Good question!

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Well actually I did do something for the first time today. I ran aground in the shallows of the lake after my disabled sailing buddy grabbed the tiller for the upteenth time while repeating “ash! ash!” in a frenzied voice.

After a couple of minutes of frantic waving on my part (and jubilant whoops of euphoria for some reason on my buddy’s) our faithful safety patrol guys came to pull us off.

After returning his carer told me, “oh he means food. It’s almost lunch time.” (Now I understand his anguished gestures towards the jetty and final frustrated grabbing the tiller – he wanted to eat!)

So I learnt two new things –

  1. Our safety crew are saints (instead of teasing me about my lack of sailing ability they smiled and announced, “you wont be the only ones going aground here today with that prevailing wind.” – no one else did but that made me feel better).
  2. ) I learnt that food can be very important to a disabled person. (He was afraid he might miss his meal out there on the lake.)

Learning freedoms we so often lack.

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The wind is gusting the sails, fighting for control of our small vessel. My “special” companion works the tiller, proving surprisingly adept as he carries on a soliloquy of “Can you paint with all the colours of the wind?”

We laugh and squeal as it takes us twirling to circle round, and try again to tack, we have to yield; you cannot win a battle with the wind!

He talks about Deadpool (his obsession) asks what I’d do if I saw him coming towards us in a boat full of guns. He tries out his humour on me. I love the freedom of these “special sailors”, they never pretend, they just “are”. Though each disabled in some way they share a bond of freedom we so often lack.

I’ve always felt I could learn from everyone I encountered in life, but did I leave these out, the autistic, mongoloid, mentally handicapped, disabled?

Now I begin to understand. They have so much to teach me, of freedom, of simple joy, of appreciation, of love.

I love the sun on the water, the rush of the wind as it lifts the boat, and I love spending time with these pure ones.

Celebrating volunteering!

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Yesterday I took a sunny appreciation canal trip down the nearby Grand Union Canal with other sailing volunteers.

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(One of our crazy volunteers – there are so many great folks involved!)

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Passing through some of the 18th century locks (the wood etc. has of course been renewed over the years).

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This canal was a means of transporting goods during the industrial revolution till later replaced as railways took over. It’s now more of a recreational heaven and home to many travelers and retired folks that wend the waterways enjoying the natural lifestyle.

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I often walk or cycle this route enjoying the scenery and exchanging a few words here and there with some of the many colorful characters that populate it (England is well known for its eccentric characters lol!)

I did it! I did it!

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I sailed solo around the lake for the first time ever yesterday together with my “special sailor” a sweet handicapped girl (daughter of one of the other volunteers). We kept the wind all the way and despite a few near things neither got grounded in the shallows nor collided with other boats (the boats are specially made not to capsize etc. – UK health and safety are stringent!).

I can sail! I can sail! Of course I’m still a total novice but it seemed so bewildering at first with all the ropes and rudder etc. I wondered if I’d ever manage it. It’s a wonderful feeling sensing the lift of the wind as you catch it, a little like flying, so much fun!

(who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!)

Tacking into the wind.

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Like sailing, often in life we must tack into the wind, zig zagging back and forth to catch and harness the prevailing gusts. Thus it’s seldom a matter of being able to coast directly to your goal. Rather it often seems you’re heading in quite another direction yet with each zig and zag you grow closer.

We do not control the fluctuating wind or currents in our lives, nor can we quell its storms but much can be accomplished by skilful handling of sails and rudder.

Joy and Freedom from an unexpected source.

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(disclaimer- not the kids I was with)

I regularly volunteer with a charity taking mentally or physically handicapped kids/adults sailing. A very active and enthusiastic school group of about twenty kids arrived smiling and shaking hands with everyone.

One girl wearing a tiara introduced herself as “Queen Esmeralda” and asked if we could go on the green catamaran together. She was whisked off to “buddy sail” in one of the small sail boats, but since I’m only beginning to sail I however was detailed to the catamaran. My arms were already aching due to the gusty conditions I’d been paddling in all morning, but who could resist the smiles?

Our boat consisted of a carer, another sailing volunteer, and a bunch of enthusiastic (if not so effective) boys at the paddles. I’m so glad I went we had such fun! We fed bread to the ducks and swans (having to flee when a whole flotilla pursued us). We played pirates racing or trying to catch the other red catamaran. The boys faked sinking (waving arms and calling for help) to the paroling safety boat who then joined in the fun for a while sending waves our way to resounding squeals and laughter as the canoe tossed on the break. I looked at the kids and recalled the other groups I’d taken out and realised – these guys really know how to have fun. They were totally free just being themselves.

I watched the black preteen seated across from me “break dancing” his arms, his smile about to overtake his ears when a wave hit, I recalled the downs syndrome girl earlier that wouldn’t take off her hood for her carer to take a photo till I said she was so pretty we wanted a picture – then what wreaths of gleaming smiles she shone for the camera.

Attending my grandson’s school play that evening I couldn’t help but see how much freer and happier the kids on the lake had been. They weren’t in the least inhibited as were the “normal” school kids trying to be cool.

I realized how much I can learn from these folks, adults and kids both. I could never match those radiant smiles.  Credit must of course be given to their wonderful carers and parents, you can easily see they are loved and cared for.

The phrase, ” without guile” comes to mind regarding these kids, their joy is genuine and I’m honored to have shared in it.

A happy bunny day!

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I am a very happy bunny (if a little exhausted!lol!). Today was my first time to learn how speed boats work, help paddle a catamaran (along with an expert and two very enthusiastic handicapped teenagers), and get my initiation in how to sail a real sailing boat (in long term preparation to eventually take handicapped youngsters out sailing.).

Picture the perfect sunny day, a slight breeze, a still lake adorned with swans and wildfowl, excellent company and learning something new and you’ll see why I’m such a happy bunny!

Sometimes you can have your cake and eat it!

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Sometimes life amazes me. For a while I’ve been thinking how nice it would be to learn to sail but put it on the back burner as a bit of an extravagance. I happened to mention this to one of my fellow Tuesday walkers who told me of a charity that takes handicapped folks sailing and is presently desperate for helpers (she knows I’ve done lots of volunteer work in the past) and suggested I contact them.

I was instantly invited to a barbecue hosted by a bunch of great folks (all regular volunteers) who explained it doesn’t matter that I’m a total novice as they train you and welcomed me to come as often as I’m able (being also very appreciative of my help). So I can help others and learn to sail all in good company and ten minutes from my home.

Sometimes I feel like God’s spoilt pet!