A New Twist on Chautauqua

I’ve written twice about my experiences at Chautauqua Institution in New York, and now it’s time for the third installment, since I just returned from another unique week. Each time I go, I have a different week, depending on the person or people I go with. This year brought completely different feelings, observations, and enlightenments.

In case you don’t feel like looking up my previous posts on the subject, let’s just say it’s a week of culture, religion, learning, and music. It’s a lot of other things for other people, like boating, cycling, walking, and fellowship with friends.

Fellowship with friends and dogs was the highlight of this year’s CHQ for me. I went with 5 people I know from Ski for Light, Bill, Bonnie, Bob, Dan, and Carol. But the most significant fun came from the 2 Seeing Eye ® dogs who shared our rented house. Of course Dora accompanied me and did a fine job of guiding, but her new friend Boston added joy to the household. We kept them under our thumbs for the first few hours, giving them a chance to check each other out from a few feet away, but once we took off their leashes and gave them permission to let their hair down and play like regular dogs, they had a blast. First Boston, a darling little chocolate lab would lie on his back and let Dora chew on his neck, and then by some secret communication, they would switch places. The next minute, they would both jump up, run for the toy and chase each othere around the house. Next came a tug of war with the toy. Of course the toy was destroyed by the end of the week, but it was a small price to pay for the fun it brought to everyone.

Anyone who goes to CHQ knows that you walk to everything. I was a little apprehensive because of my back issues, but I managed to muscle through and put 22 miles on my sneakers. Unlike the last 2 years, our house was located on a street where cars are allowed, so it was a bit stressful walking, until we got to the red brick path, where cars and bikes are not permitted. Adding to the stress and even danger were the cyclists who never warned us with an “On your left,” as we cyclists do here, and it was very annoying, since twice, we were almost caught in a collision.

One of the funniest observations was inspired by 2 women walking by who noticed our 2 guide dogs resting at our feet. “I’ve never seen so many service dogs in one place,” one of them said. The sighted people in our group later remarked that they had not seen any other service dogs the whole week. This meant that those women had seen ours several times, as we were seen all over the place, and they thought they were different dogs each time. It was obvious they hadn’t noticed the same people attached to them.

The theme for the week was fear, not a subject I particularly cared for, but it was the only week my friends could attend. Most of the lectures were dark, philosophical, and many times over my head. Still, I managed to absorb a few tidbits of knowledge and perspective. 2 activities ranked highest on my list of enjoyments, sitting on the front porch with my friends, enjoying a glass of wine, and listening to the joyous romping of our wonderful dogs.


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