Posted on: December 6th, 2009 Mount Rainier Considers Its Mental Health

By Spencer Ellsworth

I am a volcano, and I forgot to take my antidepressants.
It started with my doctor. He climbed me with spiky shoes, snow thick in his beard. “You’re overdue,” he said. “By about a hundred years.”
“Is that bad?” I asked. Behind him, I could see the haze of buildings that was Seattle, Tacoma, and their connecting parts, square streets and square houses trying to live on round hills scooped up and ladled out of round valleys. I had watched it grow, from felled trees to skeletal frames to buildings that acted as though they had always been there.
“My wife was overdue for our first kid. I blame my kid’s weight on that. He’s a fatass. Won’t even climb a hill with me.”
“Am I going to have a baby?”
“You’re going to erupt.” He looked down at Seattle and Tacoma. “Half of that is going to be buried in thick soft ash and boiling rivers of mud. You, my friend, are an unquiet place in the earth.”
I wasn’t a place in the earth; mountains were on the earth. But given that this man seemed to have problems at home, I thought I would be gentle. “That’s interesting. I always thought I sat on an unquiet place in the earth.”
“Semantics. You’re the problem,” he said.
“People tell me I am beautiful,” I said.
“It’s a terrible beauty.”
I didn’t like that at all. “Can you help me?”
“No,” he said. “But a lot of things come with volcanism, you know. Anxiety flares you up, depression flares you down. You could go at any minute or you could wait forever. It’s driven some volcanoes crazy. By the time they erupt they don’t know who they are anymore.”
I opined that that sounded like a pretty good thing, given that I didn’t want to know that I was responsible for burying the people below in boiling mud.
“Semantics,” he said again. “You could be the only mountain in the Cascades to be awarded an honorary English degree.” He held up a big bottle of tiny pills. “Take one of these every year,” he said.
“And this will keep me from erupting.”
“The problem here is the inevitable crushing depression,” he said. “We all have bad days—we all, so to speak, erupt and drown Tukwila in fiery mud floods. But we can control how we face them.” He looked at his watch. “This time tomorrow I have to be home so I can spoon-feed chili-and-macaroni-and-cheese into my son’s disgusting mouth.”
I let him go, because it was obvious that his family needed him.
I took the pills. They helped me forget what he said, most of the time. I was determined to think of myself as sitting on an unquiet place in the earth, and that helped.
He climbed me again ten years later. “You’re still overdue,” he said.
“Maybe it was your imagination.”
“Nope.” He looked back down. “My son lost a lot of weight and is dating a vegan.”
“That’s good.”
“No it ain’t. Bastard still won’t exercise. You can take the fat out of the ass, but not the fatass out of the fatass.”
“Oh.” I didn’t feel qualified to comment on his problems with his son, so I said, “I’ve been taking the pills.”
“And are you able to function?”
“I guess so. What if—” I had wanted to ask him this for a while. “What if I just don’t erupt? I mean, I’ve got a choice in the matter, don’t I? Everyone has control over their own destiny.” This is one of the tenets I live by.
“The only thing you can control is your attitude,” he said. “Blind studies prove it.”
“Everyone,” I said, “has control over their own destiny.”
“Easy now,” he said. “You don’t want to start rumbling.”
“I don’t think I need these,” I said, and gave the antidepressants back to him. “I’ll do fine on my own.”
His snowy beard framed an angry frown. “I’m trying to help you.”
“Thank you, thank you, and I appreciate it, but… no.”
“Good God,” he said. “You’re just like my son. No idea of what’s good for you.”
After he climbed down, I felt a rumble. Rocks broke against each other, grinding to bright lava, boiling inside me. I watched the cities swell below, trying not to fidget.
I am fine.

Filed under: bad-ass, stories

3 Responses to “Mount Rainier Considers Its Mental Health”

  1. Skipper Says:
    December 17th, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I loved this. Truly.

  2. Skipper Says:
    December 17th, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    I loved this. Truly.

  3. Ivona Poyntz Says:
    December 3rd, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    ‘The only thing you can control is your attitude’: love that, its at the core of self empowerment.