As often seems the case, I arrive at Walden wondering what she will offer me on this occasion. Not only an idea for my writing, but as a reprieve from the challenges of daily life. And this week has felt particularly crazy with busy-ness and issues to deal with. I read a quote a couple of days ago which said “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle,” so I’m pretty sure you can relate!
I became entranced by the patterns of color on the pond. The wind was blowing fiercely so I knew the water would be whipped up like ruffled white lace, but I was not ready for the sight of clouds on her surface!
Although it’s been warmer, then cooler, then wetter, then everything in Boston over the past couple of weeks, I have still been telling myself the water would still be too cold for swimming, so i was surprised when I looked down at the beach, and standing near the stone wall was my first sighting of a swimmer. A serious wetsuited, booted and gloved long distance swimmer!
I’m not sure whether my reaction was tinged with jealously, or envy, or whether it was just excitement, (probably all three in quick succession), but I know it came to rest on excitement. The swimming season must be just around the corner!!!
For some reason I did not go toward the beach myself. I did not even walk along the pond path, I took the path that led higher up the hill so I could observe from above. And then I noticed my inner voice started making up excuses for why I wasn’t yet swimming. But I was also still entranced with the sight of clouds in the pond. I couldn’t take my eyes off them, they looked so surreal. (I have been to Walden hundreds and hundreds of times in all weather, and I had never yet seen her look like this!)
After I had taken a couple of photos, (it has become an obsession to capture everything about Walden on my camera so I can take her home with me and recreate the calm amongst that craziness that has overtaken my life!) I decided to keep walking in the woods. At least as far as Red Cross Beach.
My cell phone rang.
We are so consumed by our devices these days we tend to take them everywhere with us. It is so difficult to ever be out of contact. Recognizing this (even as I looked at the screen to see who it was), seeing the thin white print, “No Caller ID” across the top, I decided I should answer it. It was probably Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund, about my daughter’s appointments for the following day.
After years of Jimmy Fund visits and home nursing blood draws and unsettling results and chemotherapy and too many issues arising from it that shouldn’t have, (infections and breathing difficulties and edema and gastrointestinal upsets and…) I have learnt to anticipate the calls with a layer of dread.
I was right. I knew the schedule for Jesi’s visit the following day because, Alan, her dad, had called JF earlier and was told the arrival time. So rather than have to ring back and confirm whatever message I was about to receive, I picked it up.
My calm and relaxed get-a-way at Walden had just become fraught with anxiety and anticipation at what was lurking around the corner for Jesi and for us all. They had scheduled a barrage of appointments and infusions (for what I asked, but the receptionist didn’t know) and it included a meeting with the head doctor of the bone marrow transplant team. Yes, as soon as Jesi has recovered from the last bout of chemotherapy, they are moving forward on the preparation for her transplant.
Instead of breathing long and slow, I found my heart racing far more than it needed for the short easy walk through the woods. In fact I talked and walked with such trepidation that my pace quickened so that at the end of the conversation I had reached Thoreau’s Cove. I wasn’t sure how I got there so fast.
I decided to focus on the black figure with neoprene arms working their way across the pond, and planned to try to get to the shore the swimmer was heading for. I focused on slowing my breath and deepening my inhalations so I could find the calm that I lost.
I started to watch the pace of the arm-overs knowing that the temperature of the water must be draining the swimmer’s energy. I noticed how his arm-overs slowed as he progressed across the pond. I felt I was in there with him, knowing I have been so many times in the past. As he continued crawling along, finally nearing the shore I began to think how impressive he was. Meticulously breathing and pushing with each arm in turn, all the time his feet rhythmically fluttering up and down in their black neoprene booties. After he stopped I watched him turn to reflect on his journey before he began his swim back. I continued my own journey, pushing on around the pond.
I was coming around to the windy side where the train whistled by on its tracks at the top of the hill. By now my visit had become an invigorating walk around the pond. And with the wind in my face two things happened. I blew out the anxed I felt with the phone call and the acknowledgement that cancer owns at least half (if not more) of my life, and I realized that there was a tangible reason why I loved walking with the wind in my face pushing me back as I kept plowing forward. And although it was colder than comfortable, I was glad I felt exhilarated by the challenge.