Recently, I attended my 4th experience at the Chautauqua Institution in NY. If you’ve read any of my 3 previous descriptions in past years of this unique and charming village, built on learning and the arts, you know that it’s become an annual mecca for feeding my love of classical music and broadening my knowledge of our culture with its problems, its qualities, and its possibilities. Located about an hour’s drive east of Erie, PA, Chautauqua, CHQ, offers opportunities to absorb as much beauty of a historic town, the history of the area, and extraordinary visual and musical arts as you wish.
This year, I made a dream come true of staying for 2 weeks instead of just 1. I rode over with 2 of my friends from The Transition Network, Anna and Jeannette, and then they left at the end of the first week.On the Saturday that marked the midpoint of my stay, my friend from church, Janet drove over to join me, and we came home together at the end of my second week. On that Saturday, when I would be alone for a few hours, I had planned to take a walk around Lake CHQ using a new technology , AIRA, where in a person called an agent could see through my glasses what I could see, via a specially designed phone app. I pictured myself sitting on a park bench and listening to the relaxing sounds of boats puttering by and waves caressing the shore. However, as I sat on the front porch of the Baptist House where we stayed, in the quiet of a place where most people had vanished for a few hours, I decided that my body needed to rest and reboot. You might have guessed that if you could see the photo of me getting my first ever foot massage at the spa, that I never knew was there until this year. Whenever you go to the same place repeatedly, but with different people, you find different treasures. During that first week, Anna said she wanted to go inside the clock tower, one of the iconic structures on the edge of the lake. We chatted with the woman who played the carillon at certain times during the day, every day throughout the 9-week season. “This is the best job in the world,” she cheerfully told us, as she continued playing a keyboard withonly an octave and a half at the same time she carried on a conversation with us.
She even took requests.
The first year I went, everything was new and wondrous, from staying in a rooming house-like situation to crowding into a huge shelter house for afternoon interfaith speeches to soaking in opera music in the enormous amphitheater. The second year, when I went with my friend Dan, we walked about a mile every morning to the aquatic center, swam for a half hour and walked back, all before breakfast and still made it in time for the morning lecture. The third year, when I went with friends from Ski for light, we went to the worship service every morning throughout the week, and we rented a whole house with a large porch, where we had adult beverages each night before dinner.
During my first week this year, I took a course that cost extra, a whole lot extra, and I was deeply disappointed, my first negative experience in this wonderful place. I had misunderstood the course description. I will probably tell you more about that in another post. During the second week, with Janet, I took part in a comment session, something I had never done before. We were asked to talk about how CHQ could improve its inclusion, diversity, equality, and accessibility. I jumped at the chance to express my outrage with the lack of regard for people who are blind or visually impaired. I went into that meeting loaded for bear. I’m out of space for today, but stay tuned. There’s more, much much more.
Author of “The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living A Daughter’s Memoir”
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