This week our City Council considered an ordinance to mandate all city communications be written in person first language. I would be a person who is blind instead of a blind person. A poor person would become a person living in poverty or a person living with economic challenges, etc.  This wording hit academe, particularly education over twenty years ago. I don’t know quite why our fair city decided to deal with the language issue now. But in the meantime, many folks in the disability rights movement, led by the Deaf have gone on to say they prefer identity first language—Deaf and proud!  I wrote to city council members stating this and suggesting when things are contested like this, it might be best not to legislate the issue.  It passed anyway!

For me, it matters less what someone calls me than how they treat me.  Sure, the words they use to describe me are part of that, but not a huge part. Just like some of my male friends can say “you and the rest of the girls…” and I won’t bristle about being belittled by the term “girls”.  Is the friend generally kind and respectful to his wife, daughters and other women in his life?

In many encounters, whether in person or with something written, I have to do a different kind of translating of how this applies to me as a particular person with particular disabilities.  For example, one of the meditations I read for today was as follows:

“Practice: Wandering in Nature”

“Psychologist and wilderness guide, Bill Plotkin, believes that to “save our souls” we need to reconnect with nature. To rediscover who we truly are—and who our brothers and sisters are—we must become intimate with our natural surroundings. The wisdom of nature can’t be understood with our thinking mind. We have to experience it with our being and let it speak to us through all our senses.

Plotkin’s own mindful walks support his insights:

Wandering in nature is perhaps the most essential soul craft practice for contemporary Westerners who have wandered so far from nature. . . .

The Wanderer allows plenty of time to roam in wild nature, and roam alone. Maybe you start out on a trail, but if the landscape allows, it won’t be long before you wander off the beaten track. Because you are stalking a surprise, you attend to the world of hunches and feelings and images as much as you do to the landscape.

. . . You will get good at wandering, good at allowing your initial agenda to fall away as you pick up new tracks, scents, and possibilities. You will smile softly to yourself over the months and years of wanderings as you notice how you have changed, how you have slowed down inside.

Through your wanderings, you cultivate a sensibility of wonder and surprise, rekindling the innocence that got buried in your adolescent rush to become somebody in particular. Now you seek to become nobody for a while, to disappear into the woods so that the person you really are might find you.”

Beautiful and well worth doing, but wandering and getting lost in nature is not possible for me as a blind person, or person who is blind! The translation I worked out is: take a few minutes each day when I wake up and hear the birds singing to just listen and let my mind wander.

How does that translate for you?