“The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Living in the city, weeks can go by without sight of the horizon. No panoramic views, a lack of vastness in which to feel reassuringly small.
On the coast of Maine, where I grew up, the horizon is where the ocean meets the sky. As a kid, standing in the cold shallows and looking out at the Atlantic, I imagined England was just over the line, just as I believed that if I dug down far enough in the gray sand, I’d end up in China. Fingering the globe now, I see that Tasmania would have been more geographically accurate.
I knew, early on, that the Earth was round. My primary school classes were interrupted by Apollo launches and splash downs. I also knew that, once upon a time, people believed the world was flat and ships could sail off the edge and fall into a pit of dragons.
Though the dragons also seemed plausible to my young self, the horizon never felt dangerous. It felt, instead, like a place to try to get to, an obvious destination. When I went out in a neighbor’s lobster boat, buckled up in my orange life-preserver, we never got closer. Continue reading Nothing (or a Dragon)
At Harvard Medical School, all first-year students are required to take the Gross Anatomy Lab, part of “The Human Body” course. A few of my journalist friends were auditing the class, so I asked to come along. I wanted to get close to death, but in a clinical sort of way. Continue reading Holding Brains
A childhood game that now seem like a precursor to meditation.
As a kid, long car rides in my family were a time of constant bickering, pinching, and tickling between my brothers and me. To keep themselves sane, my parents would separate us. Douglas, though the middle child, got the front seat, where he was less likely to get carsick and to puke. Or that was the theory. I often thought he faked it so he could keep that prime position between my parents. Donald, the oldest, got the back seats to himself. As the youngest, I got the far back of the station wagon, what we referred to as the way-way back. This was understood to be the worst place because there wasn’t enough room to sit up. In truth, I liked it because I could stretch out and sleep. Yet I always acted as if it were uncomfortable, collecting whatever points I could for my way-back martyrdom.
One key to feeling good: frequent exercise. It’s hard to feel depressed when you’re pushing yourself physically. Though I know this is true, I have to keep reminding myself—have to keep clambering back on the wagon I so frequently fall off of.
It’s the beginning of winter and crunch time at work and so many other excuses for not doing anything. I got to the gym on Saturday, stepped on the elliptical, and set my modest goal of a half hour. By inputting 30 minutes into the machine’s touchpad, I created a digital manifestation of my intention. There it was out there for me (and the nosey woman on the adjacent machine) to see. I’d created a measurable objective that I could either fulfill or fail.
It wasn’t exactly me against the machine. It was the machine as me at the start of my workout. About 18 minutes into the program, I was tired and felt like quitting. The machine reminded me of my original intention. I don’t like to disappoint, even if would just be disappointing earlier self masquerading as a Precor Adaptive Motion Trainer, so I kept going.
My iPod was playing kitschy songs on my cardio playlist: “Jive Talkin’” and “Dance This Mess Around.” At the end of 30 minutes, WORKOUT COMPLETE flashed in green LED letters on the elliptical display. I stepped off the machine, huffing, sweating and feeling a little bit fine. A little free.