Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Washington, DC, Walden Pond, and Words of Inspiration

I'll bring you up to date about our garlic planting fiesta in my next post, but first I wanted to finally share a bit about my travels earlier in November.

I made a whirlwind trip with the initial stop being in Washington, DC, where I was invited to speak about my personal experiences as a cancer survivor at the annual research meeting for The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), the organization where I donate proceeds from my book (A Dietitian's Cancer Story) in order to help fund research projects focused on nutritional strategies for cancer survivors. It's an international meeting that brings together researchers, oncologists, and other oncology team members (such as Registered Dietitians) who are all passionately interested in promoting the optimal nutritional strategies for prevention, treatment, and recovery from cancer. It was an honor to have the opportunity to wrap-up the talks about cancer survivorship and lead into the panel discussion on this important area of concern for the millions and millions of cancer survivors in this country.

From there, I flew on to Boston for an annual appointment with a cardiologist who sees many patients like me, i.e., survivors of childhood cancers who have developed cardiac problems in adulthood from the cancer therapy used for their childhood cancer. My problems are what my husband likes to call "problems of success" :-), meaning that the therapy used at that time did lead to long-term success (hey-I'm still here and enjoying life!) even though I'm dealing with some additional health concerns.

My reason for telling you all this is as backdrop for the real point of this post. While in Boston, we stayed with some good friends from Ann Arbor (now living near Boston) who took us to visit Walden Pond where the
well-known writer Henry David Thoreau, an American author, poet, and philosopher who lived from 1817 to 1862, conducted his experiment in "living well".

(Photo: Diana and Dick by Walden Pond, November 2009)

Henry David Thoreau's work and writings are extensive and cover many topics. After finally having the opportunity to visit his home site at Walden Pond and to feel his enduring presence there, I am inspired to share a few of his words that have been inspirational to us for many many years. Indeed, as we express our deep gratitude for this opportunity for "living well", to bring love, life, and beauty back to our farm land and house, I could feel Thoreau's spirit at Walden Pond reassuring us that we are doing the right thing at the right time (finally!) for the right reasons.

Do not worry if you have built your castles in the air. They are where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.

Dreams are the touchstones of our character.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.

Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.

We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal, and then leap in the dark to our success.

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth? Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself?

What's the use of a fine house if you haven't got a tolerable planet to put it on?

The bluebird carries the sky on his back. (My collection of bluebird houses finally has a place to be put to use!)

Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. (Someone who is well known came up to me after one of my past speaking engagements to take my hand and tell me that he could not get this quote out of his head when listening to me speak, thinking how fortunate I was to have known deep troubles with my extensive cancer history, which clearly enabled me to both hear the song in my heart and the songs of the universe.)

I am ending with perhaps my favorite quote of all, a quote by Henry David Thoreau about the bird called a wood thrush, which is the bird we heard singing from our woods as we stepped out of our car after closing on our new home. For those who do not know the song of the wood thrush, I have also included links to several sites where you can listen to its mesmerizing song. Although the song sounds nothing like a bagpipe, the effect on me is the same. Both sounds cause me to stop what I am doing, listen with my whole being, feel goosebumps and a few tears, and then all in an instant, feel myself being transported back to someplace very ancient, someplace very beautiful, someplace I been before.

“The (wood) thrush alone declares the immortal wealth and vigor that is in the forest. Here is a bird in whose strain the story is told…Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; whenever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of heaven are not shut against him.”

Here are some links to the song of a wood thrush. I hope you hear one next spring!
1) BirdJam
2) AllAboutBirds
3) A YouTube video

May hearing the wood thrush sing every spring keep us all young in spirit and as vigorous as possible. There is still have lots of living to do, and I am grateful. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD


Anonymous said...


I was just thinking about you the other day...I hope you can make a MLFB event soon!

Cynthia said...

The Holy Spirit keeps telling me to read Thoreau, but I haven't yet. Today I will make that happen. Thanks for the inspiration.