My Head Trip

I used to be an extrovert.

Now, I consider myself an introvert with some extrovert added to the mix. I have a hearing loss. One ear is deaf and the other partially deaf. I feel like I have an invisible veil separating me from others. 

Two years ago, after struggling to hear with friends, travelers, servers, family, salespeople,I checked into getting hearing aids. Each time, I felt frustration as technicians told me: “they should work.” They did not work for me. It began a path towards partial isolation and frustration.

I visited specialists at Kaiser, my medical group After test results, my doctor said, “You have a brain tumor which has damaged your auditory nerve."

“Hearing aids won’t help.”

“What?” My mind raced to thoughts of my grandfather who died of brain cancer. The doctor continued, “Good news: it is not cancer. Bad news: Permanent hearing loss with residual symptoms.”

 

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Communing With Oahu

by Atreyee Gupta

 

The first time my father took me to the island of Oahu, it was not to see the popular beaches. Instead we went straight to the interior of the Hawaiian isle where dense wilderness overtakes the landscape, creating a virescence that leaps out at the eye in full three-dimensional glory. It was a capital sight for me, an immediate opening up of my senses to the wonder of nature’s artwork. Ever since, immersing myself in Oahu’s jungle trails has been a necessity, an addiction I cannot deny.  

The Lost Cliffs of Oahu by Trey Ratcliff via Flickr CCL.

For my father, whose own parents had taken him as a child to the depths of the Wai’anae Mountains, Oahu’s wild heart was the key that unlocked his soul, bringing him back to himself. Our hikes exploring Waimea Valley or the Hau’ula trails were times, he explained, for us to look into our hearts and see the best of ourselves reflected in the natural world. “Know yourself,” was a phrase he often quoted to me on our jaunts.

Silently crossing burbling streams or making our way deeper into the Ko’olau Range, we kept our senses alert for the sounds of bark and nuts crunching beneath our feet, the quick flash of a red-crested cardinal as it dove into the branches, the whiff of delicate perfume from rose apple blossoms. Our speechless rambles were only broken with peremptory whispers as my father identified the cheerful yellow amakihi swaying on a limb, the fiery red stamens of a flowering myrtle as it quivered in the breeze, or the discovered tributary of a tiny silver runnel. My time with him was spent not on discussions about my future or his past, but on total absorption of Oahu’s natural paradise. Everything else, he claimed, was secondary.

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Many happy returns

by Eric Lucas

Oh, how I love new places, new tastes and smells and sights and sounds. Just this year, I have discovered hot, amber sabia chiles in Tucson, peaceful historic beguinages (cloisters) in Bruges, the warm chartreuse water of Kanaka Bay in British Columbia, the mind-bending apocalyptic canvases of John Martin in London.

Love, love, love. But.

While we’re admiring the snazzy glamour of new discoveries, let me bring on stage the simple wonder of happy returns.

It was while visiting Tucson last week, dipping into the pool at dawn with my wife Leslie, that I had second thoughts about the siren song of newness. Not second, exactly; call them revisionist or retrospective. I was enjoying something I have often done before, in the exact place I had been many times. Hundreds of times, in fact, have I slipped into this exact pool, which is framed by subtropical plantings and the stern, cactus-clad heights of the Santa Catalina foothills behind, burnished by the fierce, loving sun of the Sonoran Desert.

A morning breeze feathered the mesquite fronds of the desert woods just yards away. A hummingbird buzzed by. Spent bougainvillea blossoms laid their vermilion origami on the surface of the water. A Gila woodpecker whacked a roof tile. The summer-warmed water was 85 degrees, both cleansing and comforting. Tendrils of overnight thundershowers curled by nearby escarpments, and the monsoon humidity lent the air a silken touch.

“Doesn’t this feel like Tobago?” asked my wife.

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New Life in the Yucatan

words + photos by Suzanne Marriott

When my husband, Michael, died on January 1st, 2006, I felt as if I had died, too. The light went out of my life. It was as if I were a candle and he were the flame, and his last breath had blown out that flame and left me alone in the dark. 

Yet, for some reason unfathomable to me, my life went on, though I saw no reason why it should. No longer able to make sense of my world, I began to rely more and more on my intuition.

A little over a year after his death, in March of 2007, I was sitting on my living room couch, reading my copy of Spirituality&Health magazine. Suddenly, an announcement for a workshop on travel writing jumped off the page. I’d always loved to write and to travel, and here was a way I could do both. The workshop was to be held in the beautiful but “undiscovered” southern Yucatan peninsula in Mexico near Belize. There was no reason in the world why I shouldn’t go, I thought to myself. Did I dare? Did I have the energy? Probably not, I decided. This was crazy.

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Living With What Is No Longer Mine

by Bethany Ball

While walking across the Mont Blanc Bridge in Geneva this spring, I saw a beautiful, chic young girl saunter by. The bridge, dividing the two centers of Geneva, is the perfect place for people watching. It's long and the walkway is narrow. The foot traffic is swift. Audis and BMWs and buses buzzed by, carrying bankers and watch executives from the old city to the new, or maybe to the Alps to rest and relax.

photo via Flickr by Jonathan ZiapourWhen I saw this girl walking past me, I had my usual response. Appreciation mixed with a little envy and curiosity: where did she get that gorgeous scarf and where could I find one just like it? Would I achieve the same affect if I wore the same clothes as she did? My son and my husband were tagging along behind, my husband trying to console my son who was crying. He was jet lagged and wanted to go back to the hotel where a magnificent box of Legos, bought as a gift by his grandfather, was waiting.

At the moment that I saw the beautiful girl, I was furious with my son. But the sight of her had buoyed up my sagging, jet lagged spirits and brought something else into focus: beauty and beautiful objects and youth. Perhaps it was because I was there with my son, now six years old. There was no pretending anymore that I could ever be as young and carefree as that girl. Or that any outfit I put on would transform me into youth. That world belonged to her now, not to me. My world was just behind me, dissolving in sniffles. I reached my hand out to my son and he ran and grabbed it gratefully. He was six years of my new reality, condensed in the form of an intelligent and sensitive young boy.

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