Today, Greg and I (masked and gloved) went to Walden Pond for a second visit, this time with our dear friends Alison and John. We hiked the trails for a few hours. There was life all around us—trees, insects, birds, and mammals were obvious everywhere we walked. Walking with my loved ones, I thought of Thoreau. Thoreau saw majesty in the smallest creatures. As he famously wrote in Walking: ”In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” So much of my existence lately has been about killing bacteria, and killing viruses, and killing cells, and killing . . . and fear of death. Today was only about life, and living. I needed today.
After Walden, we went into Concord and walked around, saw the beautiful Concord Library, Sleepy Hollow graveyard, and other historical landmarks. It felt great to get out, especially at Walden and in Concord, where so much important American history took place—and where the words that would change my life and influence me to want to become a biologist and activist were written.
Were it not for Thoreau, and Emerson, and Alcott, and (to a lesser extent) Hawthorne—but especially Throreau—I might not have become a biologist, and so might well not be in a position to understand what is happening to me right now—my stem cell transplant. I might not have become an activist, and so might not have the spirit to confront and challenge my physicians when needed. I can say honestly and with no hyperbole: These qualities—a love and knowledge of Nature, and a rebellious bent—have been utterly essential to my survival since diagnosis.
So, today reminded me of my past, but also gave me hope . . . faith . . . for the future. I remembered how important Nature is to me, and how important being with Nature is to me. And I saw the power and majesty of Nature, if only briefly. And today reminded me of rebellion, and of being young . . . and strong. Today I walked, and hiked, and talked, and laughed for five hours. Five hours! It was the most exertion I’ve had since the transplant, by far.
Today I felt strong. Very strong.