Heatwave in the middle of winter. So hot outside that the dogs lie panting on the grass.
Scraps of notes from daily life, jottings noted between great gulps of work. How the moon fills the house at night, that bleak lunar radiance. A friend dying of cancer, smiling but not able to eat or swallow. Helplessness. The new puppy tumbling over his own paws, running to me with his tail wagging. Wondering if this heat will last, wondering about what to take on holiday, Daydreaming about finishing short stories sitting on the beach inspired by ozone and the sight of whales sporting out in the indigo bay. Reading Deborah Eisenberg:
“But maybe that’s what life is always like. All the time, for everyone. Maybe any moment you could say, this is normal; it’s just what’s happening. And you could equally well say, this is the strangest thing that ever could be. Probably so – it’ll just depend on where you start the story.”
The sweet pup has chewed up a small grey-blue rug from Egypt and spat bits of carpet weave all over the living room. Why wasn’t I paying attention? I was making a lamb korma in the kitchen and talking to myself like a celebrity TV chef. How I loved that rug! But there is no use paying attention to décor or design with a houseful of dogs. Because I have my eccentric moments I’d love to live in the French author Pierre Loti’s house, the man admired by Henry James because he was ‘one of the precious few not afraid of being ridiculous’:
On an unremarkable street in the unremarkable town, the Loti house museum — two attached bourgeois houses, really — is an alternate world where wildly divergent cultures and epochs are thrown together. Loti was an eccentric of his era, and would be considered eccentric even today. He collected sperm whale teeth, Senegalese bracelets, Egyptian cat mummies, Japanese mobiles, and even bought the house next door for his overflow of objects. He posed nude except for a small genital covering to disprove rumors that his sculptured, small-waisted body was corseted. His house is the gateway to this world, with rooms that unfold as if each were a layer of his personality.
The austere, velvet-lined Red Room is an expression of conventional, 19th-century middle-class life, sparsely decorated with family portraits, a piano and an oversize Bible that bear witness to the activities of Loti’s Protestant upbringing. The vast Renaissance Room is a surrealist fantasy of the Renaissance: 17th-century Flemish tapestries, Venetian glass, Asian and Indian statuettes, a Neo-Gothic fireplace that Loti designed himself and his own invented coat of arms (which combines the grape vine motif of his wife’s family emblem with the head-gear of a deep-sea diver.)
And here we go again on the divergence between science and religious or psychological or moralistic traditions, the shift towards more open-ended research, more efforts to understand the conundrum. The New York Times reports on medical residency accreditation in addiction:
The rethinking of addiction as a medical disease rather than a strictly psychological one began about 15 years ago, when researchers discovered through high-resonance imaging that drug addiction resulted in actual physical changes to the brain.
Central to the understanding of addiction as a physical ailment is the belief that treatment must be continuing in order to avoid relapse. Just as no one expects a diabetes patient to be cured after six weeks of diet and insulin management, Dr. Alford said, it is unrealistic to expect most drug addicts to be cured after 28 days in a detoxification facility.
“It’s not surprising to us now that when you stop the treatment, people relapse,” Dr. Alford said. “It doesn’t mean that the treatment doesn’t work, it just means that you need to continue treatment.” Those physical changes in the brain could also explain why some smokers will still crave a cigarette 30 years after quitting, Dr. Alford said.