Careers in Science: Pteridology

Ferns by Ben Stanfield

Ferns by Ben Stanfield

The pteridologist is standing on the threshhold, half in the kitchen, half in the entryway, telling his wife a story while the broken espresso machine gleams on the counter as if it were going to transform into a lethal, chittering chrome Transformer any minute now.

“When I was a kid Uncle Phil took me and my brother and sister and cousins and the neighbor kids backpacking in the Chain Lakes by Mt. St. Helens in the summers. We carried heavy packs up steep trails for miles in the August sun. When we finally got where we were going and set down our packs, it felt like you would float away, like you could jump into the treetops. As if gravity had been cancelled. It was the best feeling in the world. And that is what this feels like now.”

His wife smiles.

“You gradually got heavy again, until the next time you set down the pack,” he says. “Of course.”

He doesn’t want to get his family’s hopes up, but he decides to tell them anyway – his wife and his daughters and some friends – because even though he suspects this is not a one-time cure but rather an on-going process — or rather, because he suspects this is an on-going process — he wants to share his joy with them, at this transformation; he wants them to have this little respite from his depression, and he wants them to, maybe, remind him when he starts backsliding to get back to work on it.

At first he had hoped to wait a year before telling anyone, rather than a week, but he thinks he will need help someday. A reminder or a pat on the back or hug or words of encouragement.

But it is a feeling like no other – a complete and sudden absence of something that he had carried for decades, more on than off the whole time.

“I don’t know if it works for everyone or only some people, but all I can say is a little book fixed me.”

The next day, despite his fears, he is still fine. And the day after that. Waking with no negative thoughts, levitating an inch above the mattress.

It takes about four days for the negative feelings to start nesting in him again. It takes him about 15 minutes to banish them again.

After that, it’s a daily process.

Like doing pushups.

He wishes he had known of this 20 years ago.

Better late than never.

 

 

3 responses to “Careers in Science: Pteridology

  1. I had a moment of that earlier this week. It stopped me in my tracks. I realized suddenly that I felt that lightness as I was walking up Division Street. (My heavy pack was carted all over the Wallowas every August). It was so strange and I panicked because I felt that I would suddenly be so heavy I’d crack the sidewalk. It seems to be sticking around this good lightness, but I’m not sure how you magick the negative feelings away. Which little book fixed you? Most of all, I am glad for you and for me.

  2. mig

    I’m glad for you and me, as well.

    The title of the book is “feeling good” by David D. Burns, MD. It is a cognitive therapy-based self-help book. I hesitate to talk too much about it as I have only been using the advice in the book for the past week, and have not even finished the book yet. Time will tell, I guess.

  3. Greedy of me to ask and thanks for sharing the title. I had a worry last night that you shook your head and asked yourself why some people were incapable of separating the writer from the narrative. Perhaps you had just written another good story. And I, in my selfish reader-state, had demanded that you inhabit that story and also that you share all the secrets of it. Then I woke up and came back to see if you had shared the book. I knew you had. Thank you.