A crisscross of country roads cutting into the landscape. And sky. So much sky.

It was glorious.

That’s how it is with us people fighting depression. There’s joy out there. We know it. But we have to work to get to it. Fighting the chemicals in our brain and the effects of those chemicals, we have to push through the undergrowth of our own minds to get to that joy.

But when we do, it’s glorious. All the more so because we had to work for it.

I woke up feeling sludgy this morning. But a call to the woman I love (who was in Mass this morning.), some time on the back porch listening to some very happy birds. A prayer of thanksgiving, even when I wasn’t fully feeling it.). Meditation on the porch. All that and I had cut through the brush.

I could feel the joy I am surrounded by.

Don’t feel sorry for me. Depression has taught me the value of joy. It’s worth the work. And I feel blessed that I have the tools to cut through the underbrush, thorns and all. Not everyone does. I have found new strengths in my weakness. I have a sense of value for even the small things that I lacked before depression hit me so many years ago.

Life is good and I am going to savor the view. It’s glorious. And I’ve earned it.

Be well. Travel Wisely,

Tom

Poem: Stand Aside

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Stand Aside

I am in no mood for patience, for secrets,
for locked doors to places I want to go.
There is no subtlety left in me.
No patience to pick locks
or puzzle out arcane combinations.

So stand aside.
Forget every gentle thing you believed you knew
as I blow the door apart with fire and fury
and saunter in.

About this poem. 

My mood today.

Tom

Poem: The Other Side of Cliche

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The Other Side of Cliche

They promise
there is light at the other end.
It’s a cliche.
We all say it.
Sometimes we mean it.
Mostly, we just hope,
leaving out the part about
the fires and dragons that may live there
hungry and waiting.

That light
may be heaven, or may be hell.
So gird your sword,
and hoist your shield.
better to be overdressed
than dead.

About this poem

A little dark humor to start the day. I woke up too early.

Tom