Saturday, November 16, 2013

White Birch by the Water

I like to walk around because it helps me to clear my head of the thoughts that clutter it up so much of the time: all that movement, rhythmic motion, all that breath, takes me out of myself somehow. I can’t say I always notice the world around me, but I do try to.

This is not a post about theology, or the Bible, or anything bigger or other than me. If you come here only for the sometimes strange things I say while I’m thinking about God and the Bible, you might want to skip this one.

It was a nice day out, warm for the time of year and sunny, so I decided to go for a long walk. I walked out to around Oka park, along the bike path that runs near my house. I’m fortunate to live so close to this long trail through the forest. I went all the way out to one of my favorite spots, a somewhat isolated pond off the main path through a small trail. I followed the trail to a white birch tree so I could sit in its hollow and look at the water. The trees have lost their leaves, and everything was still and quiet.

I looked at a dead, fallen tree dangling its leafless branches in the still water. In some ways I feel like the tree, not all the way in and not all the way out of life, of living. Partway under the surface. I thought about walking into the water, feeling the pond slip over me like a tree falling under the calm surface, carried by its weight further under the deep waters. I imagined what it would be like, how easy it would feel, to fall asleep beneath the unbroken silver of the pond.

But the water is cold this time of year. And I figured not wanting to die in cold water was reason enough to go back home and leave the white birch tree alone where it had fallen.

The thing is that I’m experiencing a major depressive episode. I’m trying to live my life exactly the way I normally do, but I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know if that’s the right decision or not, or if it will be possible as I fall deeper into this illness. While I have adapted to years of chronic, stable depression, I have never been prepared for these major episodes and I am not prepared now. I am having symptoms that are unusual for me.

I want to thank you for supporting me and keeping me in your thoughts and prayers as I know you’ve been doing. I also want to thank you for reading this blog: writing it, and knowing that I’m not the only person here reading it, is important to me in ways that I hadn’t realized until I began to really struggle with whether or not I should – or could, or can – continue writing it. I started this project because I felt compelled to think seriously about my own depression and my own spirituality and theology as aspects of my life that are intertwined. But it has helped me feel more connected to myself, more sure of my beliefs, and less alone as I struggle with these questions and search for meaning in what I find is happening to me.

Your support means a lot to me , and I hope to have you with me here (and elsewhere) throughout this journey.


  1. You have spoken eloquently about the white birch and your experience of depression - but I feel I can't find words that convey my desire to create a place of meeting and support you through this difficult time. I can remind you that you have a place in my heart, and in the hearts of many others at CCC - and of course as you know together we dwell in the heart of God's love. Staying with the pain until we can move through it is such a difficult task - surrounding you with prayer, thanking God for the gift of you to this world, trusting that the desolation will give way to consolation (as you reconnect with yourself and struggle with your questions.)

  2. I hear you. Oh yeah, I hear you. Keep writing. It matters.