WEEK 12: BACK TO NATURE

Sorry it took me so long to get this blog post out to you.  I’ve been really struggling to find phone reception and internet connection since I entered Vermont.  I wonder if it will continue to be like this as I get to some of the more remote locations in the northernmost states.

Anyway, I did what I said.  This week I flew solo for my first time on the trail…and I loved it!  I experienced so many new things.

First off, to celebrate my halfway point, I hiked up to Mt. Greylock (the highest point in Massachusetts) at sunset.  I got up there, snapped a picture, and within five minutes the sun had fallen below the horizon.  You’re not supposed to camp up there, but I met up with Dexter and Lost Boy for the night and we stealth camped right by the top.  When I arrived at their campsite they had already made a fire and had celebratory halfway point hot dogs roasting.  It was a fun night of telling stories and enjoying each others company.

The next morning I hiked a quick six miles down the mountain to meet up with my friends at the Williamstown Theatre Festival.  They treated me like a princess!  First Lindsey gave me shampoo and conditioner and let me use her hot shower.  Then she let me borrow her pretty blue dress while we washed my clothes.  Meanwhile, Brad arranged for me to get my own private room to sleep, complete with clean sheets and towels.  Then Alan and Lindsey snuck me into the cafeteria several times to make sure I ate enough to satisfy my hiker hunger.  In the time that I was there, I saw Jake, Lindsey, and Alan perform, saw some of Brad’s lighting design, and the beautiful props Dalyn had been working on.  Man, I have talented friends!

To make my visit even better, I briefly played with Brad’s sweet, sweet puppy.  I miss playing with dogs so much.  After the first night, somehow Alan and some of the other acting apprentices convinced me to stay another day.  While I somewhat regret losing a day of hiking, it was great to hang out with my friends a little more.  I don’t know when I’ll get to see them next.  That day I was able to spend some good bonding time with Jake, used Alan’s car to get groceries, and best of all, Lindsey let me lay on her bed for two hours and watch anything I wanted on Netflix.  This may seem insignificant, but it was such a treat to just feel clean, normal, and completely lazy.  That night, there was a huge party I was hoping to attend, but it didn’t start until after 12:30.  My usual bedtime on the trail is 9:00pm, so I fell asleep before the party even started.  Jake let me crash in his room while he partied the night away.  Around 2:30am I randomly woke up in complete confusion to find myself not in a tent.  Once I figured out where I was, I checked Facebook briefly.  My dear friend Emily (from Shakespeare and Company camp) had sent me a message, which immediately brought me to tears.  She agreed to let me share it with you.  I hope it impacts you as much as it impacted me.

One of my favorite days of life ever was the day I got to go outside after one month in the same air controlled room at Mass General. I didn’t know I’d be allowed that day and after my second blood test (one at 3am and the next at 7am) a nurse told me to “go before they changed their minds”, which could have been in reference to my cells or the doctors, hah.

I had to take the elevator with an escort and go through the main Mass General lobby and then I’d get to the door to a courtyard where a lot of people sat on the grass and people had lunch. All the nurses said it was a pretty area in the center of the hospital. So I padded through the center of Mass General in my slippers, hospital socks, and pajamas, with my hair falling out in patches, an enormous teal mask to block any kind of germs from the hospital over my face (which they said I could take off when I got outside–apparently only people are germy) and with a PICC line (a bunch of tubes running through my brachial artery and hanging on my arm) danglin’ in the breeze. Again, I had also not been outside in a month, had enormous amounts of blood taken every day, and was getting arsenic and a billion other drugs and chemotherapies in me. I looked…good. People stepped aside, people getting xrays of their ankles and pregnant women going to get checkups and old people waiting for their taxi to arrive were all in the lobby and I must have looked like I was making a break for it.

I remember pushing the door to go outside and having to put my entire weight on it–I had no energy and my muscles felt like marshmallows. The first thing that hit me was heat, which I hadn’t felt in so, so long. It was mid July and it was so humid in Boston, and I hadn’t felt anything but controlled, chilled air and the crazy fevers and insane hot flashes I’d been having, much less the damp air outside. I have never, ever liked humidity, but this air felt like someone holding your hand.

When I stepped into the sunshine I immediately teared up and had the most Lifetime movie moment with my face to the sun, looking so ridiculously hospitaly in my full glory. I couldn’t even face the sun because my skin felt so thin and my eyes were burning after a bit. My doctors had said that I would burn really quickly in the sun because of the chemo so I sat down but it felt like I was waking up. It was probably 75 something degrees out which is kind of chilly for Boston in July, and I had to wrap several stiff hospital blankets around me and took my slippers off.

When I put my toes in the grass it all kind of hit me again–I felt a little bit human again. There was soft, beautiful grass in between my toes and it was so freaking green I couldn’t get over it. I felt like I’d been on a desert island, and I’d only been inside for a month. It was brief and an eternity based on what it cut out of my life. I realized I wasn’t immune in my basic needs–I’d been holed up with a crazy change in my life and somehow been expected to deal with it every day and yet never be left alone and deal with cold handed doctors who didn’t make eye contact. Having felt so disconnected from my body, my self, and the world around me left me thinking that I could hopefully now sense when I felt a part of it again. I wriggled my toes a lot.

I wanted to tell you this because it reminded me so much of that day at S&Co when Dennis asked us to walk outside and to find patterns in nature–and in that way see how we too were part of nature. In the everyday flow of life it is so corny, but when you really look, and “listen with all your senses” (thanks Melissa I believe?) it can be really beautiful and calming. I still think about my toes in the grass in the thick of things, and how confusing and weird and sad and strange life can be, and how simple and complex the sunshine and the grass can be to us and our minds.

I hope you see yourself in the leaves and the light dear Kimber! You can do anything. heart emoticon

That was the exact emotion I needed.  This week I’ve been focusing on appreciating my blessings and seeing myself in the leaves.  Here’s to another 25 mile day tomorrow.

Love,

Hollywood

http://www.gofundme.com/st984k

janinemaxwell.blogspot.com

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