Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lake Joe and Aftermath, July 2-13

Hello everyone. Things are off to a good start up here at Lake Jo this year. There are a number of excellent people to talk to and no real bad or unwittingly annoying apples. My roommate is a nice enough if somewhat unfocussed fellow. He doesn't seem to use his cane at all. It just leans in a corner of the room while he follows people around everywhere. He's definitely got mental issues but they're thankfully of the more tame variety. I'm having quite a relaxing time here although my sleeping has yet to return to normal. Had a very poor sleep Saturday night but a very good one if somewhat badly timed last night. It's now Monday morning. I've just done my first online check of email and such. Nothing has happened yet to cause message traffic to spike so I won't check again for a couple of days. It would be damned nice if they finally got proper wifi up here even if only in the welcome centre. I always have to pull the cable from another computer and hook it into mine. I helped a young lady make a phone call using my Skype and it would have been ever so much more convenient were I able to do that from more places around here.

There are a number of pairs of people with the same name and it would be ever so devilishly amusing to get them all together unexpectedly in conversation somehow. At least five or six pairs of similarly named people. Not quite like the class I was in which had six of us Mikes in it. Supply teachers never knew what hit them. Those were the days.

Looks like the food here is going to be up to its usual excellent standards. Other than the first dinner which was pasta, I've enjoyed pretty much everything. I don't know what whoever was in charge of choosing the juice glasses to be used this year was smoking though. They're tiny things. I usually go through two or three in a meal and don't feel at all competent to pour into them while at a crowded table. I'm a pretty steady hand when it comes to pouring so that's saying something. They should have stuck those glasses in the cabin washrooms and chosen larger glasses which actually encourage those not expert in the art to try. Spills and misses are pretty much a given with glasses like these at the table. I have no other gripes with the kitchen or food at all. However, why is there only one set of shelves in each cabin? I can live without closets and dressers but for heaven's sake! At least give each client his/her own set of shelves. Thank goodness my roommate is able to keep who has what on which shelf straight.

Not certain if I'll end up with any new long-term friends but there are at least some hopeful prospects and I'm definitely in for a week of good conversation. A couple of nice ladies seem quite interested in keeping in touch but they're out in Peter borough and I have no idea how far away that is. Guess we'll see how things go. One of them is fully sighted but on ODSP due to learning difficulty. She's here as a guide for her slightly less mentally capable friend who has lost most of her sight. Like me, this first sighted lady is attempting to live as helpful and productive a life as she can. In addition to helping her friend here, she's managing to help just about everyone else around her while still having a good time herself. If nothing else, it gives me hope that there are other people out there like me who take what they're given and make the best of their situation. The ODSP Fireside list plus the failure of my Silver Smiles group to attract more than a few members had given me the impression that I was more one of a kind than I actually am. Thank God I was wrong about that. It's so good to have at least a smidgeon of long-term hope in the marriage department again. This lady and I don't appear to share enough interests for more than a friendship. Add to that the distance involved and there's not a ton of hope. Ultimately, I would certainly consider moving somewhere new for someone I loved but there's the whole process of finding out that she's worth it to go through first. I have a whole lot to be thankful for where I currently live and would much rather share that situation with someone than walk away from all I've started to build there.

It's been a very nice couple of days weather wise. I'm indoors at the moment sitting in the lounge with my netbook. I've spent the rest of the day other than around an hour this morning outside. The sun has felt great and the conversation has been plentiful. I'm expecting good weather to continue through the rest of the week. I've chosen two offsite trips to go on. I'm trying out the Band on the Bay trip which I believe takes us into Parry Sound to a sort of summer local concert series. .

It's now Tuesday morning. Monday was nice but long. I keep getting up early and not sleeping the full night through. Despite that, I feel pretty damned good. I enjoyed a coffee down in the administration centre and am now seated in the lounge. People will slowly start to congregate here as breakfast draws nearer. I won't spend quite so much time out in the sun today. Missed a few spots with sunscreen which are a tad toasted. I'll be going on a pontoon boat they have here in the afternoon. No real plans other than that. I've added a couple more people to my file of contacts. One guy seems very interested in keeping in touch and can hook me up with others closer to me. This certainly has possibilities. I'm doing far better with the whole contacts thing than in previous years. Perhaps, it's a sign of more interesting times to come.

Had a nap for an hour this morning and feel better for it. Hopefully, the later return from the band on the bay trip tonight will help insure a more solid sleep. Lunch will be in a little while. Breakfast was certainly good. Not certain I would have liked supper tonight but I'll be able to buy some food at the band on the bay venue.

It's Wednesday morning now. I got a somewhat better sleep after a wonderful Tuesday. I had good company for pretty much the entire time. The weather was great other than a sudden heavy rain which occurred while I was out on the pontoon boat cruise. It was still a fun ride and it's not like I melted or anything. While I attended the Band on the Bay, the talent show was taking place back at Lake Joe and a few people I've struck up friendships with decided to do one of my poems. I found a file which contained all my old poems. The one they chose was a short one I had completely forgotten about. Apparently, people liked it. The Band on the Bay was quite an excellent event. The Garage Band, in actuality a single band rather than the festival I originally supposed it to be, was quite good. It played a mix of contemporary and older hits which kept the audience of locals and ourselves quite entertained. It was also the occasion for a couple of beers, a very good barbecued hotdog and a Hagen dos ice cream bar. Haven't had one of those things in ages. I got to chat with a local couple who were curious about what life was like as a blind person. In such friendly circumstances, I can't say I mind wearing the blindness ambassadorial hat at all. Also, I got a chance to get to know a very special fellow named ethen Lu. I've avoided the use of names in this blog but will gladly make an exception in his case. He's a very musically gifted fellow from Taiwan. Having visited Canada for two years, he would very much like to stay and make his life here. However, unless something happens, he'll be forced to leave around the middle of next month. He very much likes sports and would like to make his living as a busker. I don't get the impression he thinks it likely that he will find happiness in Taiwan. I have no idea if any of my readers might be able to help him or point him to people who can. However, he liked the idea of my having made an audioboo of his piano playing and giving his email for people to write him. I didn't get to hear him play his accordion but was very impressed with his sure hand on the piano. His email is
He would love to hear from anyone who can help him or who simply wish to get to know him. I, for one, hope he manages either to stay in Canada or apply to immigrate here from Taiwan. He's the decent sort of fellow you just can't help wanting to see prosperous and happy.

Wednesday morning passed by mainly pleasantly. One fellow who sat at lunch with us took exception to a lady's less than totally cheerful take on things and her not unreasonable complaint that there weren't any diabetic desserts. I sincerely hope that situation is rectified. It must be even harder on the diabetic kids hearing friends remark on the excellent baked desserts we're treated to here. By the way, the bread at Lake Joe is unfailingly awesome year after year. The fellow's nice enough but one of these "successes" who tends to think everyone should just get on with it, snap out of it, fit into some employed slot in the system of society just because he's managed to do it with low vision. It almost smacks of the same kind of desperate faith that says to the afflicted or suffering: "Believe enough, and you'll be miraculously healed." A lot of people just can't cope with others who are similar in some broad way to themselves but whose lives have taken different paths which seem less fortunate in their estimation. As usual, my blessing or curse was to be able to sympathize with both sides of the equation. I was wishing she would keep her misery to herself even as alarm bells sounded in my mind that I had made this mistake before. Selfishly, I wanted to enjoy my cream puff fully and always find it difficult when I learn that others aren't as well provisioned as yours truly. I haven't thought much about Rebecca as a general rule of thumb but she was brought forcefully to mind this afternoon. How often, despite knowing what I did about depression, had I wished with all my heart that she'd just snap out of it and enjoy the present? It was somewhat different with this lady. Not depression. Something, some basic capacity, was missing in her. He seemed completely oblivious and/or uncaring about the possibility. I had met this girl who lost her sight to a tumour some years before. I told the man while we jogged along that some people just aren't ready to hear that well-meant but damaging flog of "snap out of it." or move on. There wasn't really time for a protracted discussion and I've learned from experience just how hard it is to really get one of these folks to come to grips with the fact that we're all different and that the system simply doesn't work for all of us. Silently, I wondered whether he'd ask a man with no legs to run a marathon with equal gusto. She responds emotionally to things much as a child with each new event exerting powerfully on her current mood. I'll have to do some careful probing later but I have a strong suspicion here. Much like me with Rebecca, the only thing this man did by lecturing her at lunch was compound the problem. For much of the time, all I did for Rebecca by trying to show her the bright side of life was inflict even more damage making her feel worse than she already did. Intellectually, I think she agreed with me much of the time but that only made her feel worse for not being able to be cheerful. Some people just aren't capable of sucking it up and getting with the program. "Time doesn't stand still" was the line he tossed out like a kind of mantra as we walked I forget where. That's all too true. Instead of trying to help each other along, we tend to fling it at those who can't keep up with us like a kind of extra lash from a perfect future of belonging dangled forever out of our reach like the damned myth it actually is. At last, I can face that lash with restored dignity. Living this life lets me contribute my gifts to society in many ways. I've already helped countless people with my past efforts and remain confident that the projects I now work on will one day help more once they're completed. I have a church, friends and family who respect me as a person and the kind of life I try to lead. While I'm certainly open to opportunities to change my circumstances which don't involve the equivalent of jumping off a cliff, the days when I'd jump at absolutely anything in the name of gaining self-respect and that of others are long behind me. By no means am I letting life pass me by. I live a different life, but one that is no less worthy than others. I'm through feeling like I have to justify my unemployed status to people. I'm far more of the mind that society as a whole must justify it to me and many others besides. So much potential has been thrown away by this meaningless quest for self-sufficiency; So many people trampled and made to feel less than worthless despite all the good they do behind the scenes. I guess that's what I've come to hate the most. Even more than the opportunities out of reach, I detest coming up against these people whose accomplishments and personhood I fully respect but who don't respect anything we unemployed do which doesn't lead to our own financial independence. To do him justice, I believe he realized pretty quickly that I categorically reject the notion that I'm "letting life pass me by". He seems eager to keep in contact also and hook me up with people nearer to me. I'll certainly take him up on that. There may be some interim good I can do, or just perhaps, something larger might come out of it. You never know. As I say, he's a nice enough guy when you get past the probably unconsciously brusk exterior.

It's evening now. Everyone's off at Bingo. I have no use whatsoever for that game. Even slot machines are an improvement upon it since they don't require such prolonged attention. Give me substance! A group interactive role-play game perhaps, or some board game beyond the commonplace. A tradition that's very unlikely to change, Bingo night has probably been a widely cherished part of the Lake Joe experience since the very beginning. I'm in the welcome centre with my netbook and speakers. At last! I believe I've figured out what's going on with the unhappy lady. Over dinner, I gently put some questions to her about her life and hit the jackpot. Similar to Peter, an acquaintance of my past who also had a tumour removed, this woman has lost her sight and sense of smell completely. She has also effectively lost her childhood. Her earliest memory is of her mother leaning over the operating table just prior to the removal of the tumour. It's stunning when you stop and think of the implications of that. . She's in her early twenties and has literally lost all clear memories of growing up. She's lost all the countless experiences of interactions and circumstances that the rest of us take for granted when we emotionally assess things. She doesn't have the anchor of life experience which keeps us steady. When you look at it through that lens, I'm frankly amazed she's doing as well as she is. Learning to cope in a world without sight while trying to find her identity constitute a monumental path of challenges I can only dimly imagine despite my intimate familiarity with around half of what she faces. A lot more of the things she's said this week so far suddenly have a great deal more context. How would any of us cope without the memories of our formative years?

Poor Ethen lost his cane for a bit earlier today. I heard an anguished moan of worry and found him in the hall. He asked me to help look for his misplaced cane and handed me the key to his room. I felt everywhere in that room a cane could possibly think of hiding but found nothing to Ethen's increasing distress. Thankfully, a staff member was near and put out a radio call. She learned that Ethen had actually left his cane on the beach and it was soon back in his hands. However, I forgot that he had handed me his key and he went through another terrible moment's anguish thinking it was lost while searching for the cane. Once I realized I had two keys in my pocket and returned his, Ethen was once again his happy self. The whole experience struck me as somewhat quaint. I could imagine Aladdin in equal anguish after he found that his magic lamp had been given away to the enemy magician. He had no idea that the cane would prove so easily found. I think he was most worried that people would be angry with him for having misplaced the cane. Perhaps, they're harder to come by in his country.

It's Thursday morning. What an odd and slightly embarrassing end to Wednesday. By the time everyone showed up in the welcome centre for last-minute snacks, I was somewhat disengaged and tired. I found myself suddenly awake having fallen asleep in my chair with my computer and gear packed and slung over my shoulder. Doubtless, people will remember that with a degree of damnable mirth. Only fare I suppose. God knows I've gained plenty of dark amusement from the lapses of others over the years. As embarrassing as it was, this slight unexpected dip into the land of nod preceded a really excellent sleep. I feel very awake and ready for my final day here.

Today, I plan to meet for a conversation with an artist doing workshops here for the clients who, according to one of the staff here, would find my perspective and sense of place to be of much interest. I'm always happy to chat with creative people and will be interested in his impressions after a week's exposure to blind and visually impaired people. I've made some very good contacts here and had great conversations. Although I haven't come away from it with any profound nuggets for use in my game or book, I have gained a sense of social balance that I doubt I'll experience again for quite some time. There's just something wonderful about being able to find one's way around a place easily and find people to talk to pretty much whenever one desires company. I'll miss that. There are always a number of very pleasant people and a number of quite extraordinary ones. Unlike many, and after years of dashed hopes, I now count myself a member of both groups. I know I've turned an important corner over the past while. Coming here has shown me the fruits of all the inner reflection and wrestling. My patience, sense of self-worth, willingness to consider new endeavours, and more have all been put to the test and I've passed. I'm the me I want to be for myself and for others.

It's now Wednesday, July 13. This entry was supposed to conclude on Saturday with me home and settled reflecting on the remainder of my trip. Unfortunately, I seem to have brought back a bug of some sort with me. I've been ill for the past five days. Although still not fully recovered, I'm definitely well on the way there. This illness hit me with runny stuffy nose, body aches, and lethargy similar to last year's illness. This overpowering desire to lay down would come over me. I'd do so and then wake to discover that hours had passed. I've missed whole chunks of the past days like this. Thankfully, unlike last year, my hearing wasn't nearly so badly effected. I've missed out on a visit with the family, church, and volunteering at the Dam for this week. However, I'm glad I was able to enjoy my full vacation before it set in. By the end of the week, I ought to be back to my normal self.

Thursday was another terrific day. I got out to the beech for a while and then relaxed on the deck near the welcome centre. The artist was a fascinating man to talk with. There were two of them actually. While the clay bowl I made didn't make it back with me, Mike's contact information did. He thinks he may want my help editing his project blog about this larger program he's engaged in working with blind and low-vision people. He's keen to explore various forms of communication among other things. I could easily plough through a few beers and a pile of wings in such good company. The trip to the Legion got cancelled. We went there but it turned out to be closed. Some others went into Don Cherry's in Parry Sound but I chose to remain behind. It was a good choice. I enjoyed the rest of the evening with some excellent company and am perfectly glad to have foregone alcohol in exchange. Bought a new shirt instead of the booze in support of a good cause. A splendid final night at Lake Joe all around.

On the way home, my parents and I stopped off to see an old family friend. I haven't seen the man I've always thought of as Uncle Franc despite there being no family relation other than good friend. He's a painter who could easily have also succeeded in being a comedian. He doesn't quite still sound like I remembered him sounding in years past but still keeps a keen wit about him. At one point, he was explaining how all this technology stuff which has been so central to my life just goes right past him. He told us how his son once tried to talk him into taking and using his old computer. Franc asked what he would do with it and his son described how he could store files and photos among other things. Franc suggested that he keep the computer and just leave the box. They could order pizza and then when it was done, he'd also have a laptop. As usual with Uncle Franc, you have to hear him say these things to get anything like the full effect. It was terrific to get to see him again. His daughter Michelle also stopped in to visit with kids of her own. It seemed so strange as she used to baby sit my brother and I way back when. I missed hearing the final shuttle launch live but was happy to learn later that the mission was off to a good start. Hearing history happen is one thing. Getting to visit with people who are an important part of one's own personal history is priceless.

Things are definitely on the mend with me now. I'm hopeful that I can stay awake for the whole day today. Didn't quite achieve that yesterday but came close. My nose is still a tad stuffed but I can taste and smell things again properly. Other than a brief pain when I cough, my throat has come through this in good shape. I can't tell you how thankful I am that my ears have come through this relatively unscathed. Things got muted over Sunday and Monday when things were at their worst but nothing like what happened last year. I think I'll be able to enjoy the rest of my Summer this year rather than sleep through its tail end like last year. For an excellent week away like I've had, I can deal with this current thankfully retreating illness.

During my waking hours, I've managed to read most of a nifty book in the CNIB library called 20th Century Ghosts. I thoroughly enjoyed the stories I heard but know that I've slept through a couple of large chunks. Because they were short stories, I don't feel nearly as bad as if I had missed gaping parts of a novel. Short stories are definitely the way to go when one is prone to nodding off without warning. I'll have to take another stab at writing a collection of those at some point. Other than working on this blog entry and getting mainly caught up on emails, I haven't accomplished a whole lot. Over the next day or two, I'll at last get around to sending initial emails to the people who have given me their addresses at Lake Joe. Meant to get to that a whole lot sooner than this, but things get a bit daft when chunks of day disappear on you. One thing I definitely have to do this week is order my next batch of groceries. one of the handy things about living so close to family is that mom was able to grab some fresh fruit and vegetables. I succeeded in my previous plan to end up with nothing in the fridge when I left which might have gone bad while I was away. This whole episode will have the beneficial effect of changing the timing of my major grocery orders to a far better monthly cycle. My Rogers bill is also paid up for the month thanks to earlier accidental overpayment. All of that should help nicely with the bank balance next month. Overall, the last five days not withstanding, I think this Summer is going wonderfully. I hope to be back out there taking my strolls around Lake Aquitaine quite soon, perhaps even by Friday. Given last night's cooking scare though, I'll err on the side of caution. That was an odd little episode. I set dinner cooking on the George Forman, set the timer on the talking microwave and sat at my desk to catch up on tweets while dinner cooked for fifteen minutes. I paused to relax for a moment and drifted away. The beeping of the timer brought me back around to hear the grill sizzling in the kitchen. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the horror book I had been reading, my mind came up with all sorts of other things which might have been the source of the sizzling prompting my adrenal glands to jump needlessly into action. Imagine going from days of drifting lethargy to fully ready to take drastic action in a split second as consciousness returned. Like suddenly falling off a cliff you had no idea you were on the edge of. Needless to say, I'm sticking to the microwave today. Think I'll quit this entry while I'm still ahead and get something guaranteed not to sizzle, like a cold glass of ice tea. That's the ticket.