Unlike professional wellness culture, humanistic study can be a balm to the soul and giver of durable self-knowledge. But what would this self-knowledge look like in actual clinical practice? What would the hazards be?
Early in January, a few days into the New Year, I sat with four students on the ninth floor of a Twenty-Third Street Manhattan building. I have two dominant memories of our week together: The first is of the forbearance with which they withstood my raging head cold; the places they found to look while I filled tissue after tissue, stuffing various pills, sprays, and lozenges into my face, inflicting on them a six-day wrath that should have been mine alone. Grumpy and overmedicated, midweek I told a colleague, because she asked, that I felt like a jungle cat was sitting on my face.
Water, I learned, was the most abundant element in nature whose only value came from controlled and measured distribution. Our lives invariably revolved around its input and output, and the same rules which governed the natural world were also true for our family’s own ecosystem.
Claudia Emerson, who died in December 2014, had come to be known as a poet capable of revealing startling discoveries inside quiet, quotidian circumstances. Her poems are set mostly in Southern rural and small-town scenes, moments in ordinary lives that would normally elude anyone else’s attention.