Missing Walden

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I drove past Walden a few days ago. I was on my way home from the post office. My dog was sitting quietly in the back seat, her eyelids dreamily closing as she was lulled by the motion of the car. I didn’t stop but I did slow down to steal a glance at the pond. My gut tightened and a short gasp unexpectedly escaped from my throat. Before I had driven two hundred yards down the road a tear had started to form in the corner of my eye. I have been missing Walden and I didn’t even realize it.
The weather in Boston has been unseasonably cold and the sun has hardly made enough of an appearance to encourage me to make time to schedule a visit. One glance at the tranquil pool of green blue water and I immediately wanted to be sitting on the sand, my head in my hands and I would have been crying
I would have been crying, I repeated to myself.

I have not been back to Walden since my early season dips into the pond a couple of weeks ago. Each day I check to see updates on the weather and it seems impossible. Last week the overnight temperatures dipped into the 30’s. Surely unseasonable for May! “It’s more like April weather” a friend replies when I remark how happy I am to see that the newly planted grass seed is slowly making its way through the soil, “and the sky has patches of blue… and we did see the sun for a little bit this morning,” I add trying to make the most of the predominantly grey days lately.
I am not alone then in my frustration over the slow arrival of spring.

In a couple of weeks the ropes and floaters will appear on the main beach at Walden. And over the Memorial Day weekend they will take their place standing sentinel in the water off the main shore and Red Cross Beach.
Each fall I vow I will start swimming early so I can enjoy the freedom of swimming without the ropes wherever I please, which usually means in the springtime, close to shore where open water swimming is banned once the ‘season’ begins. But this year the vagaries of the weather have not made it possible.
So I am left stealing a glance from the drivers seat of my car, wishing and wondering when the weather will do us all the turn we wait for and deliver the warmth of a spring day lit with sunshine, heralded by a chorus of birdsong.

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Holding On

I grip the water as I would a window ledge
Until it crumbles into droplets under my fingers
Suddenly I am touching her skin again
Gently. My arm lying along hers, as if along the surface of Walden.
I do not strive for power or stroke myself through water
I am holding my love for her in our touch
Limb on limb
in Walden.

She is sixteen
Young blemished
Beyond her age with the cruelties of cancer and illness.

I see her face shining
As the sun sets over my shoulder.
Casting its golden light on the wrinkles of water I glide in
Her face and the Buddha I pray to for her health
And her radiant smile to return.

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The Importance of Walden

When I arrive it is sunny and about eighteen degrees fahrenheit. I do not check the conversion to remind myself of how cold this is in degrees centigrade, the scale we use where I grew up. I think of Australia though, as I face into the wind, the chill far below eighteen, air like ice freezing on my lips, penetrating my eyes.

I am not alone, my therapist, wrapped in wools and fleeces is beside me. We take our sessions anywhere these days (though I doubt if I had gotten off the ground as I had planned, and by now landed in Australia, she would have come that far out of her schedule with me).

But then it would all be different.

We would not be facing cancer again, chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. A family disconbobulated by surprise and grief, then acceptance and action, stirring and mobilizing our support. And of course the amazing spirit of my daughter, nine days into chemotherapy, sounding peppy and upbeat on the phone and pushing an IV pole around the corridors of the ward, doing what is within her capacity to stay strong physically as well as mentally, living in a hospital.

But I am at Walden today, a brief respite from hospital routines and the blips and beeps of machines, only the wind and the walloping echo of water trapped beneath the ice. Trapped…hmmm….water and ice. Ice cracking, breaking, falling away and finally melting. Water waiting to break free when summer comes once more.

The seasons come and go. Ever changing. Predictable yet unpredictable.

And how stabilizing. Knowing my daughter will one day be free from the noose that cancer has placed around her young and brave neck for the past four years. The unknown journey that lies ahead. The road we take from here to there.

Today, as my fingers throb with cold, my photos focus on the minute. The tiny stones cased in ice. Trapped or protected? Frozen and preserved. Nothing can quell the spirit of Walden. She will come back, water flowing over stones.

The lymphoblasts intruding in the bone marrow, flowing though the blood. Trapping the body in a cycle of illness. They do not squash the human spirit. My daughter reminds me of that.

I talk with my therapist about why Walden is important to me… I cannot answer the question I pose. Swimming in the seasons that permit it, it started as merely a place to exercise my physical body. I wrote poetry to the rhythm of my stroke. The words repeated over and over in my mind until I reached a pen to preserve them in ink. In the years I struggled, I saw the universe beyond this world hidden the line between the water and the sky. I named it. The Universal Fine. Exploring the unknown, embracing movement toward that which I cannot define.

Now Walden is a place I feel at peace. It lodges in the pit of my stomach like the Buddha. I am safe, even in the one hundred feet of water, screaming and crying or estatic with the delight of the physical world around. The gratitude of being able to swim here, one with the universe.

Today I can only look. My eyes spread over the hard crust of ice, from shore to shore, from forrest line back to sand. I breathe deep. And I carry that peace back home. I will always carry her peace back home with me as now Walden lives within my heart. To help carry me through the months ahead, the unknown journey back to health.

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