‘Til September

August said goodbye yesterday and this morning September said hello. Fall doesn’t really hit me ’til September when the mornings start later and the evenings get darker; the cornstalks are turning brown and the air wavers between sweltering hot and a crisp coolness. There are people who love the fall. They can’t wait til they can break out the sweaters and blue jeans, the boots and pumpkin spices and fall festivities.

I myself am not a fan. I can’t deny that the colors are vibrant and the air vibrating with movement. But at the back of my mind I’m always aware of what’s coming next: the dull browns and grays and blacks, the bitter cold and dreary days of winter. Knowing what’s coming up ahead only taints what fall could become for me. I feel my energy drain as I withdraw into myself each day. 

I won’t begin to feel myself until the spring when the days grow longer and the sun gets warmer. And each day my energy grows just a little bit more. Spring is my element because it brings me hope that each day will be better; the promise of summer coming back to say hello and visit for a while. 

And maybe in that sense fall and winter are good. Without the winter, spring can never taste so sweet. If it was spring all the time we wouldn’t realize it’s hope and potential. It’d become stagnant and distasteful. But it doesn’t make me love the winter any better. Knowledge can sometimes be usurped by ones emotions and experiences. But until then, hello September. 

I Wouldn’t Choose the Rain

Many people love the rain. Somehow they find it calming and rejuvenating at the same time. I’ve never been this way. Rain has always brought my energy down, making me want to snuggle on the couch and read or watch a movie or even write. I look out the window and I sigh for I only see the dark gray drab of the world outside. I look out and wish the sun would shine and warm the earth so I won’t feel stuck.

But then, perhaps this is God telling me I need to stop and relax. I don’t need to feel compelled to be constantly on the move. I don’t need to constantly be doing something. And it’s nice to be able to relax, read and basically do nothing. But if given the choice, I wouldn’t choose the rain.

The Sea of Trees, or the Suicide Forest

There is a forest at the base of Mt. Fuiji in Japan called Aokigahara. Many centuries ago, Mt. Fuiji erupted and as the lava cooled, a forest began to grow. It’s been nicknamed the Sea of Trees by the Japanese because when you’re on top of Mt. Fuiji and look down, the forest looks like an ocean green. However, in recent years, this Sea of Trees has become notorious as the most popular place to commit suicide in Japan. Approximately 100 bodies are discovered each year and thus has become appropriately named the Suicide Forest.

I was told by a friend who delves more deeply into paranormal activities and history than I do (which is saying a lot) that the place has an eerie quality about it. From what I’ve read online, because of the density of the trees blocking out the wind and no wildlife, the forest has created that eerie feeling about it. Only a small part of the forest is open to the public to enjoy the outdoors and visit the ice caverns as it’s easy to get lost in the forest. The parts where few visit is popular for those with suicidal tendencies. It’s amazing that such a place can have such a hold on those who can’t see any other way out of their mental struggles. Maybe the eerie quality is a perfect setting for those in that particular mindset. 

This brings up the question of whether or not the Sea of Trees is haunted. Given the natural eerie feeling and the number of deaths here, I would be inclined to say that it was haunted. The tortured minds of those who want to die is so deep and heavy that it has to leave an imprint on the earth. I’m open to the suggestion of hauntings and the paranormal, but maybe this place seems so disturbing and haunted because of what happens here. 

If you want to learn more about the Suicide Forest, visit Aokigahara on Wikipedia or watch this haunting YouTube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FDSdg09df8

Turning the Radio On

At work we talk about music a lot. Granted, we talk about food, books, and movies a lot too, but for this conversation’s sake, we talk about music. It’s been brought up many times that the radio sucks; many, if not all the music on the radio isn’t as good as it used to be. With all this talk about the music world, it got me to thinking about my music consumption.

I really became aware of music when I was probably around 8 or 9. Actually, it might have been when I was a bit older, but I can’t remember. I probably listened to some music before this time period, but I either listened to little of it or it had so little impression on me that I wiped it from my memory. But the older I got, the more aware music and my tastes and the more I listened to the radio and cassette tapes (later CDs). I listened to the radio for hours: both in the car and at home. 

I don’t listen to the radio as much as I did back in middle and high school, but I still listen to it in the car. I like listening to country and there’s just something about listening to it while I’m going somewhere. And frankly, I forget that I can plug my iPod into my car. It seems too much of an effort for me to get in, get situated, turn the car on, plug the iPod in and figure out what I want to listen to before going where I need to go. I could’ve just got in, started the car, and just go without my iPod (which is what I do most of the time). 

I understand that people don’t want to listen to the radio because of how music’s changed. There’s a lot of modern country music that I don’t like because it doesn’t sound traditional anymore. Don’t even get me started on other genres: they’re even worse than the stuff that was on when I was a kid (which is why I listened to country to begin with; my mom liked it so much better), but there’s still a lot of modern country that I like. Music’s always changing and adults are always going to complain about what’s currently playing on the radio as it doesn’t sound like it used to be. 

I just say listen to what you want to listen to and not hate on other people’s music just because you don’t like it.

No Laughing Matter: Robin Williams, Mental Illness, and Suicide

On Thursday, April 14, 2014, it was made public that Robin Williams had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and was in the early stages at the time of his death. Later that day, an acquaintance of mine stated that he was glad that Williams died when he did because he wanted to remember the actor as he was in his peak rather than watch him waste away as the disease progressed until he died due to the disease (which according to him, would be between 5 to 8 years for older people like Williams). I was taken aback by the statement; it seemed to imply that Williams made the best option to kill himself off as if to say to everyone “I give you the gift of not having to see me suffer in my last years of my life.” 

Robin Williams suffered from severe depression. While I don’t doubt that receiving the prognosis of Parkinson’s didn’t help matters in any way, Williams had struggled with severe clinical depression for many, many years. And while he sought help for it on many occasions, he could no longer fight off the suicidal thoughts that plagued him. 

Depression is a complicated mental disease. Unless they’ve suffered through it themselves, people have no idea what it’s like to fight off the darkness and not give into to suicidal tendencies. It’s never okay for people to preach that suicide is never an option and that if a person is considering suicide, then they’re only taking the easy way out and that they just need to work through the “blues” and bad days and they’ll make it to the other side. To these people, I want to say that I hope they never have to go through severe depression. I hope they never have to watch someone they love fight through severe depression and watch helplessly as they try time after time to get help only to have the sinking realization that the medical help they’re seeking isn’t working. Sometimes, even with the best mental help available, people still commit suicide. It’s like cancer, amputations, or other forms of diseases and surgeries: even with the best doctors, medicines, and treatments, people still die.

But neither is it okay to commit suicide and it’s not okay for people to say “Oh, well, you know, Robin Williams was going to go through the next several years suffering through the effects of Parkinson’s, so it’s okay for him to commit suicide at his career peak so the rest of us don’t have to watch him suffer.” That too, is selfish. It’s like me committing suicide because I’m happy and in the peak of my life and nobody needs to see me suffer the potential bad misgivings that might happen. Robin Williams still needed to strive for help until his suicidal moods passed, he didn’t need to commit suicide. There were people who loved him and wanted to help him (as far as I know). And I’m sure there’s medicine and treatments to keep him comfortable for his Parkinson’s, to keep him positive.

To have someone say he’s glad that Robin Williams killed himself when he did is shallow, flippant and selfish. Nobody should be glad at somebody’s death, no matter how well loved or hated or even sick. We as a society need to work together, to see the signs of depression and help the person suffering through it. We need our doctor’s to continue researching for cures and treatments that will help alleviate the pain without taking away their humanity. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t want to see another prolific actor, creative, or anybody else die needlessly because they didn’t have the help. But those are just my views. What are yours?

“You’ve Got a Friend in Me”: Remembering Robin Williams

Robin_Williams_picture

Robin Williams, public domain picture.

To the rest of us, celebrities appear to be immortal. They grace our televisions and big screens with an energy and talent that seem larger than life. We remember their characters, mimic their lines, and debate on our loves and hatreds of them. But when they die of whatever afflicts them, reality brings us back to earth. They’re really human, we say, with hopes, fears, happiness, and dark struggles like the rest of us. Some of them just have a better time of projecting their better persona to the general public, hiding what was really lurking beneath their optimistic, often energetic appearances until its too late.

Robin Williams’ death is probably one that has really affected me deeply. I admired his energy, optimism, versatility on stage and screen, something that I rarely say about any actor. It was amazing that he could play a flamboyant Genie in Aladdin one minute then turn around and play a dark, impulsive stalker in One Hour Photo. I’ll always remember him in Jumanji being chased by lions and monkeys, the first movie where I truly became aware of Robin Williams (aside from Aladdin). He was a big part of my childhood and hearing of his death by suicide Monday rocked me. I wish I could say I followed Robin’s career down to the T, but I didn’t. I always knew that if I needed a good movie, a Robin Williams film would always be the best bet.

Having depression is probably the worst thing a person can have. It doesn’t matter whether you’re famous or the average Joe, depression can hit you whether you expect it or not. Robin Williams openly talked about his drug and alcohol addictions and heart surgery, but very little, if at all about his depression. He had so much energy, so much optimism, and a personality that generated kindness and love-ability that it was hard to imagine him as someone less than happy.

Obviously, our perceptions of celebrities are often skewed and knowing whether someone, anyone is severely depressed is often masked or even mistaken for a case of the blues, especially with Robin Williams. The stigma of having depression is so great that to even mention it can cause shame and ridicule. When news of his death broke out, a friend stated that Robin Williams had suffered from severe depression for many years.

I hope that his death will be a lesson to us all that if we suspect someone’s depressed to do everything we can to get them help in spite of the stigmas attached. Of course, we should remember Williams’ life and his talent and achievements, but we should also remember that he taught us to reach out to those around us and tell them that they’ve “got a friend in me.”

In the Moment

Since I haven’t been hiking in about a month, I decided to get out there this morning and go for an hour walk alone. This time, however, I decided not to take my camera along with me. I wanted to focus on where I was and just be in the moment. We’re all so focused on capturing every moment of our lives through social media, cameras, recorders, and who knows what else and forget to really notice what’s going on around us. We’re not really paying attention to our surroundings, really feeling, seeing, and smelling. We just look at something and think “Oh, I would like to share this,” and so we do. But do we truly look at something and really ponder why we like it or let it reverberate through us till the tips of our bodies tremble with emotion?

It’s hard to get away from all the technology and social media that surrounds us on a daily basis. When I went for my walk this morning, it felt really weird to not stop and snap a picture every now and then when I saw a picturesque moment. I kept stopping and thinking “If only I had my camera right now, this would make a great picture to share with everyone!” By the end of my walk, however, I had forgotten my camera blues and felt refreshed after just walking and noticing the flowers, the river, the trees, everything that was around me. I didn’t really care that I didn’t have a picture of that particular flower or an August photo of my favorite stops along the way. I was just happy and thankful to be alive.

A few months ago, I went to see the movie The Secret Life of Walter Mitty starring Ben Stiller and Sean Penn. At the end of the movie when Walter Mitty finally catches up with Life’s star photographer, he learns the most important lessen of all: That while you chase certain moments in life, when you finally get there, you realize it’s just better to live in the moment rather than just focusing on capturing it.

It’s a great life lessen and one that I hope to indulge in more often in the future.