Author to speak at 6th annual Cell2Soul retreat

Author Brian T. Maurer is slated to speak at the 6th annual Cell2Soul retreat to be held at Sheep Hill conference center, Williamstown, Massachusetts, the weekend of October 1 – 2, 2011.

Maurer will deliver a short talk entitled “Donning the Yoke” on Sunday morning, October 2nd.

Additional topics at this year’s gathering include the medical humanities, surviving survivorship, absolute self-care, dignifying dementia, navigating madness, the odyssey of coyote medicine, and sacred undertakings.

Readers interested in additional information can access it here.

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Nantucket Bound

How Melville’s Ishmael got from Manhattan to New Bedford is unclear; but for the record I drove to Hyannis, taking the Bourne Bridge across the Cape Cod Canal and pulling into the Yarmouth lot shortly before eleven o’clock on a crisp clear Friday autumn morning. The shuttle driver dropped me off at the dock just in time for me to purchase my ticket for the high-speed ferry to Nantucket.

Onboard the M/V Iyanough I stowed my bag and elbowed my way through the mass of humanity in the main cabin to the upper deck, where I found an open spot on the fantail. I stood at the head of the port ladder and surveyed the harbor as the boat’s engines kicked in. Slowly we backed out of our berth and turned toward the channel that led to the open sea.

“At last, passage paid, and luggage safe, we stood onboard the schooner,” Ishmael tells us. “Gaining more open water, the bracing breeze waxed fresh, the little Moss tossed the quick foam from her bows, as a young colt his snortings.”

As we slid into open water, the helmsman eased open the throttle. When we approached 35 knots, a roostertail of fine white spray spewed from the stern. Through this mist in the midday sun, ephemeral rainbows skirted the air.

“Rainbows to do not visit the clear air; they only irradiate vapor,” Ishmael observes. “And so, through all the thick mists of the dim doubts in my mind, divine intuitions now and then shoot, enkindling my fog with a heavenly ray.”

The long dark ribbon of cape stretched across the horizon, dotted here and there with fixed white pixels: tiny man-made structures resting on this spit of land. Below the ribbon lay the grey-green white-capped sea. You could tell where the sea ended and the land began from the way the distant whitecaps faded and formed against the backdrop of the fixed white houses.

My glasses fogged with salt spray. I licked my lips and tasted the salty sharpness. I turned my collar up against the wind and felt the dampness of the sea on my back.

“How I snuffed that Tartar air!” Ishmael exclaims. “On, on we flew; and our offing gained, the Moss did homage to the blast, ducked and dived her brows as a slave before the Sultan. Sideways leaning, we sideways darted; every rope yarn tingling like a wire…”

As we dipped and rolled through the waves, I surveyed the cast of humanity sprawled before my eyes: older men, grey-haired, baseball caps pulled down low on their foreheads to brace their eyes against the sun and spray; newspapers roughly folded and stuffed into back pockets of faded blue jeans; spotless tennis shoes. Young men sporting close-cropped reddish-brown hair, wrap-around sunglasses, hooded fleeces, pressed white Bermuda shorts, moccasins on sockless tanned feet.

“Methinks I have hugely mistaken this matter of Life and Death,” Ishmael muses. “Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance. Methinks that in looking at things spiritual, we are too much like oysters observing the sun through the water, and thinking that thick water the thinnest of air. Methinks that my body is but the lees of my better being.”

Older women, thin, with sparkling eyes and salt-and-pepper hair, close-cropped; bandanas wrapped round their necks; cardigans, slacks. Young women, hair billowing like auburn sails in the wind, peacoats buttoned down over striped sailor’s jerseys, each one clutching an iPhone or equivalent. One bald-headed man hung by the railing off to port, coughing into the wind. A little curly-haired girl wearing a pink baseball cap and jersey to match held her mother’s hand.

As we approached the island, the ferry slipped between the red and green nuns and cans that marked the channel; while on either side a string of underwater rocks rose to form parallel jetties. Suddenly off to starboard a stunted lighthouse hove into view. We rolled past sloops and ketches reefed at their moorings. All along the wharf tiny houses stood in a row, grey-shakes with white trim. Up on the hill the golden dome of a church mushroomed above the roofs and widow walks.

“Nothing more happened on the passage worthy the mentioning: so, after a fine run, we safely arrived in Nantucket.”

Cormorants watched in silence while we slipped into our berth. The ferry shuddered as it struck the fenders at the dock, then stood still. The gangway dropped with a metallic clang, and we stepped onto solid ground once again.

I collected my bag and found my way into the cobblestone street. After a brief walk I retired to a raised concrete curb. As I took stock of my next steps, a white van with the words “Nantucket Inn” stenciled on its door crept by. I flagged down the driver and caught a ride to what would be my lodging for our weekend gam.

Author to speak at 5th annual Cell2Soul retreat

Author Brian T. Maurer is slated to speak at the fifth annual Cell2Soul retreat the weekend of October 8th, 9th and 10th, 2010, on the island of Nantucket.

Maurer will deliver a presentation entitled “Melville’s Spirituality in Moby Dick,” on Sunday morning, October 10th, at the Nantucket Inn.

Additional topics at this year’s conference include medicine and the arts, music and healing, caring for the caregiver, and the power of stories.

Readers can access more information about the gathering here.

Web and Flow

On the morning of the day prior to departing for Atlanta, where I was scheduled to give a formal presentation about a pig and a spider, I rolled out of bed early—it was my Saturday to cover the office.

While toweling off after my shower, I noticed a grey spider descending from the light above the bathroom sink. Her spinnerets formed a nearly invisible silken thread as she dropped down to hang motionless before the mirror. Shortly, she retreated up to the light and selected another point from which to begin a new descent. This time she dropped down to the shelf below the mirror and crawled behind my toothbrush. Gingerly, I nudged it to the side to reveal the spider resting by a tiny puddle of water.

She measured a centimeter in length, double that if you included her front legs. I could see the array of her black eyes and mouth-parts moving as she drank from the miniature pool.

I exited the bathroom to dress, and when I returned I found that the spider had struck out in a new direction, cantering across the wall to the shower stall, where she tucked herself in behind the aluminum molding.

Here is E.B. White’s description of Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web: “Stretched across the upper part of the doorway was a big spiderweb, and hanging from the top of the web, head down, was a large grey spider. She was about the size of a gumdrop.”

I’ve seen plenty of spiders around our place, but never a solid grey one like this one in the bathroom. Uncanny!

With the exception of a minor glitch in the sound system (thankfully, there was a savvy tech in the room to remedy the situation), the presentation at the Georgia World Conference Center in Atlanta, What Charlotte’s Web Can Teach Us about Caring for Critically Ill Children, came off well.

When I arrived at the lecture room 10 minutes before we were scheduled to start, I counted 8 tables with 10 chairs at each table, and no one to fill them. I needn’t have worried—within minutes the hall was packed to standing room only. One group actually huddled on foot at the back for small group discussion over the entire two hours. (I found out afterwards that we hosted 125 attendees.)

I told a story as part of the introduction, then proceeded to show the video clips from Charlotte’s Web, pausing intermittently for discussion and feedback.

Several folks gave us two thumbs up afterwards. One fellow who works in interventional cardiology asked me if I might be able to give the same presentation at the institution where he works—Children’s Hospital in Dallas.

I also met a fellow who, after he learned who I was, told me that he’s read every column I’ve written for the past two years. Now what are the odds of that happening?

When I returned home, after I unpacked my bag and stowed my paraphernalia in the proper places, I retired to the bathroom. As I stood outside the shower, reaching in to test the water temperature with one hand, once again I glimpsed the grey spider. She descended from the storage shelf by a single silken thread, hanging motionless for a moment in the air, before continuing down to light upon a purple plastic box lying on the floor.

I bent down to have a closer look and studied her carefully. I was certain she was the same spider that I had seen that day before departing for Atlanta. The color and body size were identical, right down to her tiny facial features. Then there was the fact that she inhabited the same small room as before.

But what clinched it for me was when she said, “So tell me: how did the presentation go?”

Author to speak at 2010 AAPA conference in Atlanta

Author and practicing Physician Assistant Brian T. Maurer will be co-presenting “What Charlotte’s Web Can Teach Us about Caring for Critically Ill Children” at the 2010 American Academy of Physician Assistants national conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

The workshop, to be held on Monday, May 31st, will explore lessons in humane medical practice that clinicians can draw from E. B. White’s classic children’s story about a pig and a spider.

For further information, click on the link below.

What Charlotte’s Web Can Teach Us about Caring for Critically Ill Children

Author to speak at 4th annual Cell2Soul retreat

Author Brian T. Maurer is slated to speak at this fall’s Cell2Soul gathering at Mason Hill in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts on Saturday, October 3, 2009. Maurer will deliver a short presentation on Henry David Thoreau and the significance of his philosophic outlook for contemporary living.

Of the many observations that we could make about the man Thoreau—indeed, we could make many, because, like us, Thoreau was a complex human being with his own inconsistencies, pet peeves and private issues—today I will emphasize two:  the satisfaction he derived from working with his hands, and the cultivation of his spiritual awareness.  The two are not mutually exclusive.

For further information on this weekend retreat click here.

Author to speak at Mason Hill caregivers’ conference

Author Brian T. Maurer is slated to speak at this fall’s Mason Hill caregivers’ conference in the Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts on Saturday, November 01, 2008. Maurer will open his presentation with some remarks on brokenness and healing and hold a workshop for participants on storytelling as a medical art.

For further information on this one-day retreat click here.