In a few days, we will leave our home and our pets in the hands of a housesitter; then, board a plane for Paris by way of Salt Lake City. The next day, we will take the Chunnel to London where we will spend a week before going to Africa. On our way back, we will stop again in Paris, then return via the same route to our home in Orange County.
I have been feeling the strain of this trip for several weeks. I’ve trained the house sitter in the management of our pets, introduced her to the housekeeper, made sure she was authorized to call for repairmen and get the animals treated if they get sick. We’ve gotten the proper shots and picked up prescriptions for antimalarials and antibiotics. I felt slight fevers after the vaccinations. This means I am done with typhoid, influenza, and yellow fever. We have mosquito repellent and netting to cover our faces. Loc at my pharmacy negotiated with the insurance companies so that I would not run out of medication. My psychiatrist wrote a prescription with an extra dose of mood stabilizers to get me through the disruption of my inner clock. I am bringing Benadryl to help knock me out. Now I am shifting my sleeping and waking times by a few hours each day until I arrive in the same time zone as Paris.
Tonight, I go to sleep at 6 a.m. Then 8 or 9 a.m. Then 11 or 12. By Tuesday, I hope to fall asleep at 3 in the afternoon. My life is on a wide turn and though I won’t quite invert my days, I will find myself seeing very different hours of light and shadow.
Why am I doing this? I don’t want to go mad. We who live with bipolar disorder need to sleep. If we don’t get enough, our defenses against mania collapse. I must make sure that I do more than doze. I must rise with the sun and fall onto my bed by 10 at night while I am in those places of alien sunset and unusual hours. I must be awake when the cities are awake.
There are sacrifices that I dread. Will my creativity limp in a dizzy spiral as I fight the carbamazepine and the strange time zones? The mood stabilizers could well kill my eye. Can I intellectualize the elements of the frame into their proper places? I fear that my photos will become less than ordinary. I dread that the waking sleep will blind my eye to what is unique. Can I avoid seeing Paris and London the same way as everyone else sees Paris and London? Will I go beyond the obligatory photos and find something that I can claim as the fruit of my own eye? Famous places always place two burdens on a photographer: some of his audience want to see the landmarks depicted as they have always seen the landmarks; others want too see something that only he could have seen. I know how the Eiffel Tower is “supposed” to be photographed. But will I see something different and new?
Dakar poses a different challenge. Its people are the main subject, but they hate being photographed. What will I find? I will take the mandatory walk through the Door of No Return and I will go out on safari. There is the tightrope walk of spending 10 days with relatives. Will I be able to control myself? Will I not be a nuisance? I fear, I fear, I fear.
I must confess one more fear: the fear of the chaparral, the fear of October when the winds blow out of the desert and tempt pyromaniacs to become twisted Prometheuses. Let there be no fire while I am gone.
I have three more hours until bedtime. Time to watch a movie on Netflix.