Archives - October, 2016



30 Oct 16

We originally posted this a few years ago, but it’s still relevant. Happy Halloween!

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The Scary Realities of Vision Loss

By Randy Pierce

Imagine reaching for the light switch in total darkness on an eerie Halloween evening. You flip the switch and nothing happens. You are surrounded by frightening noises as your hands find only unidentifiable objects. You’re trapped in a prison of manifested fear!

While there may be moments similar to this fright in the lives of someone newly blind, there is perhaps an even more powerful terror in the transitioning through vision loss towards blindness. Losing vision is challenging with the fear of the unknown and the anticipation of how much will become more difficult or seemingly impossible. Certainly any form of vision loss is going to present difficulty and each person’s experience will be different.

One fundamental part of our mission with 2020 Vision Quest is to demonstrate the possibilities of success despite vision loss, or, in my case, a transition to total blindness. This is not just intended for those dealing with the challenges directly, but also all those whose lives may be touched by these challenges despite living in a fully sighted life. So very much of a typical world is visual that it impacts many aspects of how we interact with the world and with each other. It can be tremendously isolating to have that common connection diminish in ways far too many people simply do not understand.

I do not for a moment pretend to have all the answers regarding life or vision loss. I still find many moments of significant frustration as I attempt to manage particularly difficult aspects of blindness and, not surprisingly, life. Just like anyone, there are challenges and they can at times seem to overwhelm any of us. As with any challenge, the right preparation, the right support, and a more educated world can vastly increase the chances of successful achievement through any adversity.

In thinking about the “Trick or Treat” of blindness, I acknowledge all the real and scary frustrations possible. I also welcome the incredibly powerful perspective it has brought to me as well. In losing my sight, I began to develop a more powerful vision for myself and my world. Paying attention to all the other aspects of our senses, environment, and interactions which are not visual can have a beneficial side. It’s forced me to “look” at the world differently, but has also inspired me to try to do so often in a variety of ways as I try to understand as much as possible outside the realm of the typical. While without question I do wish every day for the chance to have sight again, I know that I am glad for having lost my sight and the vision that blindness has helped bring to me.

Hopefully our charity efforts will provide education, inspiration and much more! I know that I’ve received a lot of both though the process thus far!

Happy Halloween!

See the original post here.

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22 Oct 16

By Greg Neault

Just over a year ago I was scurrying about making last minute preparations for what promised to be the adventure of a lifetime: a trip across the world to Africa with a group of people I respect and admire to scale the flanks of Kilimanjaro, to watch the sun rise from Stella Point, to stand at the continent’s highest vantage point and look out onto the cradle of civilization, and then to explore that region’s amazing natural splendor, a wildlife show like no other on earth.

The team hiking Kilimanjaro in September 2015.I remember very distinctly the eve of our departure. A torturous night spent memorizing the subtle nuances of ceiling tiles. My body calling for sleep, but my mind a flurry with myriad questions about the journey to come. A new continent, country, and culture.

What would the climb be like? Would I make it to the top? Did I forget to pack some critical item? Would Cathy Merrifield be eaten trying to pet a lion? Excited anticipation goes a great deal further than caffeinated beverages in terms of fending off the sandman.

Earlier this month, life found me once again being robbed of sleep by anticipation of a major event: a trip to the hospital with the girl I love to welcome our baby into the world. Fortunately, I had a whole new ceiling to explore as I pored over the questions of things to come.

Kilimanjaro is a giant, for sure, but I’m not unfamiliar with the ways of mountains. My experience and knowledge, acquired over a life of traveling through mountains, canyons, deserts and forests would serve me well in this endeavor. I’m quite accustomed to packing and traveling with the necessities of daily life outside the comforts of home, to living within nylon walls and staying warm on cold nights under starry skies.  Kilimanjaro was a new, exciting, and unique experience, but was still representative of a new chapter in a story that has been unfolding for decades.

As I lay waiting for the alarm to sound on the morning of October the 6th, my mind was a whirlwind of rumination. I have about as much experience with babies as I have with firearms: people have let me handle theirs, but I don’t think they’d be foolish enough to let me wander off with one unattended. We went to the birthing class, we had a baby shower, and I was confident that we possessed all of the equipment necessary for a baby to survive in our care, but once we leave that hospital, we’re it. We are now solely responsible for the survival, well being and healthy physical, mental and emotional development of a brand new human being.

We didn’t even know what sex the baby was and had no clue what we were going to name it! How would we fare in the transition from unfettered adventurers, traveling about the region, country, and world to find new places to run, jump, and climb on a whim, to being responsible for a tiny person in need of care for every necessity around the clock? Do I have what it takes to be a good father? What kind of person will our child grow into? What is up with common core math?

Any anxieties I had in relation to my imminent parenthood were put to rest the minute the nurse put that sweet little baby in my arms for the first time. She was tiny and cute and weighed not even eight pounds. At that moment I knew that I didn’t have to know all the answers to all of the questions swirling around in my mind.

Too few days have passed to declare our success in clearing the hurdle that is the transition from carefree youth to steadfast parental figures. Obviously only time will tell what kind of person she’ll grow to be. I still have no idea what common core is all about.

What I do know is that I’ve mastered the changing of the diaper. I know that, for the time being, if she’s crying, there are only three reasons why and the process of elimination is a short route to a happy baby. I know that a car ride is an even shorter route to a happy baby. I know that my chest is a very comfortable place to take a nap. I know that there are more problems with more complexity than poop in the pants coming our way, but I know that we only need to solve one problem at a time. I know that with the right amount of forethought and a little help from my people, that we can make it happen.

The Kilimanjaro expedition was billed as the adventure of a lifetime, and it did not disappoint. A trip to Peru to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu could be in our future, and that may bear the “adventure of a lifetime” moniker as well.

But raising our daughter, that will be an adventure that LASTS a lifetime. She wasn’t even two full weeks old when she went on her first hike. I’m pretty sure she slept through most of it, cuddled up in a bundle on my chest (like I said, she loves to nap there), but she seems to enjoy the fresh air. As her eyes develop, I bet she’ll grow to appreciate the scenery as well. I hope that one day Stella and I will stand on lofty peaks together, sharing in the types of adventure that I hold dear. But right now, only weeks old, she has a very long journey ahead of her and it’s my job to put her on the path.

Greg and baby Stella on the top of a mountain with a beautiful fall valley view in the background.

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15 Oct 16

Randy and Tracy at Niagara FallsBy Randy Pierce

“The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

There are so many moments in our lives which I believe are worthy of being appreciated more fully than we often allow. For me, these moments provide strength for the challenging times and suggest such future opportunities if we are willing to persevere. They also help me provide a better understanding into myself and my dreams, and help me shape some of those future experiences. While each of us should find our own rewards, I think a mindfulness of these opportunities helps reveal them more often than we might otherwise discover.

On my recent anniversary excursion to Niagara Falls there were many obvious moments of delight. Listening to Tracy’s exclamation when we stepped into our falls view room on the 22nd floor of the Sheraton was certainly powerful, as was my own experience when I opened the balcony and heard the immediate thunder which gave the Falls their name “Thundering Waters.” Again, there was the first unveiling of the colored lights which illuminate the rainbow falls in a chromatic splendor each evening. For the adventurous part of me, there was the newly created zip line over the gorge, in front of the falls towards the Horseshoe Falls which I can attest was invigorating to many! Certainly riding the Hornblower, sister ship to Maid of the Mist, into the Horseshoe Falls and feeling the spray of the thundering falls was also a highlight. Yet despite these and many more opportunities it was a simpler aspect that captured me powerfully enough to warrant my shared introspection.

Randy and Tracy take a selfie at Niagara Falls!I was standing on the upper deck of the Hornblower with my right hand clenched firmly onto the rail while my left hand held Autumn’s leash. She nudged her head against that hand as she thrust her nose upward to draw in the scents which seemed to be calling deep into her instinctual being. Tracy had just stepped away as the dramatics of Horshoe Falls were past us and I believe she wanted a different camera shot. I could still feel the mist upon my face and feel the cool October winds of that crisp fall morning.

I thought of how many travelers, adventuring-minded people had shared some of the feelings I was experiencing at that moment. I was exploring a bit of the marvels of our world, feeling, smelling and tasting the natural world so deeply. I was energized by the feeling as all my senses searched to absorb as much as possible and to retain the feelings while a calmness overtook my mind. It was the same calmness I feel when I make the time to step away from the more frantic pace of the world and remind myself of the foundation from which I want to base my world. It was so easy to find in that moment and so unrelated to the experience around me, it’s a calm I may achieve, albeit with more determined effort, at any point I’m willing to set aside five minutes for myself.

Whether I call it meditation, relaxation, or mindful calm; the point is that it’s a moment of incredible value in my life which I can have often if I so choose and yet can so readily lose as well. I didn’t have to travel all the way to Niagara Falls and undertake all those adventures to remind myself, but that is what it took this time and it’s a trip I hope to continue a little more regularly with the work and goals ahead!

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8 Oct 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Rob running in a race.On October 16 Rob Webber will run his very first marathon… while also choosing to guide me for that Bay State Marathon. While perhaps a surprising choice to some, it is not for me as Rob has spent many moments over the last 31 years providing me with many styles of valuable guidance. Our friendship began at the University of New Hampshire in the spring of 1985 and his friendship has been one of the greatest strengths in my life.

I could doubtless embarrass him with many tales of why his calm, steadfast, intelligent, caring, practical, and wise approach to the world has been so essential to my managing many challenges in my life. I could regale us all with humorous anecdotes of our mischievous and mirthful adventures and for those who share a fireside pint we may indeed do that a time or two ahead. I also happen to know there are plenty of recent photographic and video demonstrations of the amazing world adventures we’ve shared, and yet those who know Rob already are aware of these things and fortunately I’m fairly certain I’ve already made Rob well aware of how much I treasure our friendship. Why, then, this post?

I believe it is always appropriate to ensure the people we value in our lives are aware of how much they mean to us. I rarely have enough to give back to the many people like Rob who make so many choices to help me and this is just one moment to do such a thing. So absolutely thank you, Rob, for the friendship most of all, the moments of support at times when life was overwhelming, the moments of laughter when life needed celebrating, and in a simpler but well appreciated fashion, for the many miles ahead on the course of the Bay State Marathon.

Rob on the summit of Kilimanjaro.There are so many people who have guided me in races and each may have their own reasons for the choice. I’ve had so many guides it would fill the pages to list them and someday that’s exactly what I should do. For now, it is just an appreciation for those who take the time to step out of their own running goals, put focus on the notion they can add more challenges to their experience, and allow another person the opportunity to take part as we might not otherwise manage. Yes, I do believe there are rewards to the guide and yet that choice is still a remarkable decision which creates a tremendous opportunity and experience. I’ve run a few marathons now and spending hours of hours running with probably close to 50 different guides. In each situation, I would not have had the chance if they did not make that choice.

So to Rob and all my other guides as well as all those who guide other blind/visually impaired runners, I wish I had much more than a “thank you” to clearly offer you. The closest I may come to expressing that appreciation at present is in sharing how I feel when I am running. Whether in training or a race, whether exhausted or invigorated, whether hot or frozen, snow-encrusted, rain-drenched or sun-baked; each time I’m on a run, I recall the gift it is to feel my legs move, my lungs respond, and the freedom which is being gifted me. I’ve never yet failed to give a moment of reflection to my first run guide Quinn. Those who guide me honor his legacy and for me that is the highest honor I can bestow upon any guide. Whether the full meaning of that is something you understand, I assure it is of deep value and meaning to me.

So again, thank you to Quinn, Rob and all of my guides.

Randy and Rob at a Pats game.

 

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1 Oct 16

By Randy Pierce

Randy and Tracy kiss with an elephant in the backgroundThe year we founded 2020 Vision Quest was also the year Tracy and I  chose to wed. With a perfect date of 10/10/10 for our backdrop, the adventures of 2020 Vision Quest have been fundamentally intertwined in our lives.

While not always as grandiose as a voyeur elephant (see accompanying picture) to our romantic moments, the adventures have taken us around the world. This year they will take us just a little bit north as we each make our first visit to Niagara Falls to experience all aspects of this natural wonder. Whether it’s the rainbow bridge, the Maid of the Mists, or even the thrill of the new zip line, we’ll work them all appropriately into our celebrations of our love story. I love that I have a supportive partner eager to create and share adventures with me and certainly part of this post is a chance to wish Tracy: Happy Anniversary!

I also hoped to emphasize how fundamental Tracy has been to the 2020 Vision Quest Charity effort. Without her many sacrifices, the great work we’ve accomplished simply would not be possible. There are so many people who put in a lot of effort and care to ensure this organization may continue to perform the quality work and yet I’m confident few appreciate just how much Tracy has given to this project. Certainly she provides me a great deal of freedom to manage the many responsibilities and that’s a sacrifice we both accept and yet the greater part of her contribution is the vast amount of personal time, energy, skills and funds given to this effort. She does all of this with her own world of commitments in her full-time job, her training goals, her personal developments and the often too short amount of needed down time. It is our wedding anniversary this week ahead but it is also another year of appreciation and celebration for how much this incredible woman has given of herself to this mission.

Thank you, Tracy, and once again, Happy Anniversary.

The happy family!

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