Looking back at field notes over the years I found some interesting passages that seem again relevant as I begin to chronicle the many steps it is taking to train to readiness for this life-giving marathon in Honolulu:
"For a naturalist,traveling into unfamiliar territory is like turning a kaleidoscope ninety degrees. Suddenly the colors and pieces of glass find a fresh arrangement. The light shifts and you enter a new landscape in search of the order you know to be there.
When traveling to new country and wilderness, it is a gift to have a guide, or if luckier still, a team of guides. They know the nuances of the world they live and work in. The burden of the newcomer is always to pay attention,becoming increasingly reliant on one's own instincts in concert with those of the team's.
Anticipation is another gift for travelers in unfamiliar territory. It quickens the spirit. The contemplation of the unseen and yet unknown world; imagination piqued in consideration of the animals, and in my case in this current moment while training with this marathon team;in consideration of the people dealing with these devastating illnesses,the "real survivors", such as Susan, Ruth, and the thousands of others who are here today and to those brave souls,also,who have gone on before us.
In remote and unfamiliar territory, I must learn to read the landscape inch by inch. In wilderness, the grasses become braille as I run my fingers through them.
Moving from the wilderness life of Montana's Glacier Park or Karluk Lake in Kodiak or on McNeil River in Alaska to the bustling,populated world of city and UCSF Medical Center, I find myself in the midst of a different wilderness. The terrain and topography both known and unknown - but everchanging. There in the many aspects of my patientcare, I so often can only bear witness to many who are fighting for their very survival with devastating disease such as Cancer-Lymphoma and Leukemias,COPD,CHF, to name of few.
I think of the sheer beauty and magnificance of the bear,traits indigenous also to other endangered species I have worked on behalf of over the years. We are not so different from these noble animals in the end,you or I. The isolation of endangered species is disquieting. The isolation felt by those stalked by a disease process that is moving upon them with predatory stealth and speed to annhilate is profound, daunting, and often times, relentless. I keep being humbled by my patients' courage and heart to face this often harrowing and brutal fight for existence."
I have come to learn from my patients and their caregivers, from my fellow teammates in this Team in Training program and from my gracious and generous friends many of whom have very willingly taken on the committment to become sponsors/ contributors the fine art of softening into one's own humanness. To learn to walk unafraid and supported over the vast and complex terrain of the heart,even through the most remote and dark regions, and get to know intimately its topography.
To come from the place of heart is to know the simple, but elegant place of compassionate intelligence liberally sprinkled with the core values of integrity,candor,and a sense of humor.
To work in connectedness. To bear witness to the process of others and to my own. This walk is just beginning. I am struck with how far many of us have already gone and how many more steps each of us has to go. Together,in community,there is hope renewed and there is spirit. I think we can do it.