Henry David had his experience at Walden Pond which left an indelible mark on his life and on the field of literature since he published “on Walden Pond” all those years ago. Though I never finished the book because it was too dry for me at the time, I loved the message, the image that his adventure left on me. It meant so much in fact that I have visited Walden Pond many times over the years. Once, I even collected a 2 foot section of a fallen branch that rested on the foundation of the original cabin (Ever the practical one, he dismantled the cabin and sold it as scrap after his adventure concluded) and used the wood to turn a few pens on my lathe. A few folks who are writers and who mean a great deal to me received the pens with my hopes that they will help them write their novels. The “good Doctor Peter…” has since written a few so I assume it worked.
Perhaps we all have our own Walden Pond, that place which inspires us, that makes us want to be better, more rounded people. I cannot say really, but my sincere hope is that we all do. But what happens when we as counselors or we as people\clients find that our personal Waldens no longer exist anywhere but in our memories or in our hearts? Can memories be enough to prevent the void in our lives or do they simply add more baggage to carry as we have our own version of forty years roaming the desert?
I had my own version of Walden Pond years ago in the form of my dream job. I dreamed of being a graduate professor at a distance learning\ limited residency program. I was willing to do what I needed to make this dream happen and spoke with “those in the know” to make a plan of action to see this happen. I learned that they wanted doctoral level practitioners who had successful careers, a proven record of presentations\lectures and a history of publications. Soon I acquired what was needed in the form of opening a successful practice, contributing to text books and earning both a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies and a PhD in Counselor Education and Supervision. I added the Approved Clinical Supervisor credential along with my NCC, LPC and School Counselor credentials in hopes of making it all happen. Soon, I was working in some capacity at the school that had meant so much to me. Things went well for a while before my own personal Walden Pond dried up. Massive changes in the school lead to layoffs and the last ones in are typically the first ones out; such was my case. I thought I would never find a program like that again and basically gave up the idea of teaching.
Career wise things went very well. My practice was booming and expanding. I was viewed positively by peers and occasionally approached with teaching opportunities, all of which I turned down because I wanted “my” pond back and was unwilling to settle for less than what I had and what I had always desired. In time I learned to accept that even if I was called back to the pond, the geography and feel had been changed to a degree that it would never be able to live up to what it had been to me previously. It was akin to learning that the site of the original Woodstock is now a housing and condo development.
Sometimes we as people dig in our heels and see things in an unreasonable way. We cannot bring back the old times, old friends and old places and instead see things as irretrievable, beyond our ability to be fixed. When we do this we may lose sight of the options that are right in front of us. We may become stagnant or worse, bitter people who find fault with the world.
Other times we find a way to acknowledge a perceived loss and instead of letting bitterness set in, we find a way to accept this loss and rejoice in the memories of old while breaking out and finding a new direction home. If we refuse to open our minds to new opportunities, our eyes and heart may be forever blind to them. It is only then that we have we lost the ability to grow.
Recently I found myself at a conference presentation that was being conducted by three colleagues from a major university. I saw the way they intertwined their portions of the presentation and the way they interacted. They appeared to have a real admiration of one another. Though I have never seen the campus nor attended an event they have held, I felt myself feeling at home with them. I found a peace that had long since left me. Just as important, I found my desire to teach on the graduate level rekindled, not from the place of old which will always have a special place in my heart, but from a place that I have never before seen but felt in the presence of those three docs who were not so much working during the presentation so much as sharing parts of their lives and experiences.
I have no idea where this new energy will take me. Perhaps one day I will be able to join those three, perhaps Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm will begin offering periodic workshops and CEU opportunities in the new barn when it is completed; perhaps both?(We have already contacted NBCC to become a CEU provider). While I do not know my direction, I can tell you that my journey has begun with my mind, my eyes, and my heart heart open.
May you all help others to find their own Walden Pond. When you do, please drop me a note down here on the farm. There are few things more pleasant than reading about people finding a new direction home while I am listening to the distinct sound of our Ford tractors plowing paths in hopes of new bounties to share with others in the upcoming planting season.
________________________________________________________________________"Doc Warren" Corson III is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org).