Not Out Of The Woods Just Yet

“Me thinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.” -Henry David Thoreau

Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy is coming off the lows that he reached earlier this weekend. What can I say? Living with rheumatoid arthritis can be quite a challenge at times – even for superheroes.

Over the past couple of days things have gotten a little bit better. If we were talking in terms of a percentage, I’d put the improvements at right around 3%. Small, I know. But still – I’m happy. (Things could have gotten worse, after all.)

As should be obvious, I’m not out of the woods just yet.

During some of my roughest moments during these past days – especially when walking was at its most difficult – I often found myself thinking back to a wonderful walk I took this past March.

My nephew and I loaded up or backpacks with a sleeping bags, a couple of cans of food, water, some trail mix, binoculars, and lightweight tent. We drove up to Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, parked next to the Bear Valley Visitor Center, and started on our ten mile walk to Wildcat Camp, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean.

Point Reyes
A fallen tree is now the growing grounds for moss and ferns. Our little blue tent, on the cliff overlooking the Pacific. Me and my trusty MBT shoes sitting in front of the tent. Alamere Falls flowing into the beach, located an additional mile past the camp.

The first nine miles were a combination of flat, uphill, and downhill trails through tall redwood trees. The last mile was an open air walk down to the ocean, where our campsite next to the coast waited for us.

My hands and ankles were already not doing too well, although not nearly to the level where they are at now. I had backup plans to go to a campsite that required just a mile walk each way in case I thought I wasn’t going to be able to make the longer walk. But with new Level III ankle supports and wrist guards, I was able to make the ten mile walk. (And more importantly, I was able to make it back the following day!)

I still remember walking for hours on end, one foot appearing in front of the next foot. My nephew and I talked throughout the entire hike. Since it was a weekday, we pretty much had the entire route to ourselves. Occasionally, I wondered what I had gotten myself into – but I continued walking, mile after mile.

As we walked through the woods, we could see the sun poking through the tall canopy of the trees. Even though it was a clear spring day, underneath the trees it was quite dark. The experience of adjusting our eyes to the dimness, only to be shocked when we crossed a ray of light, was something we went through many times that day.

We even passed through a patch of shorter-type trees that had grown so dense, that they formed a dark tunnel. It was amazing to see how little light seeped in through the trees. The temperature dropped considerably, and it felt like we had just walked onto the set of the movie Sleepy Hollow.

At first glance it appeared that there was no life in this “tunnel”, but upon closer inspection we found some small mushrooms growing and lizards walking around. I have no doubt that with lots of time, this stretch will heal and once again be the healthy green area that it once was.

In a way, all of these memories provided me some nice metaphors that I could connect with during these past few days.

Step by step, putting one foot in front of another – no matter how long it took to reach our destination.

Adjusting to the darkness, only to be slightly thrown off guard when an occasional bright point was reached.

Realizing that even though something appears to have reached a point where there is no hope, life will always come back to fill in the void.

I think even further back, to one of my architecture studio projects when I was an undergraduate. We were to design both an outdoor plaza and the entrance to the underground subway station, for a small triangular piece of land in Manhattan.

Plaza Trees
Canal Street Plaza and Subway Station

I slightly tilted the plaza (rolling slope) and filled it with tall poles (trunks) topped with panels of varying transparency and translucency (leaves). These “trees” extend below ground.

As pedestrians walked into the transit station below, light filters through the panels and skylights -  recreating the mood of walking through a patch of redwoods on a sunny spring day. This is just another one of my walks through the woods, but this time it’s imagined.

So I may not be out of the woods just yet, but I’m okay with that.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to walk – either with my feet, or with my mind.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

*****

These look pretty cool! SideStix Sport Crutches: The First Shock Absorbing Sports Crutches with Attachable Feet. They are still in prototype stage, but I hope they come to the retail market soon!

10 Comments
10 comments
  1. pemny says:

    As always your journey mimics mine, acceptance is hard to come by and who knows maybe acceptance should never come!

  2. Millicent says:

    I LOVED reading this! Wouldn’t it be grand if there could be a subway station/plaza like the one you designed! It would be the most popular one, no matter where anyone was going. And I hope that you & your nephew will be hiking again soon.

  3. Jules says:

    Keep those thoughts of that wonderful hike in your head. Make them a goal instead of a memory. Even if you don’t plan for a 10 mile hike- just focusing on being back in those beautiful and peaceful surroundings will keep your spirits going up. Hang in there my friend- we are all right here behind you.

  4. Mikel says:

    I’m with you with the metaphors. Over here in the UK I try to get to the Lake District at least once a year.

    Going back five years ago, I would think of nothing of walking up 3 or 4 peaks of over 3,000 feet in a day, eight to nine hours out walking. The following year, I made it to the Lake District, just, and the most I could manage was a very painful and tough Km on flat and level ground.

    Last year with drugs, rest and trusty sticks, I was back up in the hills. Yet to get up there this year.

    On a separate thought, do you think customising wrist splints to look like wolverines claws is a good idea?

  5. Synovial Sensation says:

    Am amazed there’s no previous sports crutch. Pleased to hear about your 3%. That’s the same percentage as books in the US published in translation, doncha know :) There’s a nice Kindle blog I’ve been lusting after that looks at works in translation. Have to get a kindle first, of course. Minor detail :)

  6. Cathy says:

    This is beautiful! I love how you take even a 3% improvement as something to honor. Your walk with your nephew sounds absolutely wonderful. I think having those things we can put in our head to replace the slow, painful walking is so important. Thanks for giving us something wonderful to imagine today.

  7. RA Guy says:

    “Keep those thoughts of that wonderful hike in your head. Make them a goal instead of a memory.” I love these words, thanks Jules.

  8. Brian Kenney says:

    Hang in there RA Guy – your positive attitude will undoubtedly get you through this challenging time. Your blog posts are an inspiration and serve a great purpose in educating about RA.

    Sincerely,

    Brian

    Brian Kenney
    Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc.
    Corporate Communications

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