Carmel Magazine

Carmel Magazine, spring 2018

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his body in the MRI machine, Michael sees the machine's big open-mouth as a hungry vampire, with five eyes and a row of sharp teeth. Then he learns that MRI stands for Mar tian Robots Invade. The machine is a spaceship! He is going on a secret mis- sion: to "…join forces with Martian robots and destroy all viruses, bacteria, and germs." Rodriguez' Michael Trouble series, which comes with corresponding coloring books and math workbooks, transforms scary medical set- tings into a fantasyland of imaginative possibili- ties. Bandages become pirate tattoos. "Is it a port-a-cath or a state-of-the-art spy gadget? A towel or a superhero cape? It all depends on how you look at things." While Rodriguez lost her beloved nephew Michael, the character he inspired lives on, to help other children and families cope with the gravity of pediatric illness and the challenges of its treatment. Nature Love Medicine: Essays on Wildness and Wellness edited by Thomas Lowe Fleischner I n this beautiful anthology, 23 authors—"ecol- ogists, psychologists, educators, poets, artists, healers and the healed"—share personal expe- riences in which communion with nature (i.e. wildness) illuminates a path to physical and mental health (i.e. wellness). A couple argues, a woman falls ill, a beloved dog dies, another woman is swallowed up by grief— in these and other human scenarios, the authors articulate how immersion in the natural world led to a specific rescue. No superheroes swoop in. The resolution comes when the human, merged with nature, finds solace, per- spective, inspiration, hope. Maybe even wisdom. Take the argu- ing couple in the essay titled "Dark Love." The wife suffers from anx- iety, the husband from episodic d e p r e s s i o n . Author Jana R i c h m a n explains this combination's complexity: "Anxiety gushes out, soliciting reassurance and relief; depression pulls in and sets up barri- ers. Anxious people want to process, often in a desperate, frenetic way. But insisting that a depressed person process his current state is worse than futile; it is merciless. Working together, depression and anxi- ety construct a near impermeable trap. When I sense Steve's depression, I churn in angst. When Steve sens- es my anxiety, he drops deeper." It's a fall day when they are scheduled to go on a backpacking trip on the Escalante River, but the husband decides he is too depressed to go. Richman says, "I sat amid the mess of freeze- dried food packets and cried. Then I packed." "I would like to say I left the house quietly, but I didn't. I breached the sanctity of the closed door and made a climactic, sobbing speech and exit. I no longer remember the words, but I remember the cruelty behind them… I remember his hor- rified face as I loaded my pain onto his." She hikes by herself. "Righteous indignation propelled me forward…" At the end of a diffi- cult day of river crossings, climbing the sandy river bank on hands and knees, she sets up camp under a cluster of cottonwood trees, makes dinner and watches the sun retreat. "The wall, a magnificent domed rock…was the last in the canyon to lose light…The hanging garden lost its shimmer in the shadows, the creek gurgled, the spring trickled, and a warm breeze blew…Tranquility edged in like rain water through a crack in sandstone…I breathed. My shoulders fell. Fear and dread oozed from my body…Shhhh, the place whis- pered. Be still." Like all the essays in this brilliant anthology, "Dark Love" in the end, uplifts. Editor Thomas Lowe Fleischner says, "Natural history com- bats arrogance, tackles despair. Attentiveness to the world around us engenders humility and open-mindedness…[It] makes us healthier as individuals, and, collec- tively, as societies. Engagement with the beauty and power of Nature brings out our best behavior, suppor ts our best selves." Nature Love Medicine is a book the world needs, more than ever at this moment in time. Give it to anyone you know who struggles. That's pretty much all of us. C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • W I N T E R 2 0 1 8 91 Books available at Pilgrim's Way. Melanie Bishop's young adult novel was published in 2014. Bishop teaches creative writing and was founding edi- tor of "Alligator Juniper," a national literar y magazine. For more information, please go to

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