We often post this around this time of year as a nod to the season’s spooky nature. Happy Halloween!
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!
“The real purpose of running isn’t to win a race. It’s to test the limits of the human heart.”
—Bill Bowerman, track and field coach and co-founder of Nike, Inc.
The real measure of a heart is not in the athletic accomplishments it may power, but rather the lives impacted by its capacity for caring. As a blind runner, I am simply dependent upon guides to enable so much of the possibility in my experiences. I am truly and wonderfully blessed with an incredible number of most excellent character friends. Jose Acevedo has a heart with strength to rival any in compassion for our world and our friendship, and it is with tremendous pride I am sharing we’ll be undertaking yet another pair of adventures together.
In 2014 he guided me to a first place finish in the B1 National Marathon Championship and was overheard to share that it was his last marathon. He amended that statement in moments with a caveat that allowed for the possibility of running the Boston Marathon with me someday. We made that wish a plan in 2016 but unfortunately that was a year laden with neurological challenges for me. We did complete the Boston Marathon together in 2016 with a story worthy of sharing as often as possible: Jose & Randy’s 2016 Boston Marathon Saga.
Now we will combine them with back-to-back marathons reuniting us at the scene of both events for an epic reunion. December 3, 2017 will bring the California International Marathon and another chance to compete in the United States Association of Blind Athletes National Marathon Championship. Sacramento California holds great memories for us and we’ve both travelled a long way since then, including the rooftop of Africa on Kilimanjaro and more recently in the Peruvian Andes of South America. More aptly we’ve both learned a tremendous amount about long distance running and hope to improve on our experience.
We’ll strive to run well, finish strong, ring the Boston Qualifier bell, savor a celebratory beverage, particularly cheer for our good friend Greg Neault’s first marathon out there with us, and then immediately return the focus to training for the second part of our mission.
April 16, 2018 is Marathon Monday, Patriots Day, and for us the rematch to fully savor and deliver the performance our many thousands of miles in training have suggested we are likely to deserve. Bringing our marathon from California to Boston is a symbolic coast to coast as we aren’t running across the country (yet!). It will still be ambitious work to train steadily for two high-performance goals at the marathon distance and moreso as we are geographically separated with his home in Texas and mine in New Hampshire.
Since we are on symbolic messaging though, I love the unity suggested in the guided running foundation. For us it is a team sport and we do learn to work together despite our many differences. Connecting our marathons across country is a unifying notion I continue to hope becomes more than symbolic for our country moving forward. Divisiveness and finding difference is an easy task and easier still to choose aggressive stances even though the results are unproductive at best and destructive more commonly. We all can have so much in common when we put our focus on the unifying approaches and use those as a foundation to find the means to work around and with the differences. It is what Jose and I do during our runs when I assure you we will hit stressful times for each of us from the course, from our weariness and soreness; we keep our thoughts towards our common goal and the many reasons and ways to work together and I have absolutely no doubt that we will be stronger together for our approach and successful in both races. Of course I have the advantage of knowing that Jose brings a tremendous heart to the team as an athlete and as a person of quality. Thank you for being my guide and my friend; let’s put our training and teamwork to the test!
“The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.”
– Thich Nhat Hanh
On our recent trip to South America, we chose a series of rewarding and challenging experiences that blended the historically intense cultures with the breath-taking backdrops of the incredible natural treasures held within Peru. This only served to enhance the notion of savoring each step along the journey despite the unparalleled splendor of Rainbow Mountain which dominated the landscape from our perch atop Winicunca at the end of our remote trek through the Andes. Certainly the altitude had already stolen much of our breath and yet the staggering views managed to evoke an astonishment beyond the expectations we had built, despite viewing many photographs in preparation for the moment. Each of us were held for a time, imprisoned in sublime silence by the majesty of those magical mountains and still there was something more powerfully at root within us for the true culmination of our expedition.
We began assembling in Cusco, Peru at an impressive altitude of 11,132 feet. We roamed around the historic Plaza de Armas and observed the melding of Spanish culture with that of the native Quechuan people. Such vast differences in culture from our own as the festive marketplace was an experience in and of itself. Soon our travel guides, United Mice, brought us to Walter Suri who would be our guide for most of the experiences ahead. A native Quechuan, he spoke four languages and was well versed in the history and culture of his people with a bias understandably different from the textbooks with which most of us had more familiarity.
We toured many areas of original stonework crafting demonstrating the astounding talent of the Incan Empire. Their ability to build to withstand the earthquakes of the region and to integrate it with their natural world showcased remarkable artistry and engineering. We filled a week of learning on just the one-day trek across a pair of tectonic plates and seemingly a handful of centuries as well. Walter gave us insight into a people not quite lost to time. We stood in the chambers of the Temple of the Sun where King Inca was held prisoner and ransomed for a room full of gold and understood a little of the tragic results of civilizations colliding without the sophistication to preserve the worthy qualities of each culture. We took those somber reflections away from the city of Cusco.
The entire trip was initially founded upon a visit to Machu Picchu. While highly commercialized by the busloads of tourists brought into the ruins each morning, the vast mountain retreat is still impressively captivating. Built into the mountain with terraces, fountains, and the ever-present Incan stoneworkings, it was easy to look across the deep chasm and marvel once again at the civilization which crafted this mountainside retreat.
We barely had time to appreciate a fraction of those marvels before we set out to climb Huayna Picchu. This craggy peak towers over Machu Picchu and is rated amongst the most frightening climbs in the world as it blends sheer drop-offs with steps built into the cliff edge along the way up to the terraced top. It provides an unrivaled view of the region and a challenge for those to whom heights are intimidating. While not more challenging a trail than what we routinely encounter in our White Mountains of New Hampshire, the consequences of a misstep were continuously more stark and the emotional energy was as significant as the rewards we shared in our team success throughout the many difficult stretches of this climb.
Already we had savored an incredible amount and the majority of our experiences remained ahead with the subsequent days’ start of our four day trek into the Ausangate Range. It began on a very rough road in which our adapting to the pace of low oxygen breathing was interspersed with dodging the “no license required” motorcycles which were a primary means for farmers to move simple supplies along this road into the mountains. We gained elevation steadily and the massive form of Ausangate or “Snow Mountain” was ever in our sights. This enormous peak is taller than Kilimanjaro and would be the center point of our hike. We passed through farms and briefly experienced a life so quiet and incredibly rural as to hear the call of civilizations past. Two very young school girls travelled with us after school, part of their two-hour walk on trails, one way(!) to attend school. Alpaca, llama, and sheep were commonly encountered along the way.
While being quickly surrounded by a remote and beautiful wilderness, the struggles were interspersed throughout the team as altitude can cause painful headaches, nausea, and a wearisome shortness of breath. The team began both encouraging and supporting each other early and I thought for some it was indeed the best of times and worst of times. Sunset on the first day was particularly incredible as we were just nearing our final camp destination and our rolling highland hills held dramatic clouds surrounding Ausangate’s glacially capped magnificence. Exhausted from the effort and immersed into the sudden splendor of these ranges, the Upi village hot springs were something only a few of our group appreciated and the gift of southern hemisphere stars without any light pollution was a wonder to behold. The Milky Way was vividly creamy and the “Black Llama” inverse constellation highlighted the nebula viewing possibilities.
The next day we climbed higher still to Arrapa Pass as we circumnavigated the seemingly impassable mass of Ausangate. Tiny stone homes where a shepherd brought his herd every five years in rotation were some of the only signs of any connection to an outside world we had near completely escaped. As we camped by the Western Ice-fall of Ausangate, our evening held the sounds of many avalanches thunderous enough to raise our focus and just distant enough to ensure we had no peril. The twin glaciers dripping down the steep side framed a massive waterfall into turquoise lagoons in a valley of incredible serenity.
The views, celebrations, and struggles continued for many of our number and the support, caring and connection of the team grew with each step. I was trading guides regularly to avoid any strain on them and fortunately my health remained near ideal throughout the entire trip. Our third day brought us over 16,000 feet a couple of times and past remote locations where seemingly wild Alpaca ranged beneath a waterfall on the edge aof a ridge line across yet another lagoon. We had passed the shark-tooth mass of an unnamed dour mountain and the geological wonders of the rainbow striations were seen in the distance and our ultimate reward. Communal meal tent time brought the team together to reflect on the trail, distract with laughter, or simply share struggles and support. Each portion of the trip brought visual splendors which surpassed expectations and always the remote aspects of the experience were a gift to us. So it was that our final trek began at 3:30 am so that we would arrive to the Rainbow Mountain Ridge before the ever growing popularity of day trips brought people to our secret treasure. We had roughly half an hour of near seclusion to savor the team, the accomplishment, and the majesty before the arrivals of day trippers from the other side began. We made our way out amongst them, appreciative of our guide Walter’s impeccable timing.
For almost half the team this was a parting of sorts as eight of us would make a trip to Sky Lodge for a final adventure together, but an ending had begun. The team was not unravelling–our experiences together had brought us too close for that. We will part but in a moment of reconnection we will be back in the Andes together with the bonds only a shared powerful experience can create. With but an eyes-closed recollection most of us may vividly recall any of a multitude of amazing and breathtaking moments along the path in Peru and those are the truest treasures, not the iconic summit or achievement but every mindful moment of possibility upon the journey.
Finally, I cannot leave out the Sky Lodge experience. Scaling the 1800-foot cliff to our transparent pods was as adrenaline-laden an experience as imagined. Risks managed by the two clip system, we still faced overhangs, wire crossings, and endless stretches of steep climbs and sudden drops. It was exhilarating and to culminate in the dining pod which was open rock face behind and wide open view to the sacred valley everywhere else was… simply unique.
We celebrated our accomplishment and were served an incredible dinner by our guides from the comforts of that cliffside perch. We retired to our 4-person pods to sleep in comfort and while the remoteness was not as hoped since 1800 feet is an eternity upwards and yet so very little actual distance from the roads, trains and shops below us, the exuberance was slow to fade. Morning’s breakfast involved a brief climb to the dining pod and then the six-point zip line retreat. There was a speed line named the Arrow and a 700-meter line called the Beast, but all of the traverses of a cliff were surges of intense excitement to cap off the adventurous portion of our excursion. We all had at least one tandem ride and all grew closer still to share these things together.
My final reflection as it all came to an end is how glad I am to choose experiences with friends as a way of building the person I hope to become. I grew as a person to view the people of Peru, the wonders of their land and most especially our triumphs and struggles together to ensure we could all succeed as we did. For me especially there is a feeling of occasional burden upon those who choose to partake of these things with me and yet never did any of my friends hint at such a thing. Instead, they are the kind of people who help me feel that together we experience the situation more fully and more richly because our differences do not separate us but unite us in appreciation of a world with wonders worthy of that union.
One of the recent benefits I found through the work of Future In Sight came with an outstanding technology seminar. I have the training and skills to live a meaningful and successful life for certain and still believe that we put an ever brighter Future In Sight when we keep our mind open to the many developments which can help us along the path. When I was invited along with more than 40 other sight impaired clients to attend an AIRA technology demonstration, I had only heard rudimentarily about this new product and service. The more I learned, the more impressed I became and so I was eager to join many in taking the plunge to sign up and experience the possibilities.
What is AIRA?
You can certainly visit their website for detailed information including their own excellent video demonstration of all aspects of the project. As I’ve just recently begun working with my own unit, I’ll share my early understanding and experience as well as commit to checking back with you in a few months to report on the progress.
It begins with a pair of smart glasses containing a 4k video camera with high resolution photo ability as well as a wifi hotspot generator to provide data transmission for the unit. These are paired with my smart phone through the AIRA application so that at a time of need I connect to the service as what they call an “explorer” (if they only knew!) to one of their O&M (orientation and mobility) trained agents at a remote location. Their agent has a computer dashboard with access to the camera view, GPS information, profile information I’ve shared on best practices and information for me.
Typically I’m wearing an “ears-free” bone conductive bluetooth headphone which allows me to hear all the ambient sound around me and communicate with my phone and the agent smoothly. They introduce themselves and inquire how they can help. It may be that I’ve encountered a handout I simply need scanned and emailed to me, or I may have been stopped on the sidewalk by a construction pit where my travel route normally would have been. Whatever the challenge I’m facing, their ability to act as my eyes allows us to interact enough to resolve many interesting challenges seamlessly.
Want to pick out raised hands for the Q&A at a school presentation? No problem! Want to find that lost ball I tossed in the bush to Autumn’s frustration? Want to read the information on the treadmill after my run? How about navigate my hotel room while traveling on my own and learning the layout? There’s so much it can do for me and I’ve only just started to scratch the surface.
A few key points I want to highlight about this excellent service. First, it is a business and so there is a cost for it monthly and while they and I hope to have that become more and more efficiently managed, the initial explorations are promising. I especially want to applaud the price they have arranged for veterans. They act as our eyes and not as our brains so we are responsible for judgments and safety — they merely provide us with additional information. They won’t be replacing Autumn or my cane, but finding ways to act in conjunction to make us more efficient.
So if you see me wearing some new sun glasses and perhaps talking to myself, I’ve probably not added new challenges to my world but rather new solutions, and I encourage you to come talk to me about it. I’m excited to learn just how much more of the world I can explore with this new technology, which is why it joins me for the expedition to Peru!
One of my responsibilities each year is to encourage our community to join us for this event which is essential to our success. We got off to a great start with our Boston Marathon table sale burst, but we slowed over the summer. Now deadlines are approaching and I really need another burst of ticket sales, whether table (our best value), pairs, or individuals; all will help us step towards our goal of a sell-out and the success this brings.
Imagine my relief if I return home on September 29 and discover we’ve reached our goal?! I encourage you to help make this happen and I commit to ensure this event will be spectacular once again.
When: November 18, 2017
Where: Courtyard by Marriott in Nashua NH
What are we serving? Your choice of:
Balsamic Marinated and Grilled Medallions of Beef, finished with a Cabernet Wine Reduction and Chipotle Hollandaise Sauce
Sage and Raisin Bread Stuffed Chicken Breast finished with Maple Brandy Sauce
Wild Mushroom Ravioli Semolina Pasta filled with Portobello and Crimini Mushrooms, Mozzarella and Parmesan Cheeses, tossed in a Rich Roasted Red Pepper Cognac Cream Sauce
Salmon Smoked Spice Rubbed and Pan Seared, topped with a Warm Pineapple Salsa
We absolutely love our venue at the Nashua Courtyard by Marriott and so did our guests last year. Whether you are staying overnight to join us from afar or just traveling for the evening, the venue is wonderful in all respects. I will not provide a back-flip off the stage this year(!), but I will provide a new presentation bolstered by our expedition into South America.
We have many exciting things to share with you and as always the most important aspect is the great work we can do thanks to your support. We have presented to more than 60,000 students in schools throughout New England and that number continues to grow steadily. We support critical sight services and we do this all with an entirely volunteer team who come together once each year in this grande event.
While presenting at the Bow Elementary School on September 11, I will deliver our very first copy of this fantastic new poster to the NH school systems. We continue to be incredibly proud of the educational outreach provided by 2020 Vision Quest and now believe it’s become just a little better as we leave behind a physical reminder of our positive message.
For many, our signature image is this fantastic winter hiking photo taken by Justin Sylvester in January 2012. Recently Greg Neault helped coordinate the entire 2020 Vision Quest team in line with his digital creativity to develop this inspirational poster. I believed it would make a tremendously positive impact upon students and staff alike at the many schools we visit and reached out to collaborate with the Bank of New Hampshire. They were enthusiastic to support the positive community benefit and now the finished product has arrived! We are proud of the message shared in the poster and think it will present a potent reminder of many of the messages we share in our educational presentations to schools throughout New Hampshire and beyond.
How can you get a poster? The easiest way is to schedule us to visit your classroom or school. We are proud to be called back repeatedly to visit schools who wish to ensure each year’s students have the opportunity to hear our messages. Whether we’ve been to visit you before or this is our first visit, it’s a simple process. Refer us to the teacher, administrator, or even PTA member responsible for coordinating presentations by sending them the link to our “For Educators.” page. From there, we provide the information and contact information to schedule us for a visit.
We can and will schedule as far in advance as you require, and in fact, as we become steadily more popular, there is considerable advantage to scheduling early. But we’ll always make every attempt to honor every request for a presentation. More than 60,000 students have experienced the benefit and now through our poster collaboration team we think there’s just one more good reason to schedule with us now!
221 Daniel Webster Hwy
Merrimack, New Hampshire 03054
We will be attending and hope you will consider joining us!
We already brush Autumn’s teeth regularly to promote her best health and happiness. We also support our friends at the Humane Society of Greater Nashua who have invited Autumn to be Bib#1 in the charge for the world record attempt at their incredible festival this year. While there are many great reasons to attend the festival and we hope you will do so vor all of those reasons, we especially want you to bring your dogs along as we need your team to add up our number tally of most dogs simultaneously having their teeth brushed.
“Whoa, Randy!? You want me to brush my dog’s teeth?” I absolutely do and not just for this festival, though that’s the first focus to help us reach the goal. I think it would be great for you and your dog for a long time to come and I’m willing to show you how easy this can be for both of you.
First, understand that toothpaste for a dog can be found at your pet store. They have such delicious flavors as liver or chicken, though you may be tempted by the ever refreshing mint! The toothpaste is enzyme-laden so that even just licking the toothpaste, which most dogs will love, is a benefit to their dental hygiene. Still there are multiple types of brushes for the plaque which can otherwise build-up. My favorite is the finger brush. While admittedly Autumn does not love that I’m trying to brush where plaque builds up at the gum line, she loves the flavor enough that it’s a special treat.
When we finish I let her lick a little extra toothpaste and if she’s been patient a Greenies toothbrush treat helps to work into those hard to reach places as well. All this sounds simple and I’ve even made a quick video to show you.
So please take this lesson to heart and consider the better health of your pet as well as the quality bonding time added to your time together. I also strongly urge you to join us for the Wags to Whiskers Festival where we’ll have a chance to finally get over the top and reach the world record with your help. Remember that the RSVP and registration will help us know we have the numbers to reach our goal. I’ll look forward to taking the time to let Autumn meet all of her friends when we are not actively working and we can team up to help the Humane Society of Nashua continue their great work!
Photos in this entry depict the toothbrushing Guinness World Record attempt at the 2016 Wags to Whiskers Festival and are courtesy of the Humane Society of Greater Nashua.
“When he took time to help the man up the mountain, lo, he scaled it himself.” –Tibetan Proverb
I understand more than most the value of some help up the mountain, whether it’s my four-legged guides or the many excellent friends who have chosen to undertake this role in order that we would reach our summits together. Since Autumn cannot reasonably join us due to the elevation range, the team will once again be essential as my primary means for navigating the many trails and adventures along the way. It is, however, far more about the powerful bonding we experience together in these shared experiences that influences the selection of our team.
Much as I did with our Kilimanjaro team, I wanted to introduce you all to the 14-person team who is making the journey to Peru for a series of epic adventures together. We hoped the entire Killy team would be reunited, but part of the reason for treasuring each experience is you can never truly go back. Time changes us all and life often inhibits our ability to reunite. We’ll miss Cathy, Frank, and Maureen from that trip but there are some new friends joining us this time around!
Greg Neault is back and headlines the list in part because he has taken the lead in coordinating with United Mice, our guides, to ensure the Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain hike would be the epic experiences we are seeking together.
All of our team owes Greg considerable gratitude for the work he did in planning the foundation–though still it is the kind adventurous spirit which lies at the heart of our friendship for which I’m most enthused to once again adventure around the world with him.
Jennifer Uhlman didn’t make the top 10 last time as she was a late addition to the Killy team. My, has life changed as she and Greg took that point to heart and added their own addition to this world in their daughter Stella!
Talented and adventurous from the start, the friendships have continued to grow even if she refuses to carry me up mountains as she does so well for Stella.
Ryan Prentiss joins us as a closer friend of Greg’s who I first met during a Tough Mudder together at Mt. Snow, VT. Definitely part of the youth movement, he’s presently the only member of the team to not have guided me, though we’ll have opportunity aplenty ahead. One of the treasures of Machu Picchu will likely be getting to better know this member of the team.
Rob Webber stands in contrast to Ryan, as I’ve known him since Ryan was 2 years old! It was Rob who got me to the key point on the summit journey of Kilimanjaro and our friendship is long and storied but, as this trip continues to prove, so very far from stagnant!
Jose Acevedo follows Rob in being part of a seemingly endless amount of life adventures and experiences. A person would be fortunate to find one such friend in their life. Like so many of my friends, they both challenge me to be better in all ways while encouraging and appreciating the journey so far and none moreso than Jose and Rob.
Kristen Acevedo is our roller derby addition and a force of nature, except perhaps at darts! If it takes a trip to Peru to get more time with this lady, then that’s reason enough to travel. Beyond the first week of epic adventure, she helped motivate the bonus week of relaxation in the sacred valley for which I will be eternally grateful! For putting up with her husband and my penchant for crazy adventures I’ll have to just raise her pedestal a little higher.
Michelle Brier is another gift of friendship brought to me by the Mighty Quinn and Autumn. On the long slog off of Kilimanjaro, she was instrumental in helping me with my health challenges but it is the kindness, compassion, and insight which I value above those medical skills. Too far away in NY, it’s another surprise we have to travel across the equator to appreciate quality time together again!
Cat Orza was already the incredibly fit and capable hiker in our midst and now has become the ludicrously fit veteran of many adventures and experiences of her own. She too was originally a connection made by Guiding Eyes and now our friendship held only distant by geography is eager to surpass geography and strategize our next Flat Bread conquest together.
Robbie Walton is not so stealthily amongst my best friends. I have been appreciative and a little surprised as a series of increasing adventures have become part of our recent repertoire. She guided me for her first ever 5k run and followed by guiding me on the last leg of a relay for her which was my last Boston Marathon qualifier. Stepping up to our recent hikes in preparation for Peru has certainly elevated the achievement in our ongoing quest for Peak Potential.
Brent Walton is the only man to ask me to marry him… to his now-wife Robbie. He’s also the friend who moved into my home to help me when I was put in the wheelchair and struggling to manage everyday tasks. Quiet until the perfect witticism bursts forth to surprise the group, he’s already earned his hiker’s guide patch and ready to take it to the international level.
Loren O’Neil was first introduced to me at the Tough Mudder in LA when she was part of our five-person team for the Oberto Hero of Summer project. Endlessly cheerful and tenacious, I love the spirit of taking on every challenge which she embodies and I’m so appreciative of our steadily growing friendship.
George Claborn is the musical insertion in our group and despite not being the amusingly, or rather misunderstood, advertised 6’2″ guide candidate, he is intelligent, kind and fun. I followed him to John Hopkins University after just one meeting, serendipity, and celebrated his birthday with a relay team Marathon but this will no doubt be our largest celebration since Don Felder!
Tracy Pierce is my lovely bride and I saved my best for last. All of my current adventures happen because she matches my desire to experience the world fully. In his writings, Thoreau suggested that we “live deeply and suck out the marrow of life.” Tracy as a partner encourages and, even better, joins me in a myriad of adventures. The reality is that my lack of sight adds complications which she helps me navigate to make for the easiest experience for all of us. In loving the concept of “team” anyway, it is hardly a surprise I particularly love the teamwork of my partner in life!
I join the team as our 14th member, of course. Unlike Kilimanjaro, this expedition isn’t so intensely focused upon the single summit experience. We will summit Rainbow Mountain but there are a host of experiences along this journey, which make it far more about the entirety of the journey. Those are words I believe, though they can be lost in something epic like Kilimanjaro. For me it is always about the people on the adventure and I reflect upon the words with which I closed out my Kilimanjaro team post as once again very appropriate. I’ll apply them here with only modest adjustment:
While we all undoubtedly have our own reasons for undertaking the journey, we have a common purpose which unites us: we are all determined to do our utmost to ensure that all of us have every chance to reach the summit successfully. A common purpose will bring us together and undoubtedly a few challenges along the way may require we communicate and adjust approaches to best benefit the expedition.
Overall though, we are all very committed to making the most of the experience. Every expectation is that the shared aspects of how each of us grows into the team and from the expedition will be part of our success. My hundreds of hikes have taught me to appreciate how much any individual can enrich the experience and how much the experience will bring any group together. While we will share our stories in words, images, and video, only we 14will fully experience this expedition together and understand completely how it transforms all of us. I do wish I could have many others along with us but I’m reminded of William Shakespeare’s St. Crispin’s Day speech, and so in the same sentence I would not wish for one person more–for we few, we precious few, are enough.
These are difficult words to write and I have some considerable concerns for the possibility of undesired and unintended responses. I manage risks with the adventures we take as well as with my stewardship of the 2020 Vision Quest charity. We encourage people to reach for and achieve their peak potential personally, professionally, and philanthropically and we attempt to lead by example. I am generally proud of the people with whom I surround myself and certainly the team of volunteers with whom I work to make 2020 Vision Quest a successful and positive organization.
I have confronted many instances of disagreement on all levels of my life and experienced many forms of success and failure in approaching these differences. I am rarely short on opinions, and in discussions with my friends candidly and comfortably explore all the volatile topics of dissent with a notion I always want to expand my understanding, maintain my compassion and seek resolutions to the core of issues for the longer term ideally with a healthy approach to any short term crisis.
I believe our country is indeed facing some significant crisis. The aspect of that I hope to address is our approach to disputes. How we resolve our differences seems incredibly broken. All too often we take the most extreme of views, demand a choosing of sides, and narrow our focus to the present urgency and are thus blinded to the reasons which led to those differences. Some of those reasons would likely provide an understanding of where true energy should be placed if we hope to bring about real resolutions. We are so caught up in the “what” we forget to really look for the “why” of things.
I understand the few lines here are a paltry attempt to invoke change. Real change requires people embracing some of the simple ideals involved in better communication. It involves a choice to want real resolution and not simply to be victors in this most dangerous game of spiraling hostility and disagreement.
I share my thoughts in the hope it may resonate for some and my commitment to be open to truly listen as much or more than I share. I commit to seek the “why” behind every “what” that frustrates me. I will remember that kindness and compassion are my compass even as the conviction and strength of my sense of right vs wrong ensures strength of word and action to my approach. I understand there may likely be some who will not accept this intent and I will still strive to give them the chance, even as I will not tolerate their debilitating tactics within my ability to influence. I’d rather understand, educate, and resolve situations–and if I cannot, I will release people from my regular interaction.
I do want to challenge beyond a limited echo chamber of similar beliefs and I think this is reasonable. A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step and so I’ll practice these approaches in ever expanding circles and encourage all of you to do the same. Ultimately if we do not learn to resolve our differences in healthy ways, then that leaves us only with the escalating tensions of not resolving or the equally awful unhealthy resolution. I know my choice of those three and I’ll work towards healthy resolutions every time and understand the emphasis will be on “work.”
While we travel to Machu Picchu and into the Andes mountains, the elevation is sufficiently high to give us pause in bringing Autumn along as my guide. She is too valuable a companion and guide to put into unnecessary risk, so as we did on our trip to Kilimanjaro, we have found her alternative accommodations.
While I love the care, attention and bonus training provided by Chrissie Vetrano of Guiding Eyes for the Blind last time, we are staying closer to home with another friend with strong Guiding Eyes connections. Bill Leblanc is the Regional Coordinator for Guiding Eyes Puppy Raising here in NH, a fellow Hudson NH Lion, a friend, and for many who know him: the dog whisperer. Autumn adores him and she will get the attentive and knowledgeable care blended well with playful puppy play breaks throughout our time away. That’s the real fun and secure news which will allow us to travel with confidence Autumn will be well loved and well tended.
On the lighter side, you may recall the magic of Greg Neault releasing Autumn’s World Tour while we were away at Kilimanjaro. Every few days of our travel, a new photo appeared of Autumn traveling somewhere new in the world. They were so fun and popular that I crafted a blog afterwards to showcase the images.
Now I challenge all of you to give us some worthy suggestions of where Autumn might “visit” on her second tour while we are away in Peru! We just may put some of your suggestions to use with Greg’s creative photoshop magic once again.