Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Song Lyric Sunday, Spotlight Sunday, The Insightful Wanderer

Sweet Release, #SongLyricSunday

“If you cannot stand beside me – there isn’t love, there is only pride.”

—Lara Fabian

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This one line from the song always truck me as the realization at the end of love in a relationship.

She is a French-Canadian singer whom I first heard twenty years ago now. Wow, I’m old, but here she is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtlW8CFHjQE

At a certain moment, you realize, letting go is not giving up, but before that can happen, you have to learn the difference between the two.

They are sneaky buggers and they like to be confused for one another, but if someone isn’t willing to stay, letting go is the best way to find peace and happiness again.

***

Silence and quiet again my life
Far from these moments I wish I was
Passion and truth we were about
Before the shadows stole the beat of our hearts

After all we have been through
I can only look at you
Through the eyes you lied to
I’m givin’ up, givin’ up, I’m givin’ up on you

After all if there is no way out
If you cannot stand beside me
If there isn’t love there is only pride
I’m givin’ up, I’m givin’ up this fight

Undo this leash you say I tied
When only our fears are to blame this time
And what am I to you? Just spit it out
I’m not afraid of the words that you hide

After all we have been through
I can only look at you
Through the eyes you lied to
I’m givin’ up, givin’ up, I’m givin’ up on you

After all if there is no way out
If you cannot stand beside me
If there isn’t love there is only pride
I’m givin’ up, I’m givin’ up this fight

Where do we go? Where did it all crash?
When did it start to fall apart?

Silence and quiet, passion and truth
Shadows, only shadows

After all if there is no way out
If you cannot stand beside me
If there isn’t love there is only pride
I’m givin’ up, I’m givin’ up

After all we have been through
I can only look at you
With the eyes you lied to
I’m givin’ up, givin’ up, I’m givin’ up on you

After all if there is no way out
If you cannot stand beside me
If there isn’t love there is only pride
I’m givin’ up, I’m givin’ up this time
Givin’ up, givin’ up this fight
Givin’ up, givin’ up
I’m givin’ up, givin’ up, I’m givin’ up this fight
I’m givin’ up, I’m givin’ up tonight

LYRICS

***

“And what am I to you? Just spit it out. I’m not afraid of the words that you hide.”

I love this line too, as she shows her frustration, through her singing. Though many really do want something long unsaid to just finally be “spit out” by the other person, the fear of those words really is the thing that is standing in the way of full disclosure and the ability to clear the air.

As a sequel of sorts,
this one
was her follow-up song, though not as popular in my past. Still, it shows that there is more to come.

On this
Song Lyric Sunday,
I wanted to share a selection from Canada, where we are proud to have music from both English and French performers, as a representation of our bilingual land of culture and art in a shared cultural space.

Check out some of her French-speaking stuff, if you have a chance. I would have chosen it, if I’d tried harder to learn French back in school, but I gave it up, something more of English-speaking Canada is probably guilty of.

It’s never too late I suppose.

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A Stranger Returning Home, #MLKDay #JamesBaldwin #JusJoJan

Just. Juice. Prejudice.

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These are three things that come to mind when I think of the word
“justice”
because they look similar in my mind, not because they have anything really to do with the word itself.

Just Jot It January, #JusJoJan

Okay, well, maybe justice and prejudice are related, but really I say this now because I am delaying the moment when I have to write about serious things.

Today hasn’t shaped up the way I was expecting it would. I was trying to figure out how to write something about Martin Luther King Jr. and then Dolores O’Riordan died.

Well, that’s not really a topic of justice. It only adds to my blue mood on Blue Monday as it stands.

I relate to the fight for racial justice, in that I can take my disability and think how discrimination manifests. Still, the subject is a sensitive one, as it should be.

It’s like the reconciliation discussion I learn about, with Indigenous Peoples, daily, here in Canada and in other places, all over the world. I am just sad, sad we haven’t come far enough and in some cases, have slid backwards with time.

This is the type of writing that evolves and changes throughout a day. I started this (mid month Monday) thinking about how to address MLK Day.

I’ve spent most of today lamenting the death of a one-of-a-kind voice in music, and I’m ending it by watching a documentary I have known about for months about writer James Baldwin, being shown on PBS.

I haven’t read his stuff and I know very little about him to be honest. I do know that these issues of rights, of where privilege lies, and on how to fight oppression and for justice, are bound to be found throughout Baldwin’s doc, in his own words, years before I was born.

He watched the young girl try to attend school and be spit on, chiding himself for not being there to help her.

Disgust and anger. How to move past this and into making it all better?

Baldwin didn’t miss America while he was in Paris. He didn’t miss it, but he did miss his family and his culture.

MLK knew he wasn’t likely to live long to see any sort of change.

It is painful for James to return, though he is home again.

James Baldwin said: The line between a witness and an actor is a fine one.

This feels so intensely true right now.

So poignant all these years later.

All about class and culture and race and so many other classifications I cannot seem to parse.

James did not stay, as witness. He was free “to write the story and get it out.”

He saw Martin and Malcolm X both go and he wrote about it.

Malcolm, Martin, martyrs both. Baldwin was the writer.

He writes: I Am Not Your Negro

How to reconcile any of this?

And so goes the clicking of the typewriter’s keys.

If you get the chance, watch I Am Not Your Negro.

Things sure have changed, since last century, but we writers still will write.

The story of America,” Baldwin said, “is not a pretty story.” “Aimless hostility.”

“This is not the land of the free.”

—James Baldwin

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A Reckoning: 2018 and the next 100 years #Disability #Equality

Today I am giving a friend a platform. Since he no longer has a blog, and I do, I am sharing this here.

***

Today, I’m so angry, I can’t concentrate on my labs. This morning when I checked my email here is what I read:

“With sight loss, everything you have ever known becomes unfamiliar. Your favourite T.V. chair, your reading nook, your computer desk: all become symbols of the quality of life you feel vision loss has robbed you of.

When you donate to CNIB, you help give that quality of life back. You help people learn new ways to enjoy their favourite movie. To read a book. To connect with loved ones.

Friend, your donation today can give families back their life.”

This has been eating away at me for a while now, but I am finally sick of it and I have to say something.

My friends, everything in the quote above is an absolute lie. If you were to dress up as a beggar on weekends and hit people up for money even though you have a good job, it would be no different from what is happening here.

“With sight loss, everything you have ever known becomes unfamiliar.”

Wrong! In fact, just the opposite is usually true. In my experience serving hundreds of people over the years, I have found that familiar things take on special significance and offer tremendous comfort to the newly blind.

This email says that newly blind people resent familiar things, that those become unfamiliar, mocking, threatening, icons of a supposed life we have lost. Get that monkey off your heart strings for a minute and try and think about this logically.

If you undergo a major life change, no matter what that is, wouldn’t you rather be in your familiar home surrounded by your possessions?

This email says that sight robs people of their life, but that isn’t true at all.

I have seen this countless times for myself. A newly blind person is not going to deny themselves their morning coffee just because they went blind. No, they are going to fiddle and futs and do what comes naturally until they get their coffee. They may not be confident of making coffee at a family member’s house, but they aren’t going to go without at home. In fact, something as simple as fixing coffee for a guest can be an outstanding source of pride and self-confidence for someone. There are always variations in situations, experiences, and coping mechanisms, but generally speaking, people take pride and comfort from being surrounded by familiar things.

Losing sight requires a person to develop new skills and use new tools, but it doesn’t rob most people of their life.

Only a very small percentage of us actually commit suicide because of losing sight. Many of us are turned away from daily activities because of the fears, low expectations and preferences of the sighted.

“don’t pour that coffee! It’s hot! you’ll burn yourself.”

We can damage some one’s fragile outlook by so denigrating something they take pride in. The newly blind person pours coffee for himself every day when the sighted person isn’t there, but it’s too much for the sighted person to watch. Thus, something the blind person worked hard to accomplish and may have been looking forward to sharing with the sighted person is diminished because of the low expectation of the sighted person.

Low expectations are the damaging factor here, not blindness.

Promotions like this one add insult to injury by demeaning the actual bereavement process people go through because of something like vision loss. As much as people learn, adapt, and go on to lead full lives, being blind in a world designed by and for the sighted is not without it’s sense of loss, of being singled out in a negative way.

We get through it, not because of money, but because of family and peer support, and the tenacity of the human spirit.

Playing on the natural grieving process of the newly blind to tragify us and scare you into giving money is an insult.

According to
Charity Intelligence
there are an estimated 500,000 blind Canadians, and CNIB provides approximately 560,000 hours of service delivery across canada each year. You can do the math in your head.

That’s just over one service hour per blind Canadian.

The annual budget of CNIB is just under $30,000,000 per year

– 54 cents of every dollar goes to programs.

The top ten earners at CNIB earn approximately $2,000,000 per year collectively, with the president earning $350,000 per year.

I believe this aspect of the pay structure is not reflective of the income experience of most blind Canadians, and I choose to be insulted that this one person makes so much money from the blind while the actual state of the blind continues to be abysmal and expectations continue to be oppressively low.

Can we do better? I think we can.

Is CNIB the answer? Maybe at one time they provided real value, but in my view that value is at an end.

How can the blind achieve dignity, respect, inclusion, equality, and increased quality of life if people who haven’t experienced blindness believe life ends with blindness?

If blindness is an irrevocable, life shattering tragedy, why will a human resources person want to hire someone who is blind?

How can we convince people to design all things inclusively, …that including every one in design benefits every one?

How can we convince people to rent us places to live, include us in social orders other than those specifically for the blind, or let us raise our own children in freedom?

If blind people are viewed as perpetually broken, how will we ever have our ideas, accomplishments, and opinions respected?

How can we lie to people and beg for money and expect to teach those same people that blindness is not hopeless, …that blind people are successful in their own right and deserve equal participation in society?

Please be angry. It is time. As long as we channel that anger properly, it can be a source of passion and determination blind people can use to build a future for ourselves where-in we are included as equals, not tagging along as third class citizens.

It would mean more to me as a blind person, if you would take the money you would have donated to CNIB, buy yourself some beer and pizza, and spend an hour or two a month coming to CFB meetings where we can work together to find sustainable ways of delivering needed services that don’t require us to lie, grovle, and debase ourselves to get the crumbs left over from sighted executives.

The blind community is not made up of deficient and damaged people. We have creators, innovators, educators, technology, legal, medical, and financial professionals, and thousands of hard working talented people who can be successful in their own right with real support, tools, reduced societal barriers, and sustainable services.

The blind community has society, culture, political agendas, philosophies, all intertwined with, having things in common with, connected to but not completely the same as those of the sighted or any other social political group.

Let’s build our own movement large enough to provide a valid alternative the state we have now that sells us at a premium, yet far short of our true abilities.

***

Here is my take!

I was born with vision loss (blind) and so was my brother. We grew up with the CNIB who sent us braille/audio books and where we learned how to properly use a white cane to get around safely.

The CNIB is the organization most people would name if asked, have heard of here in Canada, mostly because it has been around the longest. It is celebrating its 100th birthday next year, but things aren’t the same as they were back in 1918 and that can reflect how things are, here and now in this moment.

I don’t want to just be angry either, to demand without being willing to listen, but I do think there has been a reckoning.

We are all individuals of course and I don’t dare speak for all people with sight loss by any measure. This is only one woman’s opinion, mine, and my friend’s reaction to the status quo.

From what I’ve seen and experienced lately though, the disability community, as a whole, are declaring the intention for more equality and rights. I know some of it rests on our shoulders, and that’s why I believe it is time I used my abilities and talents to make life better for the next one hundred years and beyond.

I do wonder who wrote that bit for the newsletter though.

There are only a few weeks left in 2017, but this next year of 2018 is when I plan on becoming more active, both with the American Foundation and Canadian Federation of the Blind.

American Foundation for the Blind

We need to make more changes and to do that, we need to use our collective voice.

Canadian Federation of the Blind

Signed,

Chair and Secretary of the newly formed Ontario chapter of the CFB

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TToT: Forever and Ever and Always – “Inshallah” #10Thankful

“Another celebrity dies. And still it mystifies the people. Another icon is destroyed.”

—The Cranberries, “Paparazzi On Mopeds”

Last week I was writing about American royalty and this week British, with my memories of where I was in my year, month, and life twenty years ago this week, when Princess Diana was killed.

Biopsies and weddings and recriminations, oh my!

I may have been able to see swans twenty years ago, but I don’t know if I’d go back if given the chance.

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I had the best day in a long time with my sister and her kids.

Forever and Ever – Pooh’s Grand Adventure

We spent the day in a nearby town called Stratford, known for culture and Shakespeare’s plays, but I like it best for the swans at the park, the awesome chocolate shop, but mostly for the time the four of us spent there together.

Ten Things of Thankful

I’m thankful for another fascinating interview.

I heard Sting speak about his music, then and now, and the world he’s worried about leaving behind for his grandchildren.

I love to listen to interviews, to learn about people, and I think he is a good one. I’ve always been a fan of his music, from his Police days.

Then he scored the IMAX film The Dolphins that I love. It’s remarkably beautiful.

When Dolphins Dance

It brings me peace.

“Be yourself, no matter what they say.”

—Sting

I’m thankful the roof is completed, all fixed, along with all banging sounds silenced.

The men are gone, scaffolding removed, giant bin for debris taken away.

Now the rain will stay where it belongs.

I’m thankful my brother is off on an adventure.

Adventure Is A Wonderful Thing

We drove him and a friend to the airport and I was so excited for them, even more so than if it were me going. I want everyone to get to experience travel of some kind.

I’m thankful to have discovered an out-of-the-way little pizza shop to enjoy with my mom on a drive out of town.

Super Choice!

It was.

I’m thankful the first of multiple pieces of my writing was published to round off the month of August.

My Pal Croche: Remembering My First Guide Dog – Paw Culture

I am grateful that Paw Culture gave me the opportunity and a place to write about Croche, for the tenth anniversary of her death, on Good Friday, 2017.

I’m thankful for September and the first of the fresh local apples of the fall season.

It’s practically all I eat for the next month or so. Perfect combination of sweet and sour. So crisp and crunchy.

I’m thankful my niece and nephew have had such an amazing person to take care of them for the early years of their lives, so my brother and his wife could be at work and have total confidence and trust in the care their children were getting.

Now that my nephew will be joining his big sister in school, this won’t be happening, but the bond will always be there.

I know it’s hard to have to decide to leave your precious baby with someone else so much of the time, as working parents, and especially in a city like Toronto, finding good childcare isn’t so easy.

This person helps shape how the child will be, from the first years of their lives, and I know this was a big weight off their minds. I am grateful to this person. I see how much my nephew and niece love her. Transitions are never so easy and pain free, but a part of life.

I’m thankful for the senses I still have to enjoy a day out with loved ones.

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I got kind of depressed after we returned from Stratford, because I couldn’t see the white swans on the water anymore, but I enjoyed juice boxes, walking along a path while my nephew looked for a campsite (pretend), and the drive there and back.

I felt the fresh air and sunshine of the day. I smelled the scent of chocolate as we entered the shop. I heard the ducks and geese, if I couldn’t see the others.

I’m thankful for the sweetest moments with my nephew and niece during our day.

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“Kerry, mommies and daddies always come back, right?”

I was blown away by that statement? Question? Hmm. I still don’t know.

I heard the small voice from behind my front van seat ask this. He’d heard it said on a children’s program that morning. He sounded certain enough, but still looking for a little reassurance from his aunt.

“Inshallah”

Then, as we walked through a store full of goodies, he soon asked if we could get chocolate for others, not just himself. I almost melted, right there, surrounded by chocolates, at his thoughtful request.

As my sister loaded him and our treats into the van, I held my niece in my lap. She’d hardly cried or fussed the entire day. Later that night, I’d hold her in my lap as she chattered away and watched her big brother playing, with great interest.

My nephew wanted me to come to his house to watch Pooh’s Grand Adventure and I did. I am so happy I did.

Pooh’s Grand Adventure: The Search For Christopher Robin

I’d seen it before with him, but never had I paid as close attention to the dialogue and word choice. I was impressed at what a smart story it is.

As we sat, the song from above played, about being together forever and ever, as my nephew crawled into my lap and cuddled, sitting still for what could have been a shot at forever and I nearly cried, thinking of how many days there will be like that granted to me.

“Inshallah.”

It means God Willing. It’s an Arabic word I heard mentioned twice this week, from Sting during his interview and then in a piece I read somewhere.

I’m thankful for my boys.

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Never before had both Dobby and Lumos sat on either side of my chair like that.

I think Lumos was still wanting me all to himself, as Dobby had been away the previous few days because of all the commotion with the roof repairs.

And to end the post, a song that one of my favourite bands wrote after Diana’s senseless death.

Paparazzi On Mopeds – The Cranberries

Goodbye summer/August, the final long weekend of the season, and welcome to a new month and season of autumn to come.

And to my nephew, starting school for the first time and his big sister and cousin, I want you all to know:

“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

—Pooh’s Grand Adventure

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TToT: Hunters, Fishermen, and Other Liars Gather Here – Of Gold and White Horses, #10Thankful

There’s a land where the mountains are nameless,

    And the rivers all run God knows where;

There are lives that are erring and aimless,

    And deaths that just hang by a hair;

There are hardships that nobody reckons;

    There are valleys unpeopled and still;

There’s a land — oh, it beckons and beckons,

    And I want to go back — and I will.

—Robert W. Service

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Then and now.

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My dad and I have both come a long way. I thought such an important milestone deserved the landscape to go with it.

Hard Sun – Eddie Vedder

Land of the midnight sun.

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June was the perfect time to visit.

Ten Things of Thankful (And an extra bonus item)

I’m thankful I got to celebrate June 5th in a miraculous place.

I wanted to shout it from the rooftops – 20 years baby!

YEEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHH!

I spent the actual morning of the 5th, standing on a suspension bridge, overlooking a place called Miles Canyon. The day was a perfect temperature for me, wind and sun, blowing my hair all around and warming my face.

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I thought about where I would have been, exactly twenty years earlier. I was so glad to have that hospital and those doctors then. I was so blessed to have all those years of a dialysis free life, thanks to my father. I was lucky to spend that moment, twenty years on, up on that bridge.

I’m thankful for a truly eye opening week.

I thought the Yukon seemed so far out of the way of most of the rest of Canada and thought of it a little bit like the Canada of Canada.

By that, I mean that in North America, to me at least at times, Canada goes somewhat unnoticed or under appreciated by the United States and such. We are here but can feel invisible. We are a small world player, in many ways, not making a whole lot of noise or commotion, but that’s how we prefer it to be. We are here and we are strong.

Then there is a part of Canada that is tucked away, far from what a lot of the gathered population ever sees. I wanted to go out and find this place.

By the end of my time there, I’d learned so much and was blown away by all of it. I heard stories of the people who have lived in that climate (months of mostly all light and then months of continuous darkness) for years upon years. I learned about myself and what travel can mean to me, through seeing places of intense and immense beauty, while not actually getting to experience the spectacular visuals of the north.

I missed out on a to, but I gained so so much.

I’m thankful I had the chance to see a part of my country of Canada, far far from my place in it.

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I have never traveled out west through Canada before, spending most of my time in the central part, the middle area, always curious about what lay in all that northern part. As we flew, I heard about the Rockies as we passed over them.

Though I could not see the snow capped peaks, I felt such a deep sense of wonder as we headed for the west coast. My country is so vast and amazing.

I’m thankful for pilots.

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I am somewhat anxious when flying, but it is a true miracle that a plane can even get up in the air, let alone stay up there and take people so far across the skies.

I hear their announcements on the speaker and they sound like they know what they are doing. I hope, every time I fly, that that is the case.

I really did enjoy my experience flying WestJet.

I’m thankful for local tour guides.

Big bus tours can be fun, like the one I was on in Ireland, but this time we had a smaller and more personal experience with a local tour company I’d highly recommend.

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They have had it in the family for 100 years and the woman in charge and her employees (one being her daughter) are highly knowledgeable about the region and so very proud of their homeland. They know about the environment, the terrain, and the people. They are Yukoners, through and through..

I’m thankful for the chance to learn about culture and nature.

Culture:

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I could smell the wet wood as they worked, using a tool called an adze. They had to keep the wood moist so it wouldn’t cracked as they worked on it. They only had it dug out a tiny amount, with a lot of hours of work still left to go.

It is one of several cultural events and demonstrations happening, there at the riverside, sponsored by the Canadian government and Canada 150 in 2017.

Nature:

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I missed the bright colours of the water. I missed the white caps of snow atop the mountains in the distance. I missed the severe cliffs and vistas.

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I smelled the fresh Yukon air. I felt the wind. I instinctually detected the wide open spaces. I listened to the ripples at the lake’s edge. I compared the silences to the sounds of rapids far down below.

I felt it all in my bones.

I’m thankful for the kindness of strangers while traveling.

I started the trip being given someone else’s seat on the shuttle bus to the terminal and I ended it with a generous gesture by a flight attendant.

When she learned I hadn’t known I had to download a certain update on my phone, one that would be able to work with the inflight entertainment system, she offered tablets (free of their rental charge) so we could watch a movie on the four hour flight.

I watched Beauty and the Beast, the 2017 live action version that I’d been wanting to see since it came out back in March.

Also, there was the politeness of many I met while there, the polite drivers letting me cross streets, and the woman at the glass blowing factory who showed me around and was so helpful.

I’m thankful my mom and I weren’t eaten by bears.

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We stayed down at the roadside, overlooking the lake, while the rest of the group walked a bit up the mountain. They were going up some to get a better look, but it was the two of us that got the show.

My mom was taking a panoramic shot with her camera when she suddenly told me of the mother bear and her cub only forty or so feet down from where we stood. She got a few pictures and then couldn’t see where they went. It was at that moment that she grew nervous and we were glad to have the unlocked van to retreat into, until she spotted the pair once more, making their way along the edge of the water, far off into the distance.

This was a good thing in my mind, as I couldn’t remember what action to take when approached by a grizzly bear vs a black bear.

Was I to play dead or fight back? I’d probably just fall to the ground and curl up into a ball either way.

I’m thankful for the comforts of home after being away from it.

I could choose to feel all down and depressed that I had to leave a place I may never return to or a city I felt at home in, or I could be glad to have my own things back.

I both love going out into the world and exploring what else exists, but I will always love having a home to come back to.

Just hearing a little baby crying on the plane coming home made me miss my baby niece.

I’m thankful for family and neighbours who agree to watch my dog and check on my cat while I explore the world.

I love to travel, but having pets makes that difficult. My dog is very attached to me and my cat is not one of those cats that likes his solitude.

I don’t like to put it on my family to take care of my animals, those I chose to have, just so I can run off galavanting. It’s just that I do feel the pull to wander sometimes, though I try to space it out somewhat. It is a responsibility on them when I dump my dog at their house, but I know our family looks out for each other. We help one another out when and where we can. I would do the same for them.

I’m thankful I got to see my nephew’s baseball game.

He is still learning (Lucky Number 13) and yet he may grow to love it. Only time will tell. They are all so cute though. The coaches and volunteer parents have quite the time, wrangling all those kids, shouting instructions to run or catch or pay attention. They are distracted easily and I can’t blame them. A lot going on.

It was just strange to return to the neighbourhood park where the game was being played. I hadn’t been there in years, but sitting on that bench, by that baseball diamond, it brought back a lot of memories of summer days long gone.

My sister and brother both played in leagues and we’d go to their games often. My favourite part was the snack bar, but being back there now made me remember old times, old friends, and things that felt forever ago, compared to the life I am living in 2017 and my transplant anniversary is a part of that.

“Forever can spare a minute.”

—Belle, Beauty and the Beast 2017

How Does A Moment Last Forever – Celine Dion

“Ever just the same. Ever a surprise. Ever as before and ever just as sure as the sun will rise.”

—Tale As Old As Time, Beauty and the Beast

The people of the Yukon know the sun will rise again. It’s just a question of when and for how long.

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The Colours of Kenya #Blindness #Travel #TravelTuesday

In January, 2017, I was discovering a new place. While I was immersed in the culture of Mexico, where I attended a writing workshop, Lizzi, at the same time, was on her way to Africa, but not for vacation. She was going to help.

I kept up on her time there through social media and I could sense the profound affect it was having on her.

Then I read this.

I knew I wanted to read one of her stories and one title, in particular, it jumped out at me.

I miss colours, a hard fact of life. I may go to Kenya one day, who knows, but I won’t ever see the colours of Kenya. I wanted to hear someone with a way with words tell me what they saw of Kenya’s colours.

Read the following story by Lizzi that I am honoured to be featuring on my blog today. It’s beautiful.

***

The Colours of Kenya

I had been travelling for what felt like a million hours, and in spite of having slept on both plane-rides, I was dropping with tiredness. It didn’t matter though, because I was in KENYA!

Getting there had been a long journey, literally and figuratively. The preceding months had been filled with emails back and forth to various Important Bods at the hospital, a cautious raising of hopes in October 2016 (only to have them dashed), and then a sudden YES, ten days before we were due to leave.

The four of us – a consultant, a senior nursing sister, an infection control nurse, and me (a buttinski retinal screener with her own agenda for gathering baseline information on the state of diabetes care on offer at the four hospitals we were linked with) – had been travelling since 11am UK time, arriving in Mombasa at 4.20am Kenyan time. We were at the end of our abilities to communicate clearly, and a sleep-haze had descended over all of us, reducing our words and movements to the very deliberate, or the not-at-all.

Still, landing in the thick, humid Kenyan morning (far hotter than Nairobi, a couple of hours earlier, and far more like the ‘stepping into an oven’ I had expected) at an airport which seemed almost deserted and (I noticed with interest) had not one pane of glass in the building, but a beautiful Byzantine cement filigree over each window-space, was definitely a fulfilment of my hope for adventure.

We piled into the waiting taxi and started off out of the airport, past the soldiers’ huts, and onto a road which wasn’t so much ‘road’, as potholes laced together with concrete. As we left the airport behind us, I was startled by a flash of deep magenta in the middle of a dusty patch of grass. Some kind of shrub with flaming red flowers held itself proudly in the pale morning light. I later discovered it was bougainvillea – a plant very suited to hot climates, with brightly coloured bracts near its flowers in every shade of pink, purple, red, and white – which seemed to grow proliferately throughout the region, providing beautiful splashes of colour in sunlit places.

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‘Bougainvillea Kenyavision’ – a close-up of the bright magenta bracts of the bougainvillea flower, against a blue sky]

In spite of my snoozing colleagues, I couldn’t bear to close my eyes and miss out on my first glimpses of what was to become a familiar road between Mombasa (where the hospitals were) and Diani, where our hotel was.
My first impression was that there was paint EVERYWHERE! Many of the buildings were completely coated, often with advertising slogans painted on. In fact, many of the walls suggested ‘If you like it, CROWN it’, advertising the very paint they were (presumably) decorated with.

After a few days of travelling up and down the road, I decided that the predominant colours of Kenya were bright green, yellow, blue, and white, with splashes of orange and red thrown in. If anything could be painted or decorated, it was; from the riotously coloured tuk-tuks with their funny names (‘Jobless’, ‘Father’s Blessing’) and entertaining slogans (“Watch out for the devil – never mind!”), to entire sides of blocks of flats advertising pampers nappies! It seemed to me if anything was still for long enough, it was liable to get a bright coat of paint…or that it had been the case at some point, for nearly all the paintwork I saw was fading a little around the edges, with cracks in the surface and chips of paint beginning to flake away.

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‘The Colours of Kenya’ – a man walks past a building painted pale green, with an advertisement for Pampers nappies emblazoned on its side. The ground is bright orange sand/dirt, and rocks lie strewn across what passes for pavement.]

The ground astonished me, too – partly, I think, because I’m not used to seeing so much of it, so close. The places in England where the ground next to the road is just…ground…as opposed to something tarmacked or concreted, are few and far between. In Kenya, the ground drifts onto the road and the tarmac crumbles into the edges of the dust, and everything swirls together as the traffic goes speeding by. The mud is hard and compacted with a layer of dust, which coats the shoes and ankles when walked on. Along the miles of road, it went through almost-white, to yellow, to ochre, to dark orange, to brown, to almost red. I don’t think I have ever seen so many colours of earth in one smallish area, and even though a lot of it was covered in plastic in various stages of disintegration (no council waste collections, no rubbish bins, no method, other than to sweep the trash into a pile and burn it), it was beautiful.

The people were bright as peacocks, or parrots, or any other vividly sparkling kind of bird you can think of. The colours and patterns on their clothes were incredible, mesmerizing geometric intricacies, which utterly delighted me, and made me feel very drab by comparison, in my muted olives and blues. Still, I considered, with my pinky-yellow skin, there probably weren’t many bright patterns which I could really carry off without looking sickly, but I did admire the many beautifully-dressed people I saw.

I realized as the week wore on, that the colours which would look utterly garish in the dismal light of England, were not overpowering in the equatorial sunlight. Rainbows of colour shimmered wherever crowds of people gathered, as the mirages shimmered above the surfaces of the roads. Each morning, I got up while it was still dark, and went for a swim in a pool of incredible azure blue, under a sky which lightened to pale blue, then stayed white for most of the day, fading to blue again as the sun went down.

Much of the rural landscape was dominated by the feathery green fronds of palm trees, with their tatty, browning leaf ends, which rattled drily in the wind, or when shaken by troupes of monkeys blundering through. Even the monkeys were surprisingly colourful – unassuming sandy-brown vervets, when male and in motion, showed bright, sky-blue balls!

The beach was pristine, as you’d expect a proud tropical resort beach to be – luminous white sand, cerulean water giving way to navy further out, sweeping, delicious waves, and green palms bending gracefully into the wind. There was even a delightful smattering of little grey frond-covered huts, to shelter tourists relaxing on their sun-loungers.

I would be fascinated to see Kenya in the rain (were it not for the risk of cholera, which increases considerably in the rainy season, due to the lack of sanitation systems). All of the buildings were spattered with earth, to about a metre high, where (presumably) the previous years’ rains had flung the dirt high against the walls and left it there, a stain bearing testament to time and dust. In England, the rain turns everything to grey, whether it is grey or not…in Kenya, I can only hope that the bright colours stand out more vividly against the gloom, a rainbow promise that the sun will shine again, and life will once more be, if not easy, still optimistically bright and beautiful.

***

And so I listened to Lizzi speak of what she saw and learned about blindness and eye disease in Africa. I thought of myself and my white cane and my conflicted feelings about having to use one, but then I realized the privilege I have for even having one where so many around the world, those who could really use them, do not.

I wanted to donate, even a small amount, to make sure a cane would be given to a person in need.

Eyes For East Africa – Online Shop

A small donation can buy someone a white cane, eye drops for a child, or a magnifying glass to better see the world. It doesn’t take much, but it is very much needed.

I live in Canada and have access to good medical care. I have had the best care when my remaining eyesight was threatened. I only want that for all people.

I want to thank word artist Lizzi for sharing this vivid retelling of her time in Kenya, for all of us who have never seen it for ourselves. That is why I love travel and a world so full of wonder and magic, everyday people going about their lives, the hard things and the struggles, but there is always beauty to be found somewhere.

Join the Deep Thinking, Truth Telling and Good-Seeking at Considerings

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“Oh, the places you’ll go.”

Thanks, Dr. Seuss, for that one. I love that and the travel it hints at, alludes to. It’s thrilling, just writing that quote and reading it back to myself. I recently carried that quote with me, on my first solo trip to Mexico, reciting it in my mind whenever I needed a shot of bravery.

When it comes to travel, I could go for days and days, writing about it I mean. That much travel, while sounding just as thrilling as Seuss’s quote, would exhaust me. I do it in my imagination though, all the time.

If I had the money and the energy, I’d be off. Sure, I’d always come back to my home, as that’s how travel is most appreciated, but I would not be satisfied to simply stay in one place all my life. I would suffocate in that bubble.

Pop!

***

I long to break out of that. I want to see new places. I have a list, a long, long list. I call it my
Bucket List (the very first blog post I ever wrote),
though that name is well worn with travellers the world over.

***

I thought it the summer my parents left on a road trip out west, through the U.S. and Canada. I came up with my travel blogger title and I was off.

The Insightful Wanderer (@TheIWanderer on Twitter)

It was in me, of course, ever since forever. My grandparents lived in just such a bubble, but they didn’t stay. They left sometimes, though always coming home again.

My most favourite treasure from my grandmother are the journals she kept, for years, where she jotted down the daily events of her life and family. Then, just a short distance from where she kept those, were the stakcs of photo albums, full of photographic evidence of the places her and my grandfather saw during their fifty five years together: all throughout Canada and the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean, and Australia.

Life and reality are just as important as a life of travel. Some can avoid that, I suppose, but not me.

I have limitations. I fully acknowledge those, but recently I challenged them too.

***

I immediately started thinking about what I would write, upon reading this week’s prompt for
Finish the Sentence Friday
and my first thought was Mexico.

I would write about my recent trip there. Why not? What else could I possibly write about now, while the memories are fresh? But wait…

I have things I want to say, but I can’t get back to it, whether in my own head or when trying to explain to others just why that trip meant so much. I try and try and try to explain the feeling, but somehow, my experience doesn’t come through. I feel unsatisfied with how I am describing it and how they are hearing it described by me. I guess the expression “you had to be there” is right. Oh, so right.

I travel back to every moment of that week, from my fear and intense anticipation. To my sense of peace and calm and rightness with the world and my place in it at that instant. I don’t want to say words now fail me, but perhaps they do. The envelope of photos I now carry in my purse of my trip don’t do the thing justice either, somehow locked in the past of the actual purse I carried with me. Nor does the bracelet I wear on my left wrist, every bead carrying that week’s sense memories within.

***

I went so far as to create a whole travel website, separate from this blog, while the force was still strong to attempt the world of the travel blogger. I had it all mapped out, saw things so clearly in my mind.

I wrote up an About Me page there, before the new site went live. It laid out all my most favourite spots: Niagara Falls and Ireland.

I put forth an illustrated list of the places I’ve been so far: Cuba, Florida/New York/Michigan/D.C./California, and Germany.

I spelled out everywhere I dreamt of going: Hawaii, Palau, Australia, and New Zealand. I wanted to be adventurous, surprising even myself, and in this dream I stood at the bottom of the world, surrounded by ice and penguins.

I didn’t truly believe I’d have the stamina, resources, or opportunity to make it that far, but, really, who could say?

Then, my website fizzled out. I let myself down. I studied travel blogs galore and somehow, I couldn’t become them, social media and pitching tour companies and all. I couldn’t. I was not a list maker and a personality so strong. My fantasy of becoming someone, I perhaps wasn’t meant to be.

I am a literary writer. That’s who I am. I can take all the travel blog success courses I want, have as many Skype sessions with an already established travel blogger as are offered in any given online course, and I still failed.

***

But I didn’t. I found a way to travel anyways. I found a group of my people, other literary type writers, somewhere full of magic and reality, all wrapped into one.

I couldn’t hold onto that week forever. It came and went. I may feel a little aimless since then, since arriving home, but that’s okay.

The world is a giant place. Anyone who doesn’t open their mind first, it doesn’t matter how far or how nearby they go or stay.

Travel all sorts of places, in your mind, through reading/watching a good book or movie. That’s just more ways to open your mind to the vistas (boy do I love that word).

Read travel blogs, as I still do, if that makes it all more real.

Acknowledge your limitations while challenging what still might be.

Meet people. Meander through a place. Taste a new food or sample a helping of another culture, far flung from your own.

***

I may not have that beautiful travel site I saw in my mind, but I am still wandering through this big, beautiful world and I am doing it with all the insight I can manage to unearth as I go.

I will linger here a bit yet still, but I know I will be off again, sooner or later. If you linger too long, you risk getting stuck. I hate to burst your bubble, but it must be done.

I meander and linger and meander some more. I look over those vistas I can no longer see. I meander with these words and with myself. Still figuring it all out.

I’ll be sure to let you know, here, when I’ve been everywhere. In the meantime, Dr. Seuss’s words keep me going, moving, living.

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