Archive | March, 2012

Wrong Turns

31 Mar

One of our wrong turns led to an afternoon in this used book shop

I turned the wrong way driving Terry to Target. What with the stoplights and crosswalks, the mistake cost us another ten minutes of our afternoon. I wasn’t complaining. It is rare to have time with others, time in which there is nothing else to do but just be and exist. No lunches to make, no bathrooms to clean, and no tables to prepare for dinner. Terry and I listened to the radio and talked about what it must be like on the other side of the world. We watched people cross the street and talked about how lucky we were to have food and houses and Easter egg hunts. In a different world, I can see Ford inventing the car simply out of a need for time, telling his wife to put down her knitting for God’s sake and spend an afternoon enjoying the scenery.

When you have a disability, life begins with what society would call a wrong turn. A great deal of time is spent trying to get back to Normal Street, therapies and surgeries and medicines trying to make it right.  Forgotten are the parks, restaurants, and opportunities you pass on this new road, a road you didn’t realize you’ve been on since the first clicks of the seatbelts. It is how we go on walks, assuming we are lost, until Cathy exclaims in mock surprise that we just happen to wind up at IHOP.

Maybe the map of life for people with disabilities has a few detours, a significant number of closed roundabouts, but I am learning to make sure I don’t already know where I are going before I stop to ask for directions. We are a dysfunctional family, at times being led by a soccer mom that only realizes upon reaching the game that none of the kids play soccer. We are wearing high heels instead of cleats, the grass is muddy, but there’s no doubt there’s a good coffee shop down the street. More often than not, hot chocolate was what we were looking for in the first place. It’s true that sometimes the GPS will take the scenic route without permission and sometimes a disability will be a reminder that turn signals are only suggestions. I guess no one ever found the ocean by driving straight. Terry and I made it to Target eventually, but who cares about Target anyway?

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Windows

27 Mar

The moon was huge the other night. It was one of those moons that is scary in its beauty, its awesomeness a sure sign that it had fallen off its normal path in space and was headed straight towards Earth. Matt and I sat at the dinner table, silent and staring, me being sure that within the hour the moon would take down the mountains and palm trees and crash into the big picture window in front of us. None of the other core members or assistants seemed to be aware of the risk we were facing. They weren’t lucky enough to have the seats with the view.

As we ate our soup and salad, it seemed absurd to me that the moon could be seen by anyone else on the planet. The perfection of its positioning in front of our window made me sure that the moon was putting on a show just for us, a private screening in honor of something good we must have done that day. It was similar to the way you can stumble upon waterfalls in rivers and clearings in forests and feel pride in believing you were the first to have discovered nature. Although you know this couldn’t possibly be true, you feel all the more happy in knowing that others have shared in this secret of the Earth as well. I wonder if anyone else stumbled upon the moon that night, eating dinner, looking out the window, claiming individuality in the shared experience.

There is something unifying about the moon. Besides the sun, it is the only thing we can be sure reaches every person’s view every single day. No matter the differences we find around the world in politics, attitudes, sentiments, or values, the moon offers itself as a common landscape. It defies borders and oceans, unconcerned about the wars and hostility and lines we draw across our bedroom floors and hearts. It ignores time zones and schedules, my mom assuring me during stays away from home that, no matter the distance between us, we would always be looking at the same moon. And as long as the next harvest moon doesn’t succeed in making its way into my dining room, this is a permanent point of connection for humanity.

This is not to say that we all see the same moon in the same way. I was looking at the moon through a window, a very different window from the window I looked at it through only a week previous. Now in Orange County, I look through a window placed between walls and trees and grass and wood floors that make up a home with a history I don’t know yet but will soon become a part of. How many times has this window seen Stephanie gardening in the front yard, Sarah not understanding why Stephanie can’t hear her yelling through the glass? Mary looking at housing prices and watching for the bus? Bowls of cereal with the sunrise?

Stained with the struggles, questions, dreams, and hopes of those that have looked through it for countless years, this window serves as a lens to the universal landscape with a filter of individual history. Our window has seen questions of difference, inequality, disability, and love. Maybe the house down the street looks at the moon through a window that has seen scenes regarding wealth, happiness, and what it means to be successful. Maybe on the other side of the planet, a family looks at the moon through a window without glass, carved out of clay. Maybe that window has been witness to the struggles of poverty, of identity, of the battles between culture and the need to survive. Probably too close to home, someone is looking at the moon through a window that only exists in the imagination. This window has held the struggles that come with wondering about the next meal and the night’s weather forecast. Every window shows us the moon–the same moon–yet every window has a vastly different story.

As I sat at the dinner table that night, I felt lucky to be looking at the moon. More importantly though, I felt lucky to be looking at it through that window, now becoming a part of its unique history, a witness to its responsibility as a lens to life’s greater connectedness. Needless to say, I’ll be keeping my spot at the dinner table.

Beginning

27 Mar

I’m assuming you know who I am, as my two readers (hey Mom and Dad!), have known me for a while. If by some chance you are not my parents, thanks for stopping by! My name is Diana and I will be using this blog to write about…well, we will have to find out, won’t we? I didn’t intend to write a blog. In fact, having recently graduated from college, I was excited for a break from writing assignments. It seems though that this is writing of a different breed. This adventure has no requirements, no hovering red pens, no collegiate expectations. I am free. That being said, I will try to remain focused in the most liberal sense of the word. Here’s a little background.

I recently moved to Orange County to work as an assistant with an organization called L’Arche, an international non-profit with 137 houses for people with disabilities in over 40 countries. Each L’Arche community is home to a handful of disabled adults, called core members, and their assistants. In sharing life, all residents grow together as they explore questions of disability, vulnerability, and what it means to be human. My house is home to five core members: Mary, Matt, Connor, Stephanie, and Sarah. Now, to live with L’Arche is not to run away to Antarctica to save the polar bears from melting ice caps or to the rainforests to jump in front of bulldozers as they knock down trees. It is more simple than that. More complex maybe. More ordinary. It is sharing life. It’s going to the bookstore and looking out windows and washing dishes. It’s the ordinary moments that lead to a lifetime of meaning. It is how you can be waiting at a stoplight for three minutes and suddenly get side swiped during your first few seconds in the intersection. It is finding a dollar in your pocket, a note in your lunch box, a sunset through the fog. It is the little, ordinary moments that lead to a life of beauty. Every second that leads to years, every word that leads to paragraphs and books, every decision that leads to fulfillment.

My plan is to focus on the simple, on those everyday things that sometimes go unnoticed but are fundamental to our ability to make sense of life. There is magic behind everything, goodness within anything, and beauty in all. Thanks for reading.

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