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When I lived in Ann Arbor, I was a member of a group of counselors. These nine men were all therapists. We met every other week. We would have a breakfast, “check in” with each other, and discuss patients or issues or whatever was at hand. It was a combination of peer supervision and group therapy. They were all social workers. I was the one physician. I was honored to join; I wanted to keep in touch with my counseling skills. Mostly I wanted to belong to a group just like this.

I was a member for the ‘Wednesday men’s group’ for six years. During this time, one of the members died of cancer. A few left or moved. I recently learned one of the members died suddenly while on holiday in Hawaii.

I have not kept greatly in touch with the group members. A few correspond with me via an occasional email. One is fond of poetry and he sends me his latest writings. The counselor who invited me to join remains in touch with me, and when we get together, I ask him how the group is doing.

There is a photo of the Men’s group, up on my office wall. I am glad to see it every workday, and remember the group.

There has been no group since then; I work alone now. I miss being part of this tribe.

Looking at a collection of books reveals something about a person’s character and tastes (but not all. Just as important are the books he or she keeps out of sight, in a drawer, under the winter underwear). Some authors hit home to the point you want everything they wrote. These are the cherished authors’. I recently scanned my library for cherished authors. Here are my favorites. These are the authors I want to reread and get whatever they created.

I put them in semi-chronological order and give some recommendations if you are interested in exploring them.

Charles Dickens My favorite. It is intriguing to read his early works and compare them to his writings when he was an older man. I reread his works at various times in my life; books often mean different things to a person depending on age. I reserve The Pickwick Papers as the novel not yet read’. After that there is no more unread Dickens for me.

New to Dickens? Start with Bleak House (or see the well made BBC mini-series, as Charles can be a bit wordy.)

Mark Twain Even when he is angry or bitter or being dark, he is funny. Like Dickens, his works have a different tone and flair over his life time.

An Innocent Abroad’ is an early work, not his best, but a thumping good read’.

Edith Wharton Her novels and short stories of old New York are period pieces, but the themes are universal, and so well written.

Her short story Roman Fever is a treat. Or try Ethan Frome for a novel.

James Joyce and yes I said yes I will yes. I don’t think I could ever tire of reading Dubliners. The Dead is still my favorite short story.

Flannery O’Connor she wrote short stories set in the South in the 1930s. Not one of her characters is likeable but every one of her stories is absolutely nasty delicious.

Some favorites; Everything that Rises Must Converge and Revelation.

Roberston Davies both his fiction and nonfiction are marvelous. He is in touch with the Unconscious and this illuminates his works.

For fiction; try The Fifth Business’ and for nonfiction One and a Half of Davies.

Alice Thomas Ellis the late Alice Ellis wrote incredible novels; they are full of dreadful people with pithy interactions – combined with the uncanny. In her short essays on Home Life, she calls her spouse Someone.

Start with The Inn at the Edge of the World, a story of a group of strangers going to upper Scotland to avoid Christmas.

Sarah Vowell both the contents and her style appeal to me; I want to read whatever she has. Happy joy, she is still writing!

Assassins Vacation takes you to all the monuments and places of the assassins of the presidents.

Barbara Holland another favorite contemporary writer, it was her works that inspired me to try writing. I sent an email to say how much I enjoyed and admired her work, and I was going to try blogging; she sent back an email of encouragement.

Start with Endangered pleasures; In defense of naps, bacon, martinis, profanity, and other life indulgences.

We just got home from a weekend in Tucson. We met up with DougT of Gossemer Tapestery, and his spouse Leon. We had a lovely time – we drove to the top of Mt. Lemmon.  It was misty, cold, stormy there, and I enjoyed that very much.

DougT is there all week for a bug convention and I recommend you check out his blog to learn and see some incredible goings on.

That evening, we met Homer, of Homer’s World. He is just as delightful as he comes across in his blog.  We discovered not only did we go to U. of Michigan at the same time but we stayed in the same dorm room. And, he dated my physics partner from High School days! Small world.

Thank you all for the ‘toe’ concerns. It is mending well thanks to high dose Motrin.

Someone is at home now for the first time in 3 weeks!

After I do my chores/paperwork, I hope to catch up on all the blogs.

I miss you!

scorpion.jpgI stepped on a scorpion – or something that made it clear it did not appreciate my foot on it.

I was outside at night time in bare feet chasing blown away objects in the backyard during a monsoon. And then I felt a sudden sharp pain in the left big toe as if someone inserted a hot poker. It hurt like hell. Worse, it is on the bottom of my toe, so I can’t walk. I hobble. Like the Little Mermaid in the Hans Christian Anderson tale, every step evokes pain.

It could have been worse; apparently one of the species here can be lethal.

Such is the hazard of living in the Southwest.

madness2.jpgThis weekend we are going to Tucson to visit DougT at Gossemer Tapestry and his spouse Leon AKA The Wild One to go hiking and look for bugs. I see a change of plans! I will be lounging pool side – sipping gin and tonic, as it is a very good remedy for scorpion bites (don’t question me).

I continue to meet every Wednesday evening with the personal trainer. (I recently discovered Bethany is a mere 26 years old). Apparently I have 17% body fat which is ‘average’ but could be better. 😦

A recent trip to the PCP MD reveals my cholesterol is up again. So I have lots of incentives to eat better, trim up, and get to the gym more often. Ms. Bethany states I have good form (or is she buttering me up to get in more sessions?) But can she put some meat on my bones now? When we work out, there is another personal trainer named Jim simultaneously instructing a woman. I have asked Ms. Bethany to transform me into a Jim. At the end of the appointments, Bethany stretches my legs and thighs. I think Jim should do this don’t you?

Whenever I work out I think of the scene from “The Women” with Sylvia at the gym, saying “oh, I am simply exhausted!”

Someone has been doing work-away every week now for the past few weeks – he dashes home on Fridays only to turn around and we do some weekend trip prior to him flying out again on Mondays. He hasn’t “been home” in a long time. I am glad when this routine ends in a few weeks.

When I moved back to Michigan in 2000 to start a relationship with Someone, we lived for a year in Ypsilanti, Michigan.

ypsi.jpgThis is where Eastern Michigan University resides.

To the west of Ypsilanti lies Ann Arbor MI, the home of The University of Michigan. The population of Ypsilanti is about 20,000 people.

Spo-Reflections Year #2 started in February here at WordPress.com. Since then, 20,000 people have visited. That is the equivalent of the entire town of Ypsilanti, Michigan dropping by.  And if you knew Ypsilanti – that is quite a thought.

I hope there are 20,000 more visits and then some – I am shooting for ‘Ann Arbor’ next. Thank you all for stopping by!

I seem to have hit a lull in topics. Apparently the Muses went on another holiday with the Fates. I overheard them talking about going to Canada, as they inspired last week’s blog entry.

I suspect they went to Victoria, B.C.   They like the high tea there.           I hope they send a postcard.

Until they are return, I am without inspiration.

It is coming up to a year and a half for my blog.

Prior to February 2006, I was only vaguely aware of what a blog was. And now I am in the midst of it. At the onset, I knew of only two blogs, and relied on their blog lists to find others. This spread out. Then people started reading my own. Along the way, a few ‘mentors’ and favorites closed down their blogs. New ones continuously start or are discovered. And some discover me.

When someone new pops by my blog I want to find out how they arrived here, and why they stopped by. It always feels an honor anyone would do so.

My current blog roll has men and women in their 20s through 70s. I read blogs located in Australia, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, and all over the USA. When everyone is actively writing it is challenging to not miss anything. I try to always leave a comment unless I flat out can’t think of anything to say.

Read = leave a comment rule apparently isn’t universal; only a fraction of my ‘reads’ leave comments here. I don’t know if they drop by or not. But I do like to read them.

Amazing! I feel I know some of you better than anyone, including my pen pal of 25 years. I smile at your joys; I am sad with your losses and hardships. Yet I have only met 2 of 60. Some of you I don’t even know what you look like.

It is like trafficking with ghosts and spirits out in the ether.

One comment for yes; two comments for no.

trickster.jpgThe Trickster is an important and appealing Archetype.

Like all Archetypes it is universal. I enjoy looking for it when I learn a culture’s myths or customs. In Norse, he is personified by Loki. In Greece he is Hermes or Mercury and Odysseus. In Native America he is Raven or Coyote. In Africa he is Spider.

When growing up, my favorite trickster was Bugs Bunny. That rascally rabbit could get himself out of anything, and always made fools out of Daffy Duck and Elmer and any other ‘powers that be’.

Much of the appeal of the “Pirates of the Caribbean’ is Mr. Depp. He is playing the Trickster in pirate-form. We love to see him get in and out of troubles. He touches on our fondness for seeing the Trickster win in the end.

The Trickster is amoral – not immoral. He does what he pleases and he doesn’t fit in well. He causes a lot of friction and is often in scrapes. Clever – but not ‘too bright’, he gets things done when the yokes of custom and convention thwart others. He is lawless, energetic, and without boundaries. You wouldn’t want him for a spouse; he doesn’t form long lasting relationships or friendships. But life would be dull without some Trickster energy.

Like all archetypes, he has a negative element – he can be vicious and cruel. He can be stupid. He wrecks havoc; he won’t fit in nicely to a community with its rules. Jungians see suicidal ideation coming from the Trickster aligned with the Shadow – convincing you the only way out is to do something extreme and dramatic.

It is hard to be in touch with Trickster energy when you are married, or holding a job, or in any sort of group that needs cooperation and conformity.

But make room for the Trickster; or he will create it himself!

I am fascinated by little events that turn out to be catalysts to great change.  I often see it in literature. Oliver Twist pulls the long straw, which starts his adventure. Ben Hur happens to be in the wrong place when the stone falls. Robertson Davies wrote a trilogy based on hurled snowball, intended for “A”, hitting “B” and changing the history of a whole group of people. I haven’t read all the Harry Potter books, but there are hints Harry’s sparing of somebody in book #4 will come around to his favor.

A book I recommend is the Dream of Scipio. The 3 main characters, each in a bad time of history, chooses things that at the time seems personal, unimportant, and of no significance. Yet each decision (unbeknownst to them) changes history via a ripple effect. One of the men, during the plague, rescues one Jewish woman rather than ‘seeing the broad picture’. This deed dominoes to the reigning pope, who eventually writes a bull, telling plague stricken Europe to stop persecuting the Jews – they are not causing the plaque. So whole group of people are spared.

Where am I going with this? It is remarkable to consider what little things I may have done in life I don’t think important (or even recall) that may have changed lives. Once in a while I am greeted by some ex-patient. Often I don’t recall them. They sometimes tell me “you know you changed my life, 10 years ago’. They remind me of something I said, some comment that caused a revelation and life change. What I said to them turns out to be always something I don’t recall saying, or at least not consciously saying for such effect. I say to myself “I recall that, but it was merely an off hand remark!” Yet, it was this that made all the difference. And I would never have known but for a random encounter years later.

It makes me more conscious of all I say and do on a daily basis. What little act of kindness (or lack thereof) may alter a person today? And will a small act or comment cause someone to change course, who will thus alter others, and perhaps the world?

It is a bit chilling.

This weekend Someone and I fly ‘home’ to Western Michigan, land of the Dutch.

We are attending my mother’s side family reunion. This year they celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the house, where the anniversary is held every year. I did not want to miss the “100”.

We will spend a night at a friend’s house in Saugatuck prior to driving to Newago County for the reunion.

My grandfather was one of four children of great grandfather Orville W. Orville comes from a long line that goes back to the Mayflower. The four children of Orville – and their descendants – meet every year. This year, for fun, the descendants of each of the four branches will wear a different coloured T-shirt. My line, from Charles W, will wear red. Charles is my middle name.

Most of my childhood memories are about my mother’s side, and her parents.

Growing up, I was vaguely aware of the conservative bend of Western Michigan. I don’t know when this occurred in history, but the conservative Dutch were ejected or perhaps fled The Netherlands to live in Western Michigan. Besides being conservative in nature and politics they seem to be often in the garbage business.

My maternal grandmother comes from Dutch stock – the Timmermans. Apparently more ‘liberal’, they found most Western Dutchmen stuffy and hypocritical. They used to make minor jokes about ‘those Dutchmen’.

My maternal grandparents had a Dutch exchange student live with them. I have Ono’s watercolour which he gave to them.

My mother has her great-grandfather’s bedroom set, which he made himself. If there is anything I want from my parents’ house, it is this.

So this may be my last post until Sunday – be well Spo-fans!

We had our first ‘monsoon’. It wasn’t much of a monsoon. However, hearing thunder and seeing lighting and a cloudy sky was cheery. I sat on the back patio as if I was attending a display of fireworks.

madness1.jpgMy back is out again. More accurate; my L lower erector spinae muscle is in a severe spasm. I am walking around looking like Groucho Marx. I use an ointment called Tiger Balm, and I try to do more stretches. What I need is discipline a good therapeutic massage. Jason, do you need someone on which to practice your massage schoolwork?

Claudius the Cat has a reprieve. He hasn’t touched dry food in weeks, but he seems to be eating some tinned moist food. At least he is sucking up the liquid. So he is getting some nourishment now.

Someone is away this week, so I am filling some evening time by watching the HBO series “Rome”. What a collection of woofy men!

The mother of Octavian is a hoot; she reminds me of some of my patients.

madness1.jpgThe Car Key Gnomes have been very active lately around the house; moving things around and placing them in odd areas. They have branched out; and leave all over the house half consumed drinks, pill boxes, ipods, tea cups, and watering cans. It drives Someone bats. Ritalin is a good magic pill to chase away the Gnomes.

Also active is the “Why did I come into this room?” phenomena. I am assured by neurology that this is a normal sign in aging, but enough is enough.

I felt smug recently to accurately diagnosis a young man. He came to me with the diagnosis of schizophrenia. He had all sorts of medical work ups and tests to explain his sudden onset night time auditory hallucinations. I did something nobody yet had done – I took a history. Turns out he has migraines, and they sometimes manifest in the teens with abdominal pains or auditory hallucinations. He got started on some headache medication and the voices and headaches have alleviated.

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