It’s what we call the rainy season in Florida. Many snowbirds have headed north. The real birds have as well. When it rains here you can see fish in the street. It’s a fact. They come up through the drains.
It’s time to read and possibly nap. Yesterday I finished Dead Wake by Erik Larson. I’m moving on, reading-wise, but first I wanted to congratulate Mr. Larson on clearing up a mystery. His research into the lives of passengers on the Lusitania makes the story come to life. I love narrative non-fiction, and he is a master. (ErikLarsonbooks.com)
One of the survivors of the Lusitania’s torpedoing was named Theodate Pope. In her life, she had long struggled with depression. When she boarded the ship, Theodate was 48, wore a velvet turban and was a singular woman for her time. She was born in 1867 and lived in Farmington, CT, where she went to Miss Porter’s school. Since this is about me, as usual, it should be noted that one of my college roommates had attended the same school. I also take anti-depressants daily.
During one of her bouts with depression, Theo’s wealthy parents sent her to Philadelphia to be treated by Dr. Silas Weir Mitchell, who treated women with so-called nervous difficulties with a “rest cure.” If you took his cure, you had to remain bed-ridden for weeks, sometimes up to two months. Inactivity was supposed to cure the patient, who was not even allowed to get up to go to the bathroom! No sewing, reading or–god forbid–writing. Nothing but cleaning your teeth–again all this information researched by the wonderful, curious mind of Erik Larson.
Dr. Mitchell’s approach was later exposed in a popular short-story called “The Yellow Wallpaper” written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Gilman was a patient in 1887, a year before Theodate Pope. Gilman’s story is still taught by English teachers today. I was one of them. In my high school we taught it along with Kate Chopin’s classic The Awakening. Mystery solved. I always wondered what the hell that story was about. I had a dim idea it was about a woman going nuts, but I was never sure. Truth be told, I’m still puzzled by it, but now I know the relevant back story and can see the link to emerging feminist thought. (Here’s a link to the complete story. You can read it in about 10 minutes. https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1952/1952-h/1952-h.htm)
Reading can open closed doors! But I hope it’s not to a room with yellow wallpaper. Or a ship with four smoke stacks. Then again, we can read about them both on a rainy day in Florida. Next up, Sherman Alexie’s War Dances.