The trees soared overhead, creating a sky of leafy green. The ground, fragrant with last night’s thunderstorms. I love the smell of damp, the smell of spring blooming, of new life growing, of seeds taking root and settling in to become a community of air and life.
The house was hot last night, and we slept restlessly, but the clouds poured open overhead, enlivening the midnight sky with streaks of light and thumbprints of sound. By morning, the clouds had formed a thick cover so there was no peek of sunlight.
However. Nothing would’ve stopped me from taking that first hike with our team. Dan was home with Grace and though the basement had flooded with sewer backup, I felt a new day dawning and not just one day, not just a literal awakening.
I met Brahm and Mandi, our coaches, teammates Sue and Lynn, and Melissa, our survivor hero, at Maybury. We introduced ourselves, listened to Melissa’s story of survival over cancer at age 19, and then set out to walk in the steady stream of rain falling from the sky for the better part of an hour.
I didn’t mind the wet. In fact, I breathed in the scent of the day so deeply that it became part of me. The forest was beautiful. Tall trees spearing toward the sky, a rich leafy green I hadn’t seen since Dan and I became immersed in a Pacific coast forest last year on an oceanside hike.
We were new lovers then, excited by the possibilities of the future ahead of us, and we traversed that snaking wooded trail down to cold sand and ferocious waves and felt lucky to be alive.
Today, I feel even luckier. I’ve found my soulmate and life partner, my best friend who will become my husband on June 4th. On June 18th, I turn 40 and to celebrate, we are together embarking on 40 things that make the world better.
Our hike is just one of them, and the first.
But more than that, we are beginning a life together – as a family of six – that is dedicated to helping people, healing communities and enriching the surrounding world in every little, and big, way we can. That’s just who we are and who we want to be, together and individually.
My son Asher is now an environmental activist blogger on Berkley-Huntington Woods Patch.com. My daughter Eliana has been nurturing others since she was old enough to blow kisses. My son Shaya bursts with love for everyone and everything in his path. Dan’s daughter Grace deeply cares about the happiness of others. We are a family of givers, looking to the earth and to nature and to those inspiring people in our midst to learn how to contribute in meaningful ways.
Yesterday, I sent an email fundraising request to more than 300 people in my address book, telling them about our hike and asking for their support. Six donations came in in the first 24 hours. From Laura, a childhood friend who travels the globe to empower women in reproductive health. From Ann, a lawyer and single mom to a darling daughter from China. From Nancy, who is on every committee that asks her and spearheaded a bone marrow search for a toddler in another city who faced certain death without help from others.
From Auntie Suzanne and Uncle Mark, who were my surrogate parents when I was a tormented teenager and who are dedicated to so many local and global causes. From Lynn, who heals people through yoga and through love. And from the Blakes, a family so devoted to our school and our community – and truly, wonderful friends – that they would likely give the shirts of their backs if someone asked.
In the first 24 hours. Six people clicked on the donation link and rooted us on. I am so grateful, almost speechless.
I wondered, as we entered through the black iron gate bearing the words, Maybury Sanatorium, what this place had been before it was preserved as a park. As we finished our hike, a teammate explained.
This used to be a TB quarantine, she said. You’ll find signs and buildings throughout the park indicating, this is where children were cared for, and here was another group.
It was a long time ago and a different time in so many ways, but the idea that nature heals, that the world heals itself, that if we retreat, we will find solace, rings true today. Lucky in every way.