My Pearl

I want to take you on an historic walk along the scenic ocean shore. Please, bear with my analogies. (I could have said “Bare with…” which means “get naked”…do what you will to get in the mood:))

It has never been my thing to talk a lot, particularly about myself. Solitude is, and has been, my oyster shell. Solitude remains a harboring place and cultivating bay for me.

 

Still waters

The sands of time have rudely, but mercifully, exfoliated the overgrowth of barnacles and parasites that have tried to infect the pearl God so caringly implanted inside me. In spite of or because of these rhythmic disturbances in my cultivation, my pearl has finally been harvested. It remains in the polishing stage, but its color and luster are appearing.

My voice, silenced since childhood, is my pearl. And like a ventriloquist, I talk with my hands; more specifically, my middle finger. NO, I’m not talking birds; I type with my middle finger.

I’m a slow southern talker of about 8 words a minute. I’ve been talking steadily for a while now but am still treading water in this social media thing. My cyber synapses are sparking to catch up with my speedy Gonzales fingers. ARRIBA!

My first book has been out since June, and I’m tweaking my second. My first children’s book will be out late winter or first of the year. I post each Friday on this blog, AND the first week of each month, I update at www.facebook.com/ConversationsWithCynthia. I’m going to talk your eyes out of your head.

Of course, you can’t “like” my first book, Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity, until you actually read it. You can PURCHASE it at http://booklocker.com/books/6235.htmlthen, let’s talk.

Please leave me a comment or review after my June 21, 2012 article, “Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity IS HERE!”

Talk to you soon.

 

A Hymn

Today, my topic is a hymn, like no other.

When my feet did all the walking, autumn was my favorite season.  I still love her displays of clear azure skies above amber and carnelian dressed trees, nippy winds raining down flurries of autumn leaves, and dropping temperatures ushering in winter. What I love about all four of the seasons is how they announce each others’ approach, like the warm-up opening act for the next season’s concert.

Since childhood, the one cohesive element in nature’s draw for me has always been the tent of the heavens. No matter the season, I lay transfixed on a blanket or cocooned in a sleeping bag staring heavenward, transfixed by its expanse, wondering, contemplating life, identifying the constellations, and praying. And, how I love a full moon!

In silence, I learned to listen to what I saw, and to trust what I heard. Though still, I can’t carry a tune with my voice, as I behold the night’s sparkling heavens, my heart sings to God.

I’m not alone when I say this: King David, who spent countless nights under the stars 3,000 years ago, wrote a psalm expressing his awe and understanding of the heavens.

He wrote: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line (sound, parenthesis mine) has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (Psalm 19: 1-4 KJV)

On the next clear evening, find an exquisite view of the heavens. Pause beneath them. Listen to their symphony. Soak in their harmony. Feel your heart swell with awe and hope. Pen your psalm and sing it.

No one will hear…except The One Who knows your name; The One Who hears your thoughts, The Wonderful One Who made you.

Just like the heavens shout without speaking a word, let your heart sing His favorite song.

He’s listening.

 

 

Soul Soaring

What weighs 110-115 deadweight pounds and is shackled to the earth by 30 pounds of metal? ME!

I used to love leg wrestling; and I was good, weighing in at only 105 pounds. I never studied or was trained in wrestling techniques; I just knew how to take another off-balance. It’s at the waist—the center of gravity. As long as I could get one of their legs from under their center of gravity, it was my match. Whether scuffling in the yard or in water (pool, ocean, lake, or swimming hole), it made no difference, except for the landing; which brings me back to deadweight.

Thefreedictionary.com defines deadweight as, “The unrelieved weight of a heavy, motionless mass.” Yes. Motionless? Yeah, except for my Scream 5-ish open-mouth/empty eyes, ghostly white face go-i-n-g  d-o-w-n. THUD! Early on, I even did a “motionless” face-plant into my dinner plate, stimulated from a back spasm. I’m sure a couple of you resemble that.

Let’s, for a minute, cast our deadweight aside, lift-off in our weightless imaginations, and go soul-soaring. Let’s

…silently hang glide with eagles aloft cool mountain currents over verdant valleys below. Listen to the whistling wind as it strokes your hair and kisses your face.

…swish down steep powder trails on air-spring knees with ski-pole’s rhythmic propulsion and metronome timing as silent ice crystals melt on your face and crown your toboggan.

…glide silently beneath the frigid water’s surface gently tossed in its oscillating ebb and flow. Soak in voyeuristic vistas of fish’s synchronized movements as you fluidly float among them, hearing only your Darth Vader-ish breathe in surround-sound.

…with tight grip, slalom on a tranquil mornings’ smooth-as-glass cool lake waters, whose only ripple is the boat’s wake.

…take a running leap off a crusty lichen-covered boulder into the still lake thirty feet below, dropping deep, and deeper into its black abyss. Feel your chest swell as you pull the waters down to propel your body up. When you finally burst through the liquid cocoon’s surface, you gasp in depleted air!

…rise up from sweltering beach towel sunbathing to bolt across blistering foot-scorching sands. Dive into the shimmering ocean’s cooling waters.

…meditatively sit on a smooth protruding rock along the seashore. Close your eyes as crashing waves explode their exfoliating salt on your already sticky skin. Tune in to squawking seagulls soaring above the ocean’s roar. Open your eyes. Watch as they dive-bomb through the water’s surface for their favorite fare.

…lay back on a fallen tree trunk within an autumn leaves-blanketed wood. Shhh! Listen to the rustlings of scampering squirrels playing chase, the distant call of a hawk for its mate, and the watchful doe with her fawn.

Or, feel

…the heat of summer’s sun on your skin,

…the soothing warmth of bath water or its sting on your sun-burned skin,

…melting ice cool your overheated body,

…chill-bumps,

…a mosquito bite.

Now, go back to one of these never experienced sports, a long forgotten sensation, or your favorite activity. In your mind, dwell there for an expanse of time, as the morning sun rises or evening’s sun sets, in your favorite season, alone or with a special someone. It’s your story. You’re the writer, director, cinematographer, and star.

Let your soul soar, often. It’s good for you.

 

Spontaneity

According to me, one of the misfortunes of living with a disability is the loss of spontaneity. I miss impromptu trysts with friends for a midday coffee, catching a matinee at the last minute, foot-scorching sands on the beach while beach towel sunbathing, walking barefoot in the rain….But recently, I felt overindulged at a friend’s “throw her own” birthday party.

She invited an estimated seventy friends for a special luncheon at her country club. The speaker was Dorothy McDaniels of Dorothy McDaniel’s Flower Market fame in Homewood, Alabama. (She has even made arrangements for Margaret Thatcher!) She demonstrated techniques of a dozen different floral arrangements using red roses and green roses (I didn’t know that there were green roses.), green hydrangeas, purple irises, hot pink lilies, yellow this and thats, and white everythings; I love the purity and simplicity of white.

My rose after a couple days’ bloom

The table settings were breathtaking. At each place setting was a single rose tied with bows of purple organza and spring green satin. Every rose was a different type and a different color. (This was my rose after a couple-of-days’ bloom.) The centerpieces were low and glorious with light and hot pinks, purples and periwinkles, orange and yellow and green. SEE! And, the meal was as colorful and tasty: Spring greens salad sprinkled with sliced strawberries, wild mushroom crepes with Béchamel (a rich, creamy white sauce) over a rice pilaf, and rainbow sherbet with a Pirouette (rolled cookie) served in a long stem wine glass. Yum!  This is me wearing my Asian tree Fascinator, after drinking my adrenalin (coffee).

Outings have been rare lately, although I’ll be out promoting my book, Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity, in the upcoming months!

Although, I believe this is my temporary home, I make the best of living with my disability. I look forward to traveling the universe beholding Reality, whole and healed, enjoying Real spontaneity.

 

Chicago, Chicago

Chicago theater

(NOTE: This is more than my standard 500 or less words for my articles. I didn’t want a “To be continued” tease at its middle. So, grab a juice or flavored water. Travel with me.)

For me as a SCI, travel and dilemma are synonymous. I look forward to the fellowship and activities at destination’s end, but the tedious planning and knowledge that MOST plans will crash before realized encroaches upon my hyped anticipation.

This recent Chicago trip was planned around a rehabilitation conference to sell my first book, Views From My Chariot: A Wheelchair Oddity http://booklocker.com/books/6235.html . To make travel possible, my dear friend and European daughter, Sandy LeBihan (one of my international exchange students twenty years ago), planned a two-week vacation to fly across the pond for our visit and my business adventure. We hadn’t seen each other since her third visit in 2007.

We flew a direct flight in an Express—a VERY SMALL, plane. Don’t do it…unless you can get out of your wheelchair or are a paraplegic.

Normally when I fly, I am the only wheelchair traveler; but as we waited to board, there were four other wheelchair users at the gate. Waiting my turn to be strapped into the hard plastic 12-inch-wide isle chair to be bumped and precariously rocked on board, each of the others transferred themselves into it.  Obviously, they were paraplegics.

Of course, I’m going to inquire who they are and where they are going after Chicago. The serendipity is: One was competing in tennis and a couple in basketball at the Paralympics in London! Sandy just came from there, 6 days ago. (She’s French but has lived in London for the past 6 years.)

The horror that snapped me out of my awe was my “handlers!” Inept and obtuse can’t describe the experience or their training. On the other hand, at the Chicago end, I have never experienced two more trained, qualified, and intuitive handlers. When I informed them of my poor upper body strength, they snapped into a harmonious flow of precision I have never experienced before. I wish I knew their names to applaud them. Thank you, guys! Two other of the eight seemed to understand quadriplegia.

“GO Airport Express” (www.airportexpress.com) has wheelchair accessible ramped vans. They have a counter by baggage claims. Make round-trip reservations including them to pick you up at the airport and take you back for your return flight.

Everything I had prearranged with the hotel two months ago was not arranged. There was no accessible room available until the next day (I had specifically reserved one beginning on that date), a mile-high bed that the hotel “engineers” could not lower, and as I had requested—with the foreknowledge of the need, there was no one at the desk who could lift me into the “accessible” bed at night’s end. An hour later after three calls, a dear woman from housekeeping came up to assist Sandy in heave-hoing me in, as she did for the following four nights.

The best things about our room was the skyline lake view, and the cloud-soft beds. Sandy and I both tend to be insomniacs. We slept like babies.

The week-end conference was successful and a delight due to the skill and contagious personality of Gary Rainaldi, its organizer. I met some wonderful people, made several good contacts, and sold a lot of books.

Saturday afternoon, Sunday, and Monday were scheduled with sight-seeing tours. Due to an hour-and-a-half wait for our “scheduled” taxi equipped with a wheelchair lift, we missed our Trolley tour. We waited two more hours to be told there were no more wheelchair accessible tours for the day. (After the fact, they were late because our hotel was twenty minutes from downtown. Their business is downtown where everything is happening. Stay downtown! But, Flash Cab Chicago, 773-561-4444,  was the best! Congenial and knowledgable of disability, the drivers were delightful.)

Sunday, we returned in the rain to be told the lift on that particular trolley was broken; there would be another trolley with a lift soon. An hour later, and after scrapping corroded metal from the wheelchair anchor locks in the Trolley’s floor, we saw Chicago—looking like drowned rats, but happy rats.

State Street

We traveled State Street where Batman rode his Bat mobile in “The Dark Knight.” (Many movies film on this street.) Somewhere on the tour, we passed the wreckage of 6 or 7 topsy-turvy police cars staged for the aftermath of a chase scene. And, we passed by Giordono’s, renowned as Chicago’s best pizza, although several boast the honor.

Overall, the Chicago Trolley (& Double Decker Co.) tour was informative and enjoyable. It was the hop on/hop off tour where you can get off or back on at fourteen allocated points to experience up-close-and-personal sight-seeing, shopping, and/or dining. If possible, plan the first morning tour to allow for this adventure. However, know the calculated arrival and departure times at each point or you might get stuck. The trolley sits for one minute at each stop.

A $35 ticket lasts for three days of trolley hop on/hop off sight-seeing. A tour without leaving the trolley lasts a couple of hours. If you have the time, ride the first day to pick points of interest where you would like to “hop-off” on other days. We didn’t have the time but were told getting off for a panoramic view of Chicago from the John Hancock Observatory was the exceptional one; there is also the Chicago Sky Deck in Willis Tower.

Sadly, due to so much waiting on the first day, we didn’t get to tour the museums or aquarium—my thing. For you shoppers, “the magnificent mile,” the northeast end of Michigan Avenue, is shopping nirvana.

Monday, blue skies returned for our 90-minute boat tour on the Chicago River and into Lake Michigan.

When I told Sandy that we would visit Chicago, her first thought was that she wanted to be on a boat like the scene with Julia Roberts’ and Dermot Mulroney’s characters in “My Best Friend’s Wedding.” (She works with Universal Studios!) This was my highlight—after a dubious beginning.

Wendella Dock below Wrigley Bldg

Boarding for the Wendella is at Wendella Dock, the ticket counter, at the base of The Wrigley’s Building (yes, the gum). Boarding for the disabled, wheelchair bound, or aged is supposed to be at The Trump Dock. BUT, the street lift down to the ramped, accessible boarding was out-of-service for the week. No one knew this or warned us of the possibility when we purchased our tickets.

After two days of missed tours and delays, we arrived two hours before scheduled boarding. (Thank you, Jesus; we are teachable.) ANYWAY…learning that the street lift was closed, we entered Trump Towers inquiring how to descend to Trump Dock.

Trump Towers

To save you an hour of finally solved cunundrums, Gwen, one of the concierges, retraced our steps to realize the inaccessibility to the boat. She called for building security to unlock a private entrance from Trump Towers to allow us onto the Trump Dock. (We met a ninety-year-old woman here. By her looks and agility, I bet she could have boarded the Wendella by jumping.) Gwen had a couple of bottles of ice cold water waiting for us upon our return. Thank you, Gwen!

On this architectural tour, we had breathtaking up-close views, excellent live narrative about magnificent buildings, architecture, and Chicago’s rich history. We passed through

Chicago skyline from the Wendella on Lake Michigan

Chicago’s Lock into Lake Michigan to view Chicago’s entire skyline. I always looked for the Batman Building (John Hancock) with the two metal spires reaching heavenward, and Navy Pier.

(Adults $26, seniors $24, and children (11 and under) $13. The Wendella even had an open bar.)

Allow me to give kudos to my little hero, Sandy. This trip would not have been possible without her; not just for her physical presense accompanying me, but also for her astounding mental and visual memory. Whether taking directions, finding our way, remembering people’s names, streets, or buildings, she’s a human GPS. I love you, Sandy. Thank you!

I’m glad to be home.