It would have been just another tragedy, but instead, it turns into an exciting triumph, because of the tireless, ingenious, and utterly creative work of Clark Elliott and his healers—one inspired by the work of the Israeli pioneer, Reuven Feuerstein, the other by a little known tradition of behavioral optometry, which can literally use light shone into the eyes, to treat and rewire the brain. Norman Doidge, M. This wonderful story is inspiring. A professor of artificial intelligence loses much of his higher function after an auto accident.
Numerous specialists diagnose a concussion and tell him to "get over it"—no small assignment for a professor and single father. He is ultimately referred to a neuro-optometrist who studies both the visual and the non-visual roles of the retina for the brain. Through exercises and progressive changes of glasses, his visual and mental function are restored and his professional and personal life regained. Read it, first weep, then smile broadly! Daniel Federman, M. An incredibly powerful book Elliott, an associate professor of artificial intelligence at DePaul University, delivers a harrowing account of a year-long recovery from a disabling concussion that changed his life, and celebrates the science that came to his rescue.
For anyone who has struggled to explain cognition or to understand what it feels like to suffer from TBI, Clark Elliott's fascinating account of his injury, diagnosis and then painstaking determination to heal himself reads like a how-to manual of how our brains work. Just like Jill Bolte Taylor's work A Stroke of Insight took us inside the brain during a stroke and recovery, Elliott's incredibly detailed account of his own TBI and his determination not to accept his life-long diagnosis shows us the exciting capacity our brains have to rewire themselves.
The book provides not only a road map for what sufferers of TBI go through, but a fascinating personal journey that gives hope to all of us about the neuroplasticity of our brains. For anyone who had traveled along the road of TBI and watched the struggle, alienation and disconnection from their former world, Elliott's book is a haunting and vivid tale of what it feels like to be inside a scrambled brain.
What distinguishes this memoir from other survivors is his forensic ability to recount exactly what it felt like and to give us his methodical and extremely inspiring account of how he rebuilt his own cognition. His story gives hope to everyone out there and shines a light on the neuroplastic possibilities that exist for us all in the future.
Sigmund Freud to explain his obsession with his math tutor, Prof. Moriarty supposedly the Napoleon of crime. So far so good. If only those thousands of physicists and mathematicians working on a grand unified theory would listen to the author. But a search of the internet reveals deafening silence. Apparently, this stroke of insight never even made it into an arXiv reprint. Arrggh; if only they knew. The novel is notable for eschewing supernatural explanations, replacing them instead by brain-based explanations - opium addiction and zombie-behavior today known as REM sleep behavior disorder induced by laudanum are major plot devices.
A collection of short and longer re-interpretations of the Illiad and the Odyssey , primarily involving alternatives histories of Odysseus. Reminds me very much of Borges. A psychoanalysist muses about the neuroscience of the left and right brain, philosophy and metaphysics. I couldn't get much out of this one.
- Another Birth and Other Poems;
- Read in 12222;
- The Real Cause Of Obesity.
Interesting background reading by two Wall Street Journalist on crypto currency. Gox and Silk Road fiascos. They have no leaders, no social class, a relative low level of violence, and lots of sex. Everett's field research uncovers two aspects of their culture. Firstly, and most famously, the lack of linguistic recursion. Every Piraha sentence is simple, short and refers to a single event or statement. He emphasizes how language is shaped by the environment and the culture of the speakers, rather than being formed by a biologically driven universal grammar Chomsky or a language instinct Pinker.
Everett explains many features of the culture and the language of the Piraha by what he calls the immediacy of experience principle. Only what a person has directly seen, heard or otherwise experienced or what a third party has directly experienced him- or her-self is taken to exist by the Piraha, is taken to be real. Their extreme form of empiricism explains the absence of any creation myth, of fiction, of concepts like great-grandparents due to their low life-expectancy, very few Piraha have direct experience with the parents of their grandparents.
On the other hand, per the immediacy of experience principle, dreams are accepted as a different aspect of reality, as it is a direct form of experience. A partially submerged Manhattan is the real protagonist of this post-Global Warming novel, a make-do, vibrant, exciting and impoverished SuperVenice hit by a monster hurricane followed by a financial crisis triggered by some of the various characters the book follows. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.
Mid 70s quasi-utopian novel, a product of countercultural Berkeley, in which the fictitious reporter Weston visits Ecotopia — the states of Northern California, Oregon and Washington that violently seceded from the Union to form their own country, living in harmony with nature and the environment. The society does not reject technology but only adopts those technologies and industries that serve the overall well-being of the social and ecological order.
The book is valuable for providing an alternative vision, not for its literary values, which is slight. I bought the 40th anniversary addition, with an insightful afterword by the author, predicting the rise of demagogues and fascists need I say more? I now fly the flag of Cascadia a more recent reincarnation of Ecotopia at my Seattle home as a symbolic gesture. The novel has little action or dialogue and describes a handful of mundane occurrences — a dinner party, somebody painting a scene, a sailing boat trip to a lighthouse - spaced out over ten years, at the vacation home of Mr.
Ramsay, their children and a few of their friends in the Hebrides. The short middle section of the book evokes a powerful, magical and profoundly sad sense of passage of time, absence and the evil that men do. Subsequent chapters deal with some more recent development in algorithmic complexity, in particular Chaitin's contributions.
What seems early-on like paradise turns into a perfect, all transparent Bentham panopticon with the inmates having voluntarily and happily given up all rights to privacy under the motto of 'privacy is theft', 'secrets are lies" and 'sharing is caring'. Great read but chilling. Two biologists take an unsentimental, yet not unsympathetic, quantitative look at what makes a dog a dog. The reason dogs make good pets is in large part because they have this innate behavior of finding somewhere to sit and wait for food to arrive, which is exactly what our pet dogs do.
Their niche is scavenging food from humans. They are like ravens and foxes that scavenge food from wolves or humans. Where is that dog food supply? Look for humans, and there it is. Why are dogs nice to people? They are the source of food. Dogs find some food source that arrives daily and they sit there and wait. Of the approximately one billion dogs on the planet, the authors estimate that million of them are village dogs.
No matter where they are found, peaking in the tropics and with a steep gradient toward the poles, they roughly look and weigh the same. The Coppinger's argue that these are not mongrels, nor strays, feral or abandoned dogs but are the naturally selected, i. These breeds could not survive in the wild and their phenotype would quickly disappear in the general gene pool of dogs were they to cross-breed.
However, giving the abandon with which dogs engage in sex and the young age at which they become sexual mature months , there is never a short supply of dogs. A great monograph — proving you can write like a scientist and tell a compelling story to an old-dog lover like me. Dietrich — now a successful novelist — goes out of his way to be faithful to the point-of-view of all participants of this bitter dispute that ended with a series of court decisions in the early s with a post-script added by the author in to bring the story up-to-date.
The book attests to the compelling power that dense virgin, primeval forests with a capital F has over the human psyche. It is the environment in which homo sapiens lived in for much of the past , years. While I love forest as much as the next German-American listening from an early age to stories about the Teutonic forest it is a different matter to be in a tent or sleeping bag deep in a dark and brooding forest, with its incessant nocturnal voices, tyrannized by clouds of mosquitos.
I enjoyed this book while experiencing the majesty of Olympic National Forest during the day and the civilized comfort of an old-time Lodge at night! Well written biography of Leroy Hood, who co-invented the first semi -automated DNA sequencer that, together with three other instruments he helped develop, the DNA synthesizer, and the protein sequencer and synthesizer, powered the Genomics revolution that is at the heart of modern biology, medicine and the biotechnology industry. Lee was the chairman of biology who recruited me to Caltech back in He later founded the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle.
The book well captures the heady days of the human genome project and some of its people; it is no hagiography, as the author, a journalist specializing in the biotech industry, highlights both the many strengths but also the weaknesses of Lee as a scientist, mentor, entrepreneur, fund-raiser, mesmerizing public speaker and manager. In June of , A. Hotchner visited a close friend in the psychiatric ward of St. Mary's Hospital. It would be the last time they spoke - three weeks later, Ernest Hemingway shot himself.
During their conversations, Hemingway entrusted the tale of the affair that destroyed his first marriage to Hotchner, his editor — of how he gambled and lost his wife and son. A wild but well told tale, of two consecutive plane crashes in the African bush, of impotence cured in a house of God, of Parisian nights carousing with Scott Fitzgerald and Josephine Baker, of adventure, conceit, passion and lusting after life.
Taunt and dark murder Icelandic mystery, taking place amid the usual chaotic and dysfunctional family milieu of any Nordic thriller, during a ten days spell of never ending rain and gloom in present day Reykjavik in the fall. The story involves a rare genetic disease that expresses itself fatally at a young age but only in a subset of carrier and whose Icelandic carriers were, illegally, identified by breaking into the genomic database of Decode, famously based in Iceland. To judge by Republican propagandists and Nordic noir crime fiction writers, Scandinavian societies must be in a state of almost complete societal break-down given the amount of rape, murder, incest, divorce in these novels.
Of course, having just returned from Iceland, it is one of the most developed, peaceful, prosperous, efficient and spectacular beautiful countries I know. Bizarre novel by the Icelandic Nobel Laureate, part magical realism, part allegory and satire. Despite a 10 pages enthusiastic introduction by Susan Sontag, the novel is a dud, without much internal logic. He does make a number of trenchant observations. This belief that science would offer us an exemption from our place in this vast panorama of disintegration — of which the rotting armadillos and raccoons, the circling vultures, were only the most immediate manifestations — was a displacement of a fundamentally religious instinct.
I own a sweatshirt that succinctly summarizes what the belief in the upcoming singularity among the smart money in Silicon Valley amounts to — rapture for nerds. His two biggest regrets are the death of his young lover, Antinous, and the very bloody second Roman-Jewish War that ended in the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of most of the Jewish population. Hadrian is an admirable man — disciplined, thoughtful, diplomatic as a default, forceful when necessary, a consummate traveler. During his 19 years reign, the Empire was peaceful and prosperous; the official practice of religion was tolerant towards all the gods of the various people and tribes ruled by Rome, provided they, in turn, accepted the idea of a Pantheon— that Christianity, famously, did not.
To give you a sense of the style, here is the ending. Little soul, gentle and drifting, guest and companion of my body, now you will dwell below in pallid places, stark and bare; there you will abandon your play of yore. But one moment still, let us gaze together on these familiar shores, on these objects which doubtless we shall not see again Let us try, if we can, to enter into death with open eyes The author takes up a version of Whiteheadian pan-experientialism, and defends it against Thomas Nagel and Jaegwon Kim and discusses this in relationship to the ideas of William Seager, Galen Strawson and John Searle.
Beautiful produced gem of a historical novella of the life of Margaret Cavendish, nee Lucas, an English aristocrat, poet, playwright and self-taught philosopher, who lived during the 17th century Civil War and the ensuing Restoration much of her adult life was spent in exile in Paris and Holland. She wrote at a time when few women did and great intellectual ferment was in the air — this is, after all, the period of the European Enlightenment and the birth of modern science — that she herself tried to contribute to. Hardly a regime conducive to becoming pregnant!
Terse, sparse and well observed writing by Dutton. History, by the gifted science journalist, of the neglected English physician Thomas Willis and his turbulent times England during the Civil War and the ensuing Restoration. Willis, together with William Harvey, is a founding figure of modern anatomy, neurology and psychiatry, who turned a field that was utterly dominated by what Aristotle and Galen had though and written 1, years earlier into something more recognizable as modern science.
And the nobler the patients, the worse the treatment - King Charles II, who suffered from kidney disease, was purged, plastered, scalded and drained of quarts of his blood dying in the process. Many millions of patients must have been killed over the two millennia by such quackery. My introduction to urban fantasy, narratives where the fantastic and the mundane interact and interweave at the intersection of a real, city, here London above the modern world and below a medieval London with magic, speaking animals, demons and angles. I would call this fantasy for adults; sad, poignant, utterly fascinating and hypnotic.
And the way the real London, including the Underground, is woven into the texture of the novel is striking. The title Neverwhere itself is very compelling and prompted me to buy the book!
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
A noir crime thriller by a Mexican diplomat translated by Katherine Silver dark, cynical with a classical Chandlerian acerbic, vulgar self-deprecating violent cop with a fast gun. The book is an admixture of third-person point of view with rambling inner monologue of the protagonist, following all the twists and turns in an attempted assassination of the President of the US while visiting Mexico City, which turns out to be about local political infighting.
A sad ending. Unfortunately, we continue to live in a world with about 10, nuclear explosive devices, with more countries acquiring the technology. The explosion of but a single one of these devices in anger will change the world as we know it. It can sometimes seem astonishing to anyone who seriously considers the continual, indeed rising, level of risk of nuclear war in this second nuclear age to witness the continuing denial, the inexplicable ability of much of the world to ignore a fate hurtling toward us. The same denial process is in place in the refusal to contemplate the existential threat of runaway AI or Superintelligence.
A chilling account. How would we as a nation deal with the uncertainty of identifying the culpable agents, whether to retaliate in kind and how to live in a world where more such attacks might take place. The book is not analytical and not as insightful as I would have hoped for. Well-crafted account of TBI and the toll it takes on civilian society. The child survived with no apparent adverse effect, save for a scar that still remains visible today, more than 70 years later. Winslade eloquently traces the remarkable medical revolution that enabled s of victims of massive brain injury due to traffic accidents, falls, guns and so on, to ultimately return to a productive life.
Until recently, the majority would have either died, remained in coma or been scarred for life. Death of a loved one allows healing to start; while no such mourning process is possible when the patient hovers for years in a clinical limbo, alive, yet a zombie. More than years into the Enlightenment that this French savant inaugurated and that may well be coming to an end in the tumultuous second decades of the third millennium, the mind-body debate continues to take place on terrain that Descartes first named and explored.
Light on descriptions and character development, strong on historical context. The real thing, the classic Gothic novel that defined the modern vampire a la the undead, or Nosferatu. Highly melodramatic, compelling, and well-paced story, with sweltering psycho-sexual undertones, told in the form of letters, diary entries, telegrams and newspaper cuttings. It is an archetypal, irresistible and romantic story of scientific discovery as is, of course, the grandeur of Machu Picchu and the dramatic conquest of the short-lived Inca empire by Pizarro and his men in Yet each such discovery proved illusory and turned out to be a sunspot, a fixed star or a figment of imagination.
The situation remained unresolved until November Presto — no need for Vulcan! He acquires a reputation as a effective physician and healer but also as a free-thinker, which is dangerous in these times when people are burned at the stake for minor transgression from the faith. Replete with historical and erudite details, Yourcenar gives Zeno great depth, a real Mensch of the late Middle Ages, with a cantankerous and not always sympathetic character.
He could no longer see, but external sounds reached him still. As once before at Saint Cosmus, hurried footsteps echoed along the corridor: it was the turnkey who had just caught sight of the dark pool on the floor. But the anguish was over for him: he was free; this person who was coming to him could be only a friend. He made, or thought that he made, an effort to rise, without knowing clearly whether someone was coming to help him, or if, on the contrary, he was going to give help. The rasping of keys turning and bolts shoved back was now for him only the triumphant sound of an opening door.
And this is as far as one can go in the death of Zeno. He retreats to a country house of his own design, travels in his imagination, and turns neurotic. Essentially without plot, the reader is treated to a series of extended meditations on des Esseintes bizarre artistic literary, visual and olfactory experiences in a heavy, imagery-laden but effective language. To wit,. What literature had treated heretofore was the abundant health of virtues and of vices, the tranquil functioning of commonplace brains, and the practical reality of contemporary ideas, without any ideal of sickly depravation or of any beyond.
In short, the discoveries of those analysts had stopped at the speculations of good or evil classified by the Church. It was the simple investigation, the conventional examination of a botanist minutely observing the anticipated development of normal efflorescence abounding in the natural earth. Baudelaire had gone farther. He had descended to the very bowels of the inexhaustible mine, had involved his mind in abandoned and unfamiliar levels, and come to those districts of the soul where monstrous vegetations of thought extend their branches.
There, near those confines, the haunt of aberrations and of sickness, of the mystic lockjaw, the warm fever of lust, and the typhoids and vomits of crime, he had found, brooding under the gloomy clock of Ennui, the terrifying spectre of the age of sentiments and ideas. He had revealed the morbid psychology of the mind which has attained the October of its sensations, recounted the symptoms of souls summoned by grief and licensed by spleen, and shown the increasing decay of impressions while the enthusiasms and beliefs of youth are enfeebled and the only thing remaining is the arid memory of miseries borne, intolerances endured and affronts suffered by intelligences oppressed by a ridiculous destiny.
The tedium of it all! Huysmans has powerful turn of phrases at his command. The author is torn by his desire to defile his earlier Catholic upbringing by references to black masses and pedophilia, and his yearning to belief. For many years, I too shared this desire to believe in the God of my childhood like des Esseintes, I was taught by Jesuits in the face of my scientific and rational instincts who knew better. These won out. The father is portrayed as a violent, difficult character seeking to hide his past but becomes more sympathetic in the telling of his semi-tragic story.
I assume writing the book was cathartic for the daughter, reconnecting to her ever-so-distant dad. Exceedingly well written and insightful. Thoughtful extended argument, born from his own experience as a war journalist shades of Hemingway supported by anthropological-historical analysis, from a mesmerizing writer who re-acquainted us with the ancient notion of adventure as a rite of passage, essential for maturing.
Yet during and after catastrophes and calamities - London during the Blitz, Germany cities during WWII bombings, the siege of Sarajevo during the s, NYC after , soldiers in battles throughout the ages — people pull together, experience a deep sense of community the army speaks of high-group cohesion , including large drops in crime rates, suicide and psychiatric diagnoses. His book is a plea, a cri de Coeur for returning veterans who long in civil life for the for the sense of unity and purpose they had while deployed.
In combat, soldiers all but ignore differences of race, religion, and politics within their platoon. People speak with incredible contempt about — depending on their views — the rich, the poor, the educated, the foreign-born, the president or the entire U. Regretably, this accurately reflects the current public discourse in the US, the UK and elsewhere in Europe.
Unfortunately, besides giving veterans a public platform to speak about their war experiences, whether horrid, heroic or in between, and a general plea for more civility, Junger offers no solution or therapy to this modern ailment - alienation. I warmly recommend this book to everybody concerned about the future of our liberal societies. His fate remains uncertain but is unlikely to be good. In a sort of coda, the final scene takes us to the same location on the night of the worst bombing attack by Allied planes toward the end of the war, when fascism had almost run its unholy course.
A short, sparse but mesmerizing account of the stark life of a simple man raised at the turn of the Orphaned and abused as a child, with minimal education, disciplined and hardworking he remains poor throughout his life, solitary except for an all too brief time, when he is happily married. Looking back, toward the end of the life, he is content. I read it twice over back-to-back in the Tyrolian Alps by pure coincidence. Superb; translated from Ein ganzes Leben. The classical Cold War thriller of murder set in a nuclear submarine above and below the artic ice shelf.
I re-read it after four decades — it has aged remarkable well, sans extreme violence and sex. Funny and well-crafted, the book epitomizes the frat-boy, high risk, take-no-prisoner Wall Street culture blind to its consequences on the larger economy some of the anecdotes a bit too convenient to be true. The book makes for depressing reading as it reveals incompetency most traders have little idea of the larger context of their deals and a financial system designed to rewards its own.
Such revelations are part and parcel of the political anger and fury fueling the rise of demagogues and proto-fascists. Nine chapters on a diverse range of topics relating to scientific advances and their impact on modern society — how we live, how we die, how we not have babies, about research on stems cells and embryos, about genetic research, pre-screening and testing — from a modern conservative scholar.
His biggest gripe is with the dramatically reduced birth-rate among educated women in advanced liberal democracies and what this implies for our culture. Indeed, a reduced birth-rate is the only non-violent means to address contemporary massive extinction of species and environmental degradation. Warning — this is not a breezy read but it is well worth the effort. It postulates that elementary particles are not point-like but extended strings either open or closed living in a space-time of more than 4 dimensions requiring an explanation why only 4 are apparent to us.
There exists an enormous number of possible vacuum states, on the order of 10 to the A key difficulty of string theory is that its predictions can only be tested at energies that exceed the energies available to particles colliders such as LHC at CERN by a trillion, making it effectively impossible to test using conventional means, such as particle accelerators. He summarizes three arguments, justifying them with examples drawn from the history and the practice of physics. It is acknowledged by physicists that there are no viable alternatives to string theory despite the best efforts for close to four decades of many, many theoreticians.
This can be applied to either empirical predictions or to the emergency of a more coherent conceptual framework. Indeed, the belief of physicists in the existence of the Higgs particle was so high that when its discovery was confirmed in , nobody was particularly surprised. These are examples of theories that are held to be correct description of physical phenomena despite the temporary ranging between 20 — years underdetermination of some of their key predictions.
Dawid discusses how over the past years of fundamental physics the balance has changed from observation confirming theories e. In the process, the phenomenal e. In other words, over the last two centuries in physics the the conceptual distance between empirical signatures and the fundamental theory has become very large indeed.
In an aside, Dawid comments on the uncertain ontological status of other universes e.
A Stroke of Midnight
They belong to a peculiar class of objects that are epistemically inaccessible to us but that have some conceptually characteristics of observable objects. Will a fundamental theory of consciousness, such as IIT, share some of the characteristics of string theory? Note that conscious minds share some properties with the uncountable universes postulated by eternal inflation i. Geo-transformed to celebrate a dozen different civilizations from nearby star systems, the planet now plays host to various forlorn people who chose to remain behind.
A strong sense of melancholy and doom pervades the novel and animates its flawed heroes and anti-heroes battling each other, as life drains away under the dying of the light. The author, a financial journalist who worked for several years as a bond salesman, keeps the action fast-paced and exciting by following the actions of a few individuals who, ultimately successfully, bet against this market.
Wall Street comes out as totally unscrupulous, cynical and incompetent, engaging in socially-non-productive forms of gambling with vast sums that endanger the fabric of modern society. As acknowledged by the trader themselves, the game is rigged with profit privatized and risk socialized as witnessed by the bail-out of AIG, Goldman-Sachs and others by the US government in late The book and its successful movie adaptation feed the palpable public anger expressed by Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Saunders on the left in the run-up to the election.
A powerful and well told story. Fantasy, somewhere on the spectrum between allegory and myth. A beautiful told story of an elder and very tender couple, Beatrice and Axle, in post-Arthurian England in which Christian and Romanized Britons and the invading pagan Saxons have established an uneasy equilibrium. The land is covered by a mist that makes people forget. Thus, the couple tries to remember what happened to their son and go on a voyage to seek him out for they are sure he awaits them with joy. The novel has many fantastical elements — a dragon, ogres, knights of the realm — but is really about memories and forgetting and how both forces shape us in ways good and bad — memories of love-making, raising children and harmonious times clashing with memories of rancor, wounds and bitter disappointments.
Clark Elliott, Ph.D.
The amnesia that is central to the novel is both collective King Arthur broke the peace treaty and slaughtered innocent Saxons as well between the couple. The ending is ambiguous and, like the rest of the novel, not really satisfying, even though the novel contains passages of great literary power. A well-done combo of space opera, steam punk and cyberspace novel that plays several hundred years in the future in a distant planetary system in which an alien civilization the Festival brings advanced technology to a th century industrial society modeled on Victorian England, telescoping a millennia of techno-social progress into a single month.
The book kept my attention even during an emergency landing due to smoke in the airplane cabin, no mean feat! There are not natural kinds but constructed and contingent terms. The parallel with religio , then, lies in the fact that we are not used to thinking of both religion and science as systems of beliefs and practices, rather than conceiving of them primarily as personal qualities. And for us today the question of their relationship is largely determined by their respective doctrinal content and the methods through which that content is arrived at.
That modern theories of, say, the origin and composition of stars or of the working of the human brain are not just sophisticated games but are superior, in a measurable way, to older theories let alone to non-scientific accounts of these phenomena. The writing is exceptional well-crafted and contains real nuggets about Climate Change, the modern academic endeavor a hilarious scene when he encounters deconstructionists' rabid take on the so-called scientific narrative and life.
This is supposed to be the funniest book in the English language of the An outstanding exposition of Epicurian philosophy, its physics and ethics, by a little known Roman writer living in the first century BCE. It is worthwhile to re-read this beautiful and evocative poem every few years for its celebration of the vitality of nature the poem starts with evoking the power of Venus, goddess of fecundity and how happiness can be found in the here and now.
Human misery derives mainly from the dread of gods, the hereafter and death. Calm deliberation shows that the gods are not concerned in any way, shape or form with us why would they? The poem exudes supreme rationality, denial of superstition, and views nature as constantly changing and evolving. Sex is natural and ought to be enjoyed.
The universe is infinite, contains nothing but atoms and the void, and is indeterminate grace of the swerve. Even today, such lucidity is only for the few. As John Locke wrote in his journal at the end of the The first governs a few, the two last share the bulk of mankind and possess them in their turn. But superstition most powerfully produces the greatest mischief. Beautiful crafted and observed psychological vignettes from the life of three women - the English modernist novelist Virginia Woolf, an American housewife in s Los Angeles and a successful editor, living with her lesbian partner in s Greenwich Village.
Three common threads running through all stories are unhappiness, Mrs. Dalloway and suicide. Compelling read even though the abulic stance of the three protagonists is a difficult one for me to project myself into. The Hours was turned into a superb and subtle eponymous movie, very faithful to the original novel, with a haunting score by Philip Glass. Short fictions and disturbances. The short story about Sherlock Holmes keeping bees in a mountain region in Asia is superb and haunting. The remaining ones are passable, but no more. It starts out strong, with an account of the early phase of the horrific, convulsive event known as the 'Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution" of , in which millions of Chinese people died, many of them scientists and other intellectuals.
The story involves contact with an alien civilization — Trisolarans - four light years out and the resultant effects on culture, religion and politics, with warring factions within society some that wish to accelerate the coming of these Aliens to Earth. The basic premise makes one really think - the hallmark of a thinking's person novel. Some of the dialogue and the personalities are a bit wooden.
At times the writer adopts the point of view of the aliens living in a near-chaotic solar system with three suns that have basically human level motivations. The story never makes any attempt to explain how the problem of decoding messages from radical alien cultures is solved. His subsequent buildings became defensive and turned inward, away from engagement with nature. The text cites a beautiful poem that expressed the bucolic outlook of the Art and Craft movement. It grows even now I pray that the world remembers my name, not as a monstrous sinner, but as the glorious savior you know I truly am.
I pray Mankind will understand the gift I leave behind. Filled with the usual tropes of such thrillers, this one is smarter, darker and more compelling than most.
3 Wellness Tips We Learned at Ahana High Tide Festival
The entire action takes places in under 24 hours in Florence, Venice and Constantinople. The SF novel that was turned into a blockbuster Ridley Scott movie his only SF flick that isn't dark nor apocalyptic , with Matt Demon in the main role of astronaut Mark Tawney, who is unintentionally left behind when a NASA-sponsored Mars expedition has to rapidly evacuate the planet. Mark survives despite all odds by taking a relentless let's-face-down-the-odds attitude -.
No blubbering, despairing, "why me" lucubrations but an all-American or should I say, all Leibnitzian positive, if rough, attitude to life's persistent challenges such as running out of water or only having enough food for one month on a planet that is completely abiotic that Matt solves with a rational attitude, a lot of mad science and duct tape seriously. Another very prescient SF novel by the crazed Californian who died in near poverty. The dialogue is wooden; not to be recommended for its literary exposition but for its idea, decades before they become more widespread.
The history of the fall of the magnificent Inca empire, the last great civilization living in splendid isolation from the rest of the planet and believed that it encompassed all lands, brought down in a single, terrible year with the arrival of the Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizarro and his men. The Inca emperor, Atahualpa, had just emerged victorious from a bloody civil war at the head of a million men strong-army; how could a mere handful of men threaten him?
The book describes the events leading up to , the various attempts by surviving Inca leaders following the murder of Atahualpa to fight the invaders and the tragic fate of most Indians, Inca or not. I read this book at the occasion of my visit to Lima, the capital of modern Peru, Cusco, the erstwhile capital of the Inca empire, and Machu Picchu. These events that took place almost half a millennium ago continue to resonate deeply in the history and in the culture of the country.
The author, Hemming, is an explorer and anthropologist, emphatic toward the minds of the Indians and Spaniards who lived so long ago. The book is well researched and filled with detailed footnotes. My boyfriend, the kind who swaggered, drank beer for breakfast, and drove a truck, took me mountain biking. When I needed to pee, he pointed to a shaded area off the trail and grinned.
I thought he was taking care of me. I winked at him with a little laugh while baring my un-tanned bottom to the forest. When the bumps first appeared, oozy and itchy, I was back in the city working at a job where I wanted to be taken seriously. I wore blouses, skirts and panty hose though it was a hot summer and I lived in an attic apartment with no air conditioning. It was the wrong time to itch all over, to seep. When I removed my panty hose each night, they made a sound that was also a sensation—the way quickly peeling wrappers off caramels takes something with it, leaves something behind.
At night, I sat in hot, hot baths believing I could sweat out the poison, not understanding I was opening all of my pores to it. Within a week, I had red bubbles on my neck, at the back of my knees, under my breasts, and in the soft uncomfortable flesh where my waistband rubbed. My sister was travelling through Asia changing her ideas about how to live. We wrote letters back and forth but I never mentioned the poison that set my skin on fire, left me with a set of red, raised, arabesque-shaped prismmagazine. Because I was young, being poisoned this way felt like a failure.
I expected my body to flush the toxin, return to normal. It did. A quarter century after my sister returned, my partner and I landed in Nepal with our bikes and retraced the same Annapurna circuit she'd completed at the end of her adventure years earlier. Just outside of Tukuche, I stopped, got off my bike, and spread the small pouch of her ashes I'd brought with me.
I was in an open river valley where the desert of lower Mustang met the tteeline. The Nilgiri Himal cast blue shadows in the east, the sun bounced off the Dhauligiri icefall in the south, creating an ungovernable bliss of stone, ice, and light falling into green. It reminded me of her. Eagles flew overhead that day. My partner wondered aloud about the absence of Himalayan vultures, also known as griffons, one of the largest of Old World raptors, from our transit through their usual elevations.
He'd been to Nepal before, encountered them often, and wanted to share their spectacle with me. That night, in a Tukuche guest house, we met an Irish falconer who was heading toward Pokhara to hang-glide at a popular peak; in particular, he planned to hang-glide with orphaned baby vultures and teach them how to fly. This was not a new thing, he told us. The vulture population in India had been nearly wiped out by a poison that had since migrated to Nepal.
The poison was a painkiller called diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory which India's farmers had given to their livestock for more than a decade, because it allowed a lame goat or a feverish cow to function longer and with less pain.
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Generations of these animals died. Because they could not be eaten in Hindu majority areas, theit carcasses were left for vultures and stray dogs and rats, the latter two which were unaffected by the high levels of diclofenac in the meat. For vultures however, the painkiller was the killer. Which meant more food for the dogs and rodents. Which meant more strays and rats, more bites and rabies. Even after diclofenac was banned for veterinary use, it was widely used because it was still available for humans. Birds and farming practices are borderless.
The Himalayan vulture—bald and faintly blue-skinned, uniquely buff-coloured—began to disappear. Monique and Teresa disappeared from our lives shortly after the attempted poisoning. The whole family—Teresa, Monique, the piano- 12 PRISM playing elder brother, their hard-working parents—moved away, and we never knew if that peanut-butter-and-deadly-nightshade sandwich had done something to their youngest member that was permanent and more painful for eluding detection and predictability.
But I wondered; I worried. Some people do not react at all to urushiol, the oily resin found on poison ivy leaves and stems that transmits all its woe. But for those of us susceptible, our reactions intensify with repeated exposure. And because these plants love carbon dioxide, they are proliferating, producing ever- stronger poison.
Before I went to Nepal, I had my third major episode of poison ivy. My sister, meanwhile, was dying. A year earlier, she'd had a tumour the size of a baby's head removed from her gut. A metastasis in her liver remained. I don't know what she understood about the prognosis for liver cancer that I did not, ot how she, a woman born with one kidney, an alternative health practitioner and former nurse who'd cared for hundreds of cancer patients, understood the price to be paid for months of prescribed chemotherapy. But she said no to what the doctors proposed.
She chose her poison after one chose her. You're keeping your options open; you have a back-up plan, I asked mote than once. And she said yes. So I expressed hope out loud, and wrestled with something darker inside. In the year after her surgery, my sister rode her bike, swam in the Mexican gulf, hiked in knee-deep snow, camped on alvat-wrapped peninsulas. She walked up and down the steel steps that scaled the escarpment near her home. While my skin pimpled with urushiol allergy that fall, she broke up an asphalt parking pad with a pick-axe, loaded it by hand into a dumpster, replaced the pavement with garden.
She also packed lunches, made meals, walked dogs, washed floors, baked, folded laundry, and hugged her children tight to her. She prayed to live. I prayed she'd live, too. And I went looking for a plant. If nature could make a poison, it would make the antidote. This was an article of faith I couldn't shake. We were taught at a young age about which berries were edible and which were not. At my mothet's core was a genius for survival. She was a woman with five young children who was struggling with depression and anxiety in a new suburb edged by farms, forest, and meadows. She taught us what to pick, invaluable knowledge if you are a child and outside a lot.
Then prismmagazine. We were gone for hours, the prize of fresh pies and tarts pushing us further, keeping us away until our containers were topped up, my sister and I ever-angling to see who picked more, who knew better. Blackberries, I'd say. Nope, she said. Black raspberries. Wild strawberries! Uh uh. Woodland strawberries. Elderberries, thimbleberries, mulberries. Got em. Got 'em. As a remedy for poison ivy, the reports about jewelweed—a tall green plant whose yellow and orange flowers hang like orchid-shaped lanterns under green awnings—are anecdotal.
Didn't matter. It was something I knew how to get. Jewelweed is abundant near marshes, along shady woodland embankments. By the time I ran into the jewelweed patch, the tender skin of both my arms was buckled and blistered: I couldn't stand the touch of long sleeves. The first thing I made contact with was stinging nettle—it sunk like a hundred tiny fish-hooks into my oozing, compromised flesh.
The pain was exquisite. I couldn't help myself: I complained about it to my sister who by then was distended, struggling to sleep at night. She seemed relieved to hear my whimpering; she was quick with reassurances and advice. We held that moment the way kids hold their breath in unison, trying to keep something in place we both needed—the comfortable and uncomfortable scripts of our relationship, the inevitability of being a part of each other's life. A few weeks before she was hospitalized, I arrived at my sister's house for our Saturday farmer's market visit.
She called from the basement. When she reached the top of the stairs, pain had redrawn her face. She grabbed the kitchen island to steady herself. I'm shaking this morning, she said. I can't get my socks on. She squeezed away tears. Her eyeliner ran. Sit down, I told her. I am afraid of the physical symptoms, she said. I try to let go of pain.
But I am afraid. I knelt in front of her. There was nothing good to say. Let's just get a tea and drive somewhere pretty, sit. She shook bet head. I placed my hands on her swollen knees. She rallied, insisted we carry on, despite my protests. She had turnips to get. A recipe required turnips, a plant that's good for you. She wouldn't let me carry her bag. After two months in Nepal, we finally saw a Himalayan vulture— three actually. It was an unexpected encounter We were on a bus to Kathmandu, our bikes on top, travelling narrow roads, often single lanes cut into the sides of deep gorges without barriers.
On a tight curve, our bus swerved out of the way of another bus passing a slow-moving lorry from the opposite direction. I had to look away; outside my window, there was a dead tree clinging to rock. Sitting on one branch were three ugly-beautiful birds so large and hunched they filled me with dread. Entranced by the huge backs of ecru feathers over dark ones, the downy hook of their necks emerging from soft whitish ruffs, I squeezed my partner's shoulder—not sure they were real. They were so still. At the next turn, we came upon a truck flattened and folded like a carnival accordion against the parabola of another tight S-cutve, its custom paint of red and blues scraped clean in stripes that tinseled in the light.
The vultures had come down from their usual elevations for this. They were waiting for bodies. This truth made them no less beautiful; for now they'd dodged a poison, and with every remaining meal they entrenched themselves further with the living. The unique metabolism of vultures makes them a dead end for pathogens that other carrion eaters—the rats and dogs—cannot metabolize and therefore spread.
Without the vultutes, everyone—animals and people alike—gets sick more often. A few months after I returned from Nepal, I had a small tumour removed from my colon, the result of a test I did not want to take. My doctor told me I was lucky because the tumour, though benign, was six months away from morphing into the same cancer that killed my sister. I bled a lot after that procedure, so much I passed out and ended up in the hospital. I didn't think the bleeding would stop, or that I would ever feel strong again.
I did. In the end jewelweed didn't help my poison ivy. Unsure of where its active ingredient was hiding, I put all patts of the plant in the blender: leaves, stalks, flowers. The slurry smelled vegetal, and when I slathered it on my arms it offered about thirty seconds of cooling relief. By the end of that week, my arms suppurated and turned a weird colour. They itched more than ever. And there was a new twinge-y pain. I wasn't sleeping. The Urgent Care doctor backed away when I showed up in her office. She wrote me two prescriptions: one, a high dose of steroids; the other, a two- week cycle of antibiotics.
I swallowed those pills. I loved the way my sistet reacted when she saw what the jewelweed had done to my skin, its greenish craclde over the ground-meat colour of my forearms. Knowing I was already on the mend, she laughed until her eyes watered. Her son has the same dimples when he laughs.
Het daughter, the same quirky grin. It felt good to laugh with her, a little darkly at a non-lethal poison. Later, the scars would come: angry, ugly reddish-pink. On the very last night of her life, I stayed awake with my sister in the hospital room, though she couldn't speak and her dilated pupils were fixed on a place I wasn't invited. I pilfered some of the snacks people had brought her, helped myself to a gift of smelly hand cream, tried on her slippers. I watched and waited for her face to collapse into an expression I recognized, for her to sit up and yell, Hey!
Don't touch my stuff! Or to just say one last thing to me, anything at all. She didn't. It never occurred to me—not until recently—that we got the plant wrong when we tried to poison Monique. But the berries are a giveaway: the fruit of deadly nightshade is shiny and black, not red.
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We'd given her a sandwich laced with bittersweet nightshade, a plant that rarely causes toxicity. Its limited amounts of the active ingredient, solanine, gave it some use as a healing balm a century or two ago when people relied on plants. If Monique had a scrape or bruise the day we slipped her a nightshade-laced sandwich, it's possible we may have unwittingly helped her heal faster. Or perhaps that's a necessaty fiction—wanting what we choose for others to be the best thing, the thing that saves them, wanting to believe we choose at all—failing to admit that as often, we just get lucky with poison, our bodies, the time we get with our sisters.
And from them. By Cassini's rings, was it you? I shattered a glass on the counter. When one ring falls, the rest follow through Those shards of ice scattered into invisible meteorites across the floor, and brushed my legs and feet with lacerations. I was cut by grass bending in a fierce breeze, and dabbed at the injuries, but my blood dried. Outside, a field of wheat moved as a single mind, lowered its blades to peasants' scythes. Like Levin's slow-mowed sickle in Anna Karenina, I'm hungry for such unison. I've found the feeling of sisterhood rarely. Was it only in the company of men?
When we're each of us in our bleeding, and might speak to matters of the abdomen, then it's moonlets and stars that ground me. In morning, my wool-bound feet can't walk for limping over craters. My kitchen's crystals gleam at me, gag gifts winking in their twinning. Waist-deep, Plath wrote, the winter trees know neither abortions nor bitchery. We do. Loose change in our pockets rattles like absolution sold in bad faith. When the Ship of Poets capsized, your arms around me weren't my life preserver. I boarded your bed, an escape boat's tender, and we weathered the waves together.
In the tale of Nastagio Degli Onesti, marriage meant Guido catching the ungrateful woman, hounds nipping het thighs, and throwing her heart to their waiting teeth, the ritual repeated each Friday. Like Saint Michael slaying Lucifer infinitude, the action becomes a kind of monster itself, Kaleidoscope gone awry, or early 90s Magic eye. As aventutine lends the adoration of shepherds a glittering backdrop old ladies' swollen feer press against leather sandals on Spanish streets, thyroids like pelicans' gullets spitting phlegm over concrete. One night, I dreamt my skin peeled away, shedding a sunburn chrysalis, our bedding never fully drying in this humidity.
The peppery scent of the botanical gardens mixed with the tree-of-heaven's semen stink followed us to the subway, like piss-dripping bags of garbage. She had told him to buy it at the time but it cost ovet three hundred dollars. The store in which he had seen the shirt was an upscale fashion shop, and sold Versace, Diesel, and Boss.
He had been in the store once before but had been turned off when the clerk, a middle-aged man in a fishnet T-shirt, treated him impatiently, as if it were beneath the clerk to serve him. Last Friday, however, the cletk had been a young Filipino man. Although Dave suspected that the clerk was also gay, he nevertheless liked the way the clerk treated him, showing him around the store, suggesting jeans he might be interested in, bringing them to him, and congratulating him on his fine physique. Dave could not find jeans he liked, though.
The jeans in the store were loose and baggy and he wanted tight, narrow jeans, like the jeans people had worn in the eighties. He was just about to leave the store when he noticed the black shirt hanging on the wall near the back—he had been wanting a black shirt for a while. The shirt was by Versace, and the two buttons on the collar made it different from the black shirts he had seen other men wearing.
He was embarrassed to look for the price in front of the clerk, and took the shirt into the change room. The white sticker was inside a small booklet attached to the shirt with a tassel.
As he opened it, he remembered what a rich aunt had once told his grandmother: if you have to ask the price, you shouldn't be buying it. He was shocked, then impressed. How many of the men he had seen wearing black shirts had paid three hundred and ten dollars for them? He unbuttoned the shirt, slid into it, the sheer material coming in and hugging him at the waist, the high collar surrounding his neck, holding his head high.
When he came out, Natalie smiled. As they walked back to the car, he waited for Natalie to force him to go back to purchase the shirt. When she tried, he refused. She had not tried hard enough and he wanted her to try again. They ate Greek food in the food court. Dave hoped that now inside the mall Natalie would get to thinking about the shirt and make him buy it. She had not mentioned it that week. In the middle of the meal, she asked when they were going to go to New York. They had been planning to go for a long time and had almost gone last spring, the price was so cheap, but Dave wanted to wait until he had a full-time position at the school.
I don't know," he said, pausing to dig a piece of lamb from a hole in his tooth. Natalie held Dave's arm, laying her head on his shoulder, and Dave imagined himself walking down 5th Avenue with a supetmodel on his arm, the tail of the Versace shirt held out by the bteeze. They passed a drug store and Natalie said she needed nylons.
Waiting for her, Dave saw a woman he knew from work, down one of the aisles in the personal care section. She was blond, the only person his age on staff, and for a long time he had wanted to talk to her. Maybe he would go over now and say hello. But it might seem strange. He would wait till Monday, and tell her he had seen her in the mall on Friday buying tampons.
I guess. I don't think so. What is it? It would be a sign. I prayed to God, and said that if he wanted me to have it, then you would mention it. For heaven's sake, it's just a shirt. But you didn't seem so interested. Anyway, you want to get it? They went back to the store. The Filipino clerk whom Dave had liked prismmagazine.
I just wanted to buy something. Without looking at it, not wanting to spoil the excitement of seeing it, he brought the shift to the counter. I can only take ten percent off. The clerk rang it in. With tax it came to three hundred and eighteen dollars and six cents. Dave handed the clerk his Visa card. He enjoyed watching the man neatly folding the shirt, placing it in a large bag with the stote's logo on it, and laying a thin piece of translucent papet on top of it. The following Monday Dave got up half an hour early.
He took a shower and put on antiperspirant. He stood in front of the mirror drying his armpits with a blow dryer. He checked with a piece of toilet paper to make sure they were dry. He slid on the shirt and felt ecstatic buttoning it, feeling the silky texture of the material against his shoulders and neck.
He stood for a few moments in front of the mirror watching the sheen of the material in the light, the shirt looking like no othet shirt he had seen. He went and got his Ray-Ban Wayfarers and put them on. He put Duran Duran on his ghettoblaster. He looked at himself in the mirror. He could almost imagine himself as one of the idols he had watched on MuchMusic as a child. He looked at himself for another moment. Maybe it was too flashy for Monday.
He should save it for a Friday, or some important occasion. After all, he did not want to wear it out. He took it off and put on the blue Oxford he always wore. That was bettet. Thete was no point dressing up for where he was going. Sirens wag their tails as Sorrento's sacked by the Turks. Mermaids in aquamarine blue lipstick and bindis, bindis really rock. Sirens wailing at the sails as a fleet of nimble ships sink.
AquaMermaid classes rock Toronto, "it's all about the tail, fitness- and-fantasy wise. Mermaids in sequined pushup bras really into burlesque. Mermaids with rockin' abdominals, killer core strength, arms like Venus Williams. From your boat or screen the cliffs change colour every hour on the hour. Neat or on the rocks, someone's going to sink. Tidiness of handwriting, ctucial to the flow of correction, not only to write the words, but to write them with respect.
Sensuality isn't supposed to be of the essence before adolescence. Desire paths, also called desire lines, are those that ttespass property, shortcuts that erode underfoot to a permanent secret sequestered at the back of the brain that even I forgor exists. Paths imprinted in gardens or fields, paths that lead to very definite alcoves, recess is a secluded place or it is a break, a line break. For a poet lineation is the strategic locus of phrases to the advantage of the poem's profile. Every line ever written has experienced the exact same emptiness after the caesura.
We were road-tripping through America without air conditioning in a heat both metaphorically and literally hellish. In the rearview mirror, I watched Maisy pant heavily. Her eyes sunk with heat, her tongue lolling with exhaustion. All that day, Peter and I had been pulling over every thirty minutes to pour water onto her, massaging the coolness below het fur. But despite having declared himself adherent to some weird and totally made-up Eastern religion, his English degree gave him a solid knowledge of the Good Book.
It's if I start thinking about other women, I give permission for Litia to start thinking about other men. And if she starts thinking about other men, it's only a matter of time. The six o'clock sun lanced through the windshield with such fever that I put Peter's sunglasses over my own. There are stories of this country, stories that turn a sinner into a saint and a saint into a god. A man who sptinted the shores of Lake Michigan with such speed that his soles wore to clean bone, all so he could tell Pontiac of the British ambush, giving the Odawa chief victory at the Battle of Bloody Run.
Or the woman in Mamouth County, New Jersey who— after hearing the rupture of redcoat artillery and seeing her bluejacket husband disappear into pink mist—took charge of her spouse's cannon and paid no mind when buckshot perforated her skirt.
Or the Texas Ranger who grew tired of hanging horse thieves and so decapitated one, sttapping the headless body to the stolen horse and spooking it into the wilderness where it roamed for years, the corpse acquiring bullets and arrows but never falling from the saddle. It's easy enough to fashion yourself Davy Crockett when you're sitting in the sharp light of your laptop screen at in the morning, surfing Google Maps and eating leftover rice, using two knives like chopsticks because thete isn't any other clean cutlery.
But it is quite a bit harder when you're on a single-lane county highway and hear a crackled shriek beneath the tire, so you get out, catch sight of the racoon's mangled jaw and all-too-human hand, dry-heave in the ditch, come back and then tealize the once-noble mammal is still gulping air, get back in the car, hang a U-ey, crawl forward, and watch as Peter semaphores you into the kill like he's guiding an Airbus into its gate, and when he finally draws one long finger across his throat, you exhale a deep sigh of shame and your mind is full of scorpions as you quote Lady Macbeth's "What's done is done.
Or, best yet, there is The Candida Diet. The Candida Diet, three years ago, Litia's mother checked out a library book about the prevalence of a yeast-like, parasitic bacteria called Candida. Candida, the book argued, lived within unknown millions and was the source of everything from upset stomachs and lethargy to mood swings and—perhaps a bit dramatically—autism.
We decided that Litia would eat her expensive carnivore foods while I made my own meatless affair. The new division of meals proved to have problems. Litia has difficulty finishing things, whether it be books, sentences, or plates. But when it comes to food, it doesn't really matter. Yes, she could leave her half-eaten pickle in the tupperware; yes, she could forget about bet made-but- never-consumed sandwich; yes, she could put the milk back with a half- teaspoon sloshing inside: everything would be gone by lunch tomorrow.
During her diet, however, she no longer employed the partner with the Pac-Man appetite, and the forgotten leftovers began to amass at an exponential rate. Not because I am technically unlicensed to be practicing psychology, but because I feared I was giving her ideas and that one morning I, too, would find myself among the cleaved heads of cauliflower and broken hearts of Romaine. And besides Litia's languishing leftovers, I had my own problems.
Not having cooked since my bachelor days, I reverted to my bachelor tastes: Russian potatoes. Many things can be said for the humble Russian: weighing in at sixty-nine cents a pound, the potato has the lowest cost- to-density ratio; there is very little clean up after cooking them, usually no more than a fork if you eat directly out of the pan; finally, the tubers are incredibly versatile—you can fry them, you can roast them, you can mash them, you can steam them. Sometimes, I would even eat them raw, like an apple. But they are and I really can't stress this enough not like an apple, and at the beginning of The Candida Diet's fourth week, I stepped out of the shower and caught my reflection in the mirror.
At first, I admired the tan I hadn't noticed I'd been acquiring. But, upon consideration that it was January in Vancouver and nobody had seen the sun for forty days, I looked closer. My skin had darkened to the hue of an oakwood floot, to the shade of weak bourbon, to a colour not unlike the skin of a Russian potato.
The next weekend, Litia was reading on the couch as I worked on a poem at the desk. When I write, for some unknown medical reason, I sweat profusely: thin and putrid lines down my back. A few hours in, Litia raised her nose to the air. That night at dinner, I opened the fridge and found a small tuppetware cowering at the back corner.
I opened the lid and saw that an empire of mould had established itself. The fridge became sparse, the tupperware available, and the scent of newly tilled soil seeped back into the earth. And after a week or so, my skin returned to its vanilla tones, its supple softness. And that was the attraction Peter was now insisting we see. Can't you just look at pictutes online? Above the forty-foot saguaros, the sun hung a deep and painful red.
Waiting in the lineup of cars at the national park's gate, I asked Peter a final time if he was sute he wanted to do this. His chin sank into his chest and his shoulders sagged with defeat, a pose I'd grown familiar with, as every day I'd been finding a new way to disappoint him. I had received an email from Litia earlier that morning; I'd been lamenting Peter's fiscal foolishness and she'd replied, "Remember to have fun"—a response I thought puzzling until I re-read it and saw that she'd typed "Remember to be fun.
And for the past five years she has been poaching my friends, one by one, and converting them to her side. She claims ignorance—that she's just being friendly and nice and interested in their bullshit hobbies. But I know better. This is her way of reminding me that she is all that stands between me and a quaking gorge of loneliness. In Litia's ongoing war of amicable attrition, my high school friends, my volleyball teammates, and my own parents have defected to her side of the chapel. But Peter has remained on mine. We steered through a grassy, bison-filled meadow that soon turned into alpine forest.
As the toad corkscrewed upwards I watched the gas gauge plummet. The climb was so blisteringly long that I began to think we were ascending into the sun. When the forest finally broke into the tarmac sprawl of parking lot, we pulled in beside a minivan with Manitoba plates that was double-parked, and a shiver of shame shot through me. Leaving Maisy to run off into the forest, Peter and I approached the rim of the canyon. Earlier that day, at a bulk foods store in a town called Tuba City, Peter was chit-chatting with a fellow shopper and told her where we were headed.
I noticed the loud sound of the gravel beneath my sandals, and it took me a moment to register that I had not gained a significant amount of weight in an insignificant amount of time, but rather the whole canyon—that sprawling tourist ttap—was sealed in silence. All around us, people spoke in furtive tones, like they were talking about a small-town suicide.
And when I looked up from my feet and saw the infinite ribbons of red rock, bannering fathomlessly into the distance, I, too, was stunned into silence. Soon enough Peter was speaking in a register only Maisy could understand, and I swore I caught an osprey's echoing cry as it fished the Colorado. Even the sun grew a heart and gave us a bit of privacy, averting its eyes behind some clouds. The air became crisp, and my skin pimpled at the chill and at the drop that quaked beneath me.
I stared across the chasm— the butttessed cliffs and the cathedral spires—towards the smooth and levelled southern prairie. It is the canyon's sublimity that forbids photography. The modest crowds that had gatheted seemed to agree: someone would hold their camera high above their head and periscope a photo; then—after cupping a hand around the screen—their face would rise twisted with disappointment. And so the cameras stayed shut, all of us trying so hard to open our eyes to a world that had never seemed more vivid.
Along the canyon's rocky lip, Maisy and an overweight crow played a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse. Like Evil Knievel, she bounded between rocks, leaping across profound distances, uninterested in everything tied down by gravity. Back at our quasi-legal campsite on the border of the National Park, Peter logged the day's receipts into our ledger while I tried to get some writing done. Maisy saw two squirrels dash between trees and darted after them. So I decided my goal would instead be to note something memorable about each day and then write about it after.
So far, sixteen days into the trip, all I'd made were some jots about an odd marquee outside of a pub in southern California, which plainly read "RIP Nascar Mike. I tilted up my lime green Nalgene and the last trickle of water dribbled into my mouth. Even though I'd brought two one-litre bottles and two empty moonshine jugs, we were always fighting dehydration. That is because all Peter had brought was a baby-blue container so delicately small that you couldn't take a sip without your pinky pointing out. He closed the ledget and filed it in his knapsack.
Six years ago, I was on a canoe tour across southern Alberta with a woman named Melissa.