**EDITORS NOTE: This post was written in the forest. I was sitting on a log surrounded but trees and started to write a poem. That didn’t happen but I ended up writing the following post. In longhand. With a pen. In a leather journal. Holy crap I am old school once in a while. 🙂 Let me know what you think.**
***second editor note, this post was written a year ago. I thought I should get it out, seeing as how we are going back this year and I will have another one to write.***
I sit alone in the woods, listening for the sounds of the forest. Trying to ignore the cars driving past only a football field away. I try to quiet my mind and not hear the voices, other people with their own worldly problems, trying to bring children to heel. I am surrounded by trees, close to our dwelling but hidden from all but the most searching of eyes. The sun is greatly filtered through the trees and the patch of sky above me shows not the barest hint of clouds. This should be a good spot. The ground on which I sit is comfortable enough, good forest loam and a few small rocks. It should be a place to sit in quiet reflection but again a car passes and voices shout. I am not alone. No animals will be visiting. I know that there are places out there where I can find that peace and solitude that I have found before on backpacking trips. It is still there somewhere. I have been searching my copy of Walden looking for nuggets. Not my favorite book, but I love the gist of it, going out and just being in the world. I have always wanted to go and have a place in the woods, far from “civilization”, where our food is provided by hunting or fishing or from the garden near the house.
I can’t help but think this every time I go into the woods (and then a plane flies over), “I went to the woods because I wished to learn what it had to teach.” Of course this is Thoreau paraphrased. I should learn the actual words as they suit me- “I went to the woods becasue I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Yes I am alive today. There are so many times lately that I have not been sure if I am living or merely existing, taking up space in the world. It is quiet now. Birds are beginning to have conversations in the trees until they are silenced by far off shouts and another car passing by. In spite of it all, I am grateful for times like this. Alone, no kids, no wife, no phone, no internet. As much as I love all of those, when worse comes to worse and the world goes to hell I know that I can take my family and head to the woods. Build a house like Thoreau did, and live simply. A handful of seeds, means to make fire, my rifle, and my knife can provide a long happy life in the woods.
The woods can provide. Or rather I can provide from the woods. This is an odd sort of camp, due to its nature. It is here in Utah, up a canyon that is known for its fall colors. It is on a road that is part of the Alpine Loop, just behind Mt. Timpanogos. I can see the back of the mountain from here. This is a family camp for the Utah chapter of the National Kidney Foundation. Only families who have kidney patients are invited to come here and play together, be normal, and share stories of triumph over kidney disease, dialysis, and transplants, and to give hope to those who are currently going through any part of the disease process.
All of this written while I am now being chittered at by a squirrel. Anyway, if you are new here, my youngest daughter has Kidney disease. she was diagnosed just before she turned 1, spent 2 years on dialysis, and finally got a transplant. It has now been 3 years since that transplant and she is very healthy and happy. We thank God every day for that blessing of the kidney and her health. Anyway, the family camp has “rustic” cabins with power and heat. the entire camp meets for meals and socials. We first came to Kidney Camp in 2007 when we were stilll trying to do peritoneal dialysis.
I remember hauling the bags of dialysate solution up the hill followed by the heavy cycler and the other supplies for Amelia. I remember that first night, trying to get the dialysis to work, and finally giving up on it for good. That was just over 4 months into the whole kidney disease thing, after several surgeries, and 3 different peritoneal dialysis catheters. She was finally strong enough that the doctors would let her go out of the valley, so we came to Kidney Kamp.
That will always be memorable, as well as the place where we had to stop trying peritoneal dialysis. The kids were disappointed that we couldn’t go the next year because of Leatha’s baptism, but we went the next year and they loved it again. This time we didn’t have the dialysis equipment, and Amelia was almost 4 months into her kidney transplant. She was 3 years old then. She got her transplant a week before her birthday, there will never, never, be a better birthday present; a new kidney and no more dialysis.
The next year we came to camp again, and the kids couldn’t stop talking about it. They still talk about this simple weekend every year. We missed 2011, but are back again in 2012. We have seen some of our friends that we have met up here, some that we have known on dialysis, some we have been around for their transplants. Some of these people will be on dialysis for the rest of their lives, some are still waiting for a transplant. Some are donors, they are welcome as well. It is really neat to share that gift and reception of life. Last night, there were 2 parents that had donated a kidney to their children. They all are part off this kidney journey.
There are many different stories here, but we all understand each other on different levels. Up here though, we are all the same. The mountain doesn’t care what you have or who you are, the mountain is there. The trees change like the people but they will always be there in one form or another. If they only observe the majesty from the huge picture window of the lodge. God has put all of this in place for us, and here in the mountains, everyone can pull out their own meanings.
For me, I am grateful that I have had these trials with Amelia that lets me come to Kidney Kamp and be here with everyone. As hard as it was spending almost 80 weeks on dialysis through 312 sessions of Hemo (not counting what they did at first in the hospital) I am so grateful that I still have my little girl. She is still my buddy, and still glad to be with me. She started school this year, and, while we still have to be careful, she is healthy enough to go to public school. No, she will never be whole like she was when she was born. She will always have kidney disease. She will not have her original kidneys, but she has a kidney from a stranger who became a sister. She will be on medication for the rest of her life, but she can do almost anything she wants. She will get tired a lot, but she can play and live a life.
I really want her to do as Thoreau said and “Live deep and suck out all of the marrow of life.” Some of the best ways for her to do that now is to be in the woods, at the foot of these striated cliffs, in the scrub oak and pine. Here in the woods, learning what they have to teach.
** Like I said, this post was from 2012. We are headed to Kidney Kamp again this week. I fully expect everything to be the same. More on that later.**