Archives - April, 2012



30 Apr 12

By Randy Pierce

No blind man had ever done the NH 48! As such, doing it in winter–or more dramatically, a single winter–was a tremendous goal and accomplishment. Along with the many well appreciated congratulations has come a significant question: so what is the point of finishing the 2020 Vision Quest hikes of the 48 in the summer season as well?

This is a fair question to which there are several answers. For me, the first and most important reason of all is to continue to experience the tremendous challenge and enjoyment each hike provides. These magnificent mountains and their trails provide vast and diverse rewards in the moment of each expedition. Each trip interlaces the wonders of nature with the bonds of friendship created by the different people coming together on the particular hike. I believe there will be tremendous value and benefit to the sharing of these experiences with our 2020 VQ community.

Our original goal was to summit all 48 in the summer seasons over the course of the ten years from 2010 until 2020. We believed in the possibility and as we experienced the hikes, we realized we would likely succeed in less time. In fact, given the present schedule, we expect to finish in the summer of 2013.

What is honestly and a little sadly uncertain is whether Quinn will still be able to perform his incredible guide work during that final summer, as he will be nearing possible retirement age. This, plus among other factors, are what motivated the single season success of this winter.

Why is hiking in summer different than winter? Summer creates different and significantly more difficult challenges for the blind hiker. See the pictures below to illustrate my point:

Randy in the winter

Would you rather walk on this comparatively smooth terrain...

Randy hiking in the summer

...or this rough stuff? Now imagine it with your eyes closed!

While winter presents a different set of challenges for everyone–and realistically a set of blind-specific challenges as well–the basic task of walking is considerably more absurd when the snow is off the ground.

I really believe in the notion of “Challenge as Opportunity and Opportunity as Challenge!” I hope to enjoy the value of a hike for the rest of my life, and in regards to the 2020 Vision Quest, I cannot even begin to consider that the heart of the challenge is met yet.

In undertaking the goal of the 48, I intend to take on all aspects of the challenge and that includes completing the original goal under the impressively more difficult conditions of the summer. It really will be a fantastic complement to our winter accomplishment. While I certainly do not expect the fanfare of our winter success, each trip will be full of challenge and reward. I will find more than sufficient cause to appreciate and celebrate each and every peak along the journey.

“Live Now” is an approach I believe has tremendous positive impact upon the lives of all those who can choose it. I hope that each and every step of the 2020 Vision Quest can help us to show the merits of that very approach. It’s always more about the journey than the destination. I delight in our destination of all NH 48 in the summer and the winter. I hope you’ll be joining us for the journey!

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23 Apr 12

By Randy Pierce

I still feel the deep hurt and well of tears for my animal companions who have passed away when a particularly poignant reflection of their time with me is brought into focus. This is true whether it’s on a more personal anniversary, such as my twelve years without my dog Modi as of April 19, 2012, or when simply learning of a friend experiencing the loss of a beloved pet.

I reflect on my very fortunate time spent with each of my now deceased pets with a hearty appreciation for the times we shared together. Despite the overall positive experience in remembering, it takes very little for the feelings grief to gain strength again. This is all right; it is simply a measure of the depth of my love and appreciation for them and the resulting magnitude of the loss.

I always try my best to express my empathy for those dealing with death and loss. I attempt to give the same countenance I urge myself to accept. I wish for my suffering friends the courage, strength, and support to manage the hurt until the solace of time might leave the good memories to overshadow the pain and grief of loss.

As I’ve just passed the anniversary of losing Modi and approach another date of significance for the death of Ostend, my first guide dog, I’m reminded of the words I wrote after Ostend’s passing. I share them here and hope they may resonate with all, especially those who truly understand the bonds we forge with our beloved animals!

When the Lilacs Bloom

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
Today there is the fragrant scent of lilacs on the air. Just over five years ago on April 19, 2000, I said farewell to my most loyal and loving Modi. On that day, my family through Rick and Monique gave to me a lilac bush to plant in Modi’s honor. Modi had the chance to approve of the bush before it was planted since we had time to prepare for Modi’s passing and this was time for the most loving farewell I could imagine. Each June near to my birthday, the lilac offers forth its fragrant bouquet in full view of my bay window into the back yard. Each time I detect the distinctive fragrance, I take time to warmly reflect upon the great companionship shared by Modi and myself. I consider it a delightful tribute to a more great experience than some may ever know. Such is the way of those magnificent bonds we forge in our lives. There is of course tremendous sadness with their passing even as there is a stronger and more marvelous connection which will outshine the bitter sharpness of pain and grief when first we lose beloved friends. So on April 19, the leaves of the lilacs may begin the budding rebirth of spring time so that in Modi’s passing anniversary, I may feel the continued yearly power of life and the continued potency of those many loving memories. Now we are in the season when the normal lilacs bloom and upon my table sits a vase full of them lovingly cut by my mother to ensure I could share in the delightful reminder. As my birthday remains a few weeks ahead, the bush from Modi is just starting to bud flowers. His is a Miss Kim Lilac which delays long enough to give me an annual birthday gift from my boy. Yet amidst the scents of the present lilacs and the recollections of Modi comes a sharing time.

Yesterday, May 24, 2005 at 5:54, my magnificent Ostend had the last beat of his heart while cradled in my lap. I laid in exactly the same room as I had with Modi some five years earlier and all the pains were equally sharp. Perhaps more so in that Ostend was a sudden and unexpected parting. Ostend had a tumor inside of his heart and it was bleeding steadily into his system. He was valiant and stoic to the end much like his counterpart in my Modi. While I know a myriad of marvels with each of these boys and while Ostend and I have a legacy of adventure in which our unique travels shall always hold infamy for our worlds, this is the time in which pain and sorrowful grief must powerfully overwhelm what will eventually become the same warm reflection I share with the memory of Modi. I know I must honor his life and our companionship with the strength to strive towards those times and so shall I manage. I already feel the hope of looking forward to that time even as I know it is far too recent a wound to my own heart for such to be readily reached. Still I take some small comfort in knowing such will come.

Modi left me in the early precursors to springtime, when April showers begin the return to the lilac’s life. Ostend said farewell when that precursor of life has surged into the bountiful flowers. They each shared such a similar and pivotal part of my life and my love for each was never diminished by my love for the other. That is the marvelous gift of love that requires no rationing to share its splendor with all those whom are valued treasures in our world. I shall love them each continuously with the fervor which is our way together. When the lilacs bloom I shall be reminded of the love which never wavered from each of these companions. Though it is always with me and I will reflect often upon this love, I am simple enough to appreciate the value of symbols and the reminders of the world around me.

In respect and tribute to Ostend he shall have his own symbol. There is a place in front of my home which has called for a planting. To this location I shall build a small shrine with a marvelous plant as centerpiece. There is a blooming bush known as a “bleeding heart” which in my visual days was always a delight to me. In honor of his bleeding heart and the pain to my own heart, such shall be my tribute to Ostend as well. It blooms a bit later than the lilac and with this effort I will know that when my first boy Modi has sent the lilacs, they are a preparation as well for the bleeding heart approach of Ostend. Equally poignant will be the reminder that in the bleeding heart is a beauty and delight which although symbolic in some ways of the pain is likewise symbolic of the beauty which was so great as to allow such pain. This hurt will go to splendor of recollection in which our beautiful sharing is recalled fondly and with warmth. Each year I shall look forward to the world reminding me of my boys When the Lilacs Bloom.

I love you both my Modi and my Ostend.

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16 Apr 12

By Randy Pierce

A student recently asked me if having had sight makes it easier for me to be blind. While I obviously do not know what it is like to have always been blind, I have some insight into my personal experiences and some of the differences from those of someone who has been blind since birth.

To fully appreciate the answer, I think it helps to understand what we mean by blind. There is a tendency to think of blindness as completely blind, which is my present experience. The reality is that more than 80% of people who are blind have some amount of vision. Whether it is light sensitivity, motion, blurry images or a significantly reduced field, the reality is that many variances exist within the term of “legal blindness.”

Any significant impact to one’s sight creates a variety of challenges. Fortunately, there are many low-vision rehabilitation techniques that mitigate these challenges. Developing a plan that suits a person’s specific sight and needs is the essential part of easing the impact of the situation.

Transition is what seems to me to be the most challenging aspect to sight loss. In transition, one needs to evaluate the impact, understand the challenge, and create a plan for new solutions. My personal transition was the most difficult in the first episode of loss even though that occurrence had left me with the most usable vision I would have in any of the following episodes. The next most challenging for me was the final transition to total blindness. It required the most extensive solutions and removed the most common strategies for everyday skills. Those solutions were based in many cases on utilizing what limited sight I still had.

Calling back to the original question, the experience of having seen did result in my improved understanding of the visual world. I can relate well to all the meanings behind things that are largely visual in nature, such as colors. I can grasp the notion of the horizon, sky, ocean and sun very well. Shadows, light, and directional terms and expressions all have meaning to me that would not exist if I did not have a visual cortex as a result of my years with full sight.

I do, however, notice that spatial awareness without vision seems to be more challenging for me than my totally blind peers. Their ability to echo-locate information about their surroundings far surpasses my own still slowly developing skills. Their tactile speed of interpretation, particularly in the braille literacy, is vastly superior to my own. Each of these phenomena seem to have a correlation to active time spent in the experience. I am improving, but the extended time spent of those blind from birth, particularly in the brain forming early years, has a value which I may never fully appreciate because I lack of that experience.

What I absolutely observe and believe is that in either case, the quality of life is not so much dependent upon the level of blindness or the experience of any vision. Rather, it seems directly linked to the choices made by the individual to use the skills available to them as a baseline for their own appreciation of the world. In this I’m glad my experience is almost solely based upon an eager curiosity and a highly motivated approach to ensure that life is a rewarding adventure with or without the use of my eyes!

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9 Apr 12

By Randy Pierce

“Die Living!” This is the message Andy Campbell would like to share with the world. It’s a world he’s going to know pretty well as he undertakes a traverse involving 30,000 miles and more than 30 countries. He’s traveling from the United Kingdom to China, from there to Alaska and onward to Chile! This would be an impressive accomplishment for anyone, but moreso for Andy because he is partially paralyzed. He’s going to do it entirely hand powered, mostly via his wheelchair.

Is it even possible? Well, undoubtedly the wheelchair would meet its match many times along the route, but Andy will have a plan for every scenario, from the all-terrain wheelchair he’s dubbed “the tank” to an oversized Sea Kayak. Rock climbing, skiing, a parasail, hand cycles and something I’ve never even heard about: a kite buggy!

In execution, this is a two-year project, but folks watching Andy’s training in Scotland have already seen him dragging tires behind his wheelchair as he piles on the miles of strength and endurance building necessary for him achieve such a thing. I’ve often felt that Henry Ford said it very well with his “Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you are probably correct!” Andy Campbell clearly believes this is within the reach of his powerful arms, determined will, and tremendous support system he’s been building for the adventure.

I first learned about Andy Campbell story from Adventure Journal’s “Resolve This”. I followed his story to a fantastic video here.

Andy epitomizes the idea of Ability Awareness and his “broken but not beaten” philosophy is astounding. It takes only a moment of listening to him to realize that while he’s doing this for charity, raising £1m as a goal, it’s his love for the adventure of life that calls him forward. A climbing accident broke his back six years ago but nothing has broken his spirit. The “Die” portion of his mantra will come when it comes for each of us, but I am very certain he has an excellent grasp on the living part, with his hands on the “wheelchair around the world!”

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2 Apr 12

By Randy Pierce

On June 2, 2012 in Concord, NH, our 2020 Vision Quest team will participate in the New Hampshire Association for the Blind’s Walk for Sight, walking 3 km from their office to the State House and then back. We invite you to join our team. Sign up here!

My goal is to have at least one team member for every mile I walk in honor of this 100 year anniversary. The catch is that I’ll arrive in Concord after having traversed 100 miles! In honor of this organization to which I owe a debt of gratitude, I will walk across the State of NH linking the Concord and Seacoast offices. Our vision is to achieve at least 100 members.

I don’t expect you all to join me for the back-to-back 50 mile days we are hiking before this walk, but I hope you’ll help me reach a little higher with this goal of celebrating in style with one incredible team for the 3k! Whether joining us live, virtually, or by donation, your involvement will make a tremendously positive influence on the event.

Last June, more than 400 people – young and old – came together for the 3k Walk for Sight and did what they could to raise as much as possible for the vital rehabilitation services and programs provided by the New Hampshire Association for the Blind. With your help, this year will be just as successful and just as much fun!

The Association is celebrating its 100th anniversary and organizers of the Walk are planning additional activities at this year’s walk, such as eye screening and eye safety booths. As always, lunch is provided. There will also be awards, live entertainment, and door prizes.

For a registration fee of only $15.00 for adults and $5.00 for children under 12 (which includes all of the above plus a special 100 year anniversary t-shirt) you can see how easy it is to say “yes! – I’ll walk the 3K to help support the Association’s mission ‘to advance the independence of persons who are blind and visually impaired in NH.’”

I’ve reached plenty of peaks over the last few years and in large part due to some tremendous help and support. Now with your help, we can reach another tremendous milestone.

So please consider walking with me and my team. If you can’t walk this year, a donation of any size would also be greatly appreciated to help us reach our goal.

As the event draws closer and we close in on our goal, I hope to be able to share more exciting events connected to this day. Thank you for the consideration and I truly hope we pull together a record breaking team!

Randy & the Mighty Quinn

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