Days After

Another hot day in Seattle.  My doctor’s appointments are done, and my brother’s wife, Linda Staley died on August ninth at six twelve in the morning.  She was a smart and beautiful woman, who grew up in Bellingham and went to Smith College. She taught English in Guatemala before marrying my brother fifty-two years ago.  Linda was kind and generous to me from the first time I met her when I was twelve years old.  She hosted more dinners than I can count and her kitchen was fun and full of lively conversation, about books, and politics, baseball, family news and always good advice. She knew me at my most foolish and yet I don’t remember any dismissive remarks or harsh words. We argued on subjects but always kindly, at least that’s how I remember it.  She helped me when I needed a place to live and she even typed some of my college papers. She was even considerate to some of my most trying friends when they passed through the Pacific Northwest.  She was funny and loved my brother and loved to tease him along with the rest of his siblings.  She seemed indispensible and now we will have to see.

Linda and Hugh’s bed where Hugh puts some of her keepsakes during the day.

Linda and Hugh’s bed where Hugh puts some of her keepsakes during the day.


Tonight the bed in her apartment is empty and the flowers which friends had brought are drooping.  I realized now that the white flowers I thought were lilacs were in fact hydrangeas.  On her deathbed, Linda knew the correct name of the flowers and gently set me straight. Today there are roses in bloom in the gardens, and that’s all I really know.  My brother, holds himself together with memories and lots of visitors, but sweaters in a closet, or finding a calendar she filled out for events in the future will ambush him with tears.  He thinks he can bear it. Then he knows he can’t. Then he is positive he must, and he will: the shadowboxing of grief, I suppose.


The six ketamine treatments were intense and tiring.  It’s hard to gauge their effectiveness.   Each infusion lasted an hour and was accompanied by about forty-five minutes of floating out of body experiences with compressed time confusion, rapid eye movement, sensations of insight, and hallucinations like pulsing color fields.  My head feels scrubbed clean now, and somehow enlarged, as if there is more room for possibility, more room for optimism.  The whole sensation may be ephemeral and I think I’m going to withhold judgment on the ultimate usefulness for depression, just to say that it hasn’t hurt me, so far.

            I read an interesting book called “The Overstory” by Richard Powers.  I just finished it a couple of days ago and have been thinking about it a lot. I absolutely loved the writing in the first quarter of the book.  I enjoyed how he put the trees in the setting front and center not only in the plot line but in the timing of the book.  Humans seemed like little bugs zipping around in another dimension of time compared to the ancient rooted wooded leviathans, and the whole issue of arboreal communication and “brain function”… if you will… and how they may enlist human beings as their proxies is a fascinating aspect of the story line. But in the end… I was let down by the lack of wit the characters showed. Only one of them showed any real uplift in their spirit beyond the adoration of nature… it was like spending time with a series of cult members.  But I won’t go on.  I recommend this book highly… if nothing more than the beauty of the writing and the things you can learn about trees.  Some say its in the running for a Great American Novel… possibly… but only if you are already of the faith, and I would make the argument that no matter how much discussion of science there is in the text that a leap of faith is necessary to fully buy into the motivations of the characters. 

Including her baseball signed my Edgar Martinez… who she dearly loved.

Including her baseball signed my Edgar Martinez… who she dearly loved.


But here again, is a case where I wish I could be chopping vegetables in Linda Straley’s kitchen, drinking wine after she and my sister had both read the book and Linda was spicing up her marinara sauce.  We would be looking at each other through the steam and laughing, batting our opinions of the book back and forth, she would correct me where my memory was faulty and I would come to learn something more from the text than I had ever expected.


Then we would sit down to eat.


Blessings be upon all of us, and all of you tonight with your families together.


Summer day, no wind.

Roses wilt in a hot room.

I miss you so much.