The Amazon Trail

Her most recent book, An American Queer, a collection of “The Amazon Trail” columns, was presented with the 2015 Golden Crown Literary Society Award in Anthology/Collection Creative  Non-Fiction. This, and her award-winning fiction, including The Raid, The Swashbuckler, and Beggar of Love, can be found at

Okay, I give in, it’s depression. I might as well face it. And I know I’m not alone.
You can guess when it started: November 8, 2016. I tried to overcome it by resisting, ignoring, laughing at the fools on the hill. Like the amazing Elizabeth Warren, I persisted, but so did this depression.

I’ve buried myself in books, my favorites: British police procedurals like Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, Graham Hurley, Elizabeth George. Right now, they’re less gloomy than what has become of the land that I love. The local library has seen a lot of me lately. My sweetheart has done extra duty with cuddling, encouraging, listening. It’s crazy, my life has never been better: I’m married to a spectacular woman, we have shelter, food, friends, yet I can’t shake the depression.

I had a twelve-step sponsor who warned me against the word depression. “Call it being down in the dumps, feeling blue.” Sorry, Mary, I’m beyond that now. The only substitution I can make is “low-spirited.” I have no creative energy, no enthusiasm or passion, even some of the time no interest in reading. I nap, I find cheer in the activity of the birds outside and our cat inside. I am grateful because those treasures in themselves make for a good life.

Yet the depression started in deep winter. We don’t have blizzards here, but the wind and rain have been

unrelenting. Walking has always been a helpful tool in downward spirals, and I always have loved walking, even while the atmospheric river called the Pineapple Express barrels through as it has this year. Now that my arthritis has gotten worse, though, walking in the damp and cold have become painful enough to be unwise. Finding the motivation and spunk to get on the exercycle is another battle.

Then I heard from my oldest friend. She’s been diagnosed with liver cancer that spread to the pancreas. We’ve known each other since seventh grade, fell in love, and came out together. She was always going to be around. She has a loving daughter and granddaughter and partner and just turned seventy-one.

Mortality is a sharp, ice cold slap in the face. I can’t fix her, save her, or even soothe her. She’s a nurse and says she’d rather live a good four months than eight months of torture.

Immediately thereafter, I started winnowing out my books. I’ve been hauling some of them around almost as long as I’ve known my friend. My office is too cluttered; I can’t find things. In the process, I’ve tossed out other worn out, once beloved objects. I know what this sounds like, this divesting of possessions, but I suspect it’s more about my friend than me. It’s a letting go.

Two days after I heard my friend’s news, I came down with the Coastal Crud, a term used by an R.N. at the local hospital to describe a flu-ish cold that drags on for weeks, guaranteeing an annoying cough and lower energy than an empty gas tank. My sweetheart said it’s like the Trump election—insidious, always at the back of my throat, inducing a gagging threat of nausea and perpetuating the gloom of an everlasting winter. There were times when resting prone, it took all my energy to keep breathing.

Once back at my laptop, I discovered that my ability to focus had called in sick. What’s a writer without focus? I did a lot of research for my next book, and very little actual writing, while sitting in front of a S.A.D. light (for Seasonal Affective Disorder), a handy tool in this climate.

But the birds are coming back. V’s of geese have been honking overhead. Rust-colored rufous hummingbirds are making year-round hummers share their feeders. Clouds of robins regularly descend on the berry bushes outside our kitchen window. Crocuses, hyacinths, daffodils are showing their colors. Shoots of mystery are poking out of the ground and pots where we planted who knows what.

It’s also the season for award finalists to be announced.

While I don’t write for awards or money, every writer knows how encouraging it is to be recognized. The Goldies are one reason I’m grateful to The Golden Crown Literary Society, Saints and Sinners, and The Alice B. Readers Awards. To paraphrase my sweetheart, other organizations seem to bypass books written by actual lesbians, published by lesbians, edited by lesbians, bought and read by lesbians.

A couple of days ago, a break in the weather gave us spring for about twenty-four hours. Neighbors were everywhere in the streets greeting one another. The next day we were driven back inside by the blowing rain. Driven inside to the computer, radio, and TV news. The what-has-he-done-now news, the end of health insurance news, the destroy civil rights news.

Spring is in the air, though, and I’m finding breaths of it on Twitter. Here’s @leahmcelrath (she persisted) on Twitter: “When you feel despair creep in… Take a moment to look around at the mobilization of resistance. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Then a sweet reminder from poet James Schwartz (@queeraspoetry) tweeting my own “It Gets Better” message (@LeeLynchWriter @ItGetsBetter back to me when I most need it.


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