Pike Place Market

I sat and ate a biscuit with a high cheese-to-dough ratio and a heavy pad of butter soaking into flaky perfection. It was my first true meal of the day. I was hungry and still having trouble believing I was on the US West Coast, having started my day on the US East Coast. The time change was confusing – the journey across the country was space and time travel. This biscuit shop was on the ocean edge of Pike Place Market in Seattle. Before arriving, I hadn’t known biscuits were popular in Seattle, but I was glad to find several biscuit shops as I wandered about the city.

The last time I’d been to Pike Place Market was in high school on a family trip. But, as all the places of family lore are, the market was familiar because my mother had told me about it many times. My parents met in Seattle. I’d lived there for several years before our family moved East, back to the coast of my grandparents. Pike Place Market is a place of fish stands and cute cafes. It’s full of people.

As I experienced the market for the first time on my own and as an adult, I was most struck by the maze that was the market and the perfect, stunning flower bouquets wrapped in parchment paper. I also liked the mosaic mural of North American birds. The mosaic bird mural reminded me of the bird murals in Harlem (where my sister lives). Per my sister, the bird murals in Harlem depict all the birds that will go extinct sometime sooner than I’d like. I wondered about the mosaic mural birds, would a day come when those birds (too) would only be found in murals?

I liked that Pike Place Market unfolded as a maze. It reminded me of Mercado Cuatro in Asunción, Paraguay. The markets share a maze layout, haphazard vendor stands, a huge range of goods, and people-filled walkways. Pike Place Market lacked the feral kittens that Mercado Cuatro had, but it had its own large bronze pigs with bronze pig hoofprints throughout the market. I followed the hoofprints for a bit. I decided the pigs were a good addition to the market.

I would later learn that the Starbucks in Pike Place Market was so busy because it was the founding Starbucks and people visited it for that reason. I was familiar with Starbucks because I’d worked there when I lived in Washington, DC. The Starbucks in Pike Place Market was much fancier than the one where I’d worked. However, I wasn’t inspired to stop at the first, ever, Starbucks. There were too many other places to choose from for me to pick a place I already knew.  I found a tea shop that sold crumpets (which I didn’t know existed outside of fairytales) and got an earl gray tea.

I was mildly disconcerted by the neon lights in Pike Place Market; they seemed a little aggressive for an enclosed space with so little wiggle room. I did like the nooks with tables and chairs and the scattered sculptures I stumbled upon when I rounded sharp hallway corners. I followed the hallways, stairwells, and odd steps until I thought I’d explored the whole market. I found the public bathrooms on both sides of the street. They were not striking, except that their stall doors were very short. A tall person could easily see over them.

I spent time looking out over the construction next to the market at the ocean. It was drizzling and cold, so I was glad I had worn my puffy coat. The waterfront was in flux. I’d later learn from a family friend that there used to be a highway between the market and the ocean. But, for many years now, they’d been slowly working toward reclaiming the waterfront. It’s funny how we call progress building roads and buildings, only to realize years later that beautiful park spaces are more important. I was glad that someday I’d be able to walk from the market to the ocean, but not today. This visit, there was no direct way because of the construction.

Once I felt that I had a good mental map of the market and had seen enough, I turned back to the city to explore its streets. Seattle was a home to me, but not a familiar one. It was a home of my distant past and the setting of early family stories. I wouldn’t have time to return to the market in the morning to watch them throw fish during this Seattle visit, but I knew I’d be back again. And I was grateful to have my own memory of the market. Lore-made memory to re-lived experience.

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Sometimes People Step Up to Be Heroes

The patient sat with a blanket over their head. They were a little goofy and fairly expressed their distaste of their bed and various lines (IVs, urinary catheter, etc.). I didn’t blame them for not liking the hospital; nobody wants to get sick. The patient answered many questions correctly – they knew their name and their spouse’s name – but they couldn’t tell me where they were, why they were there, or what month it was. Yet, to see them sitting there alert and able to talk with me was a miracle that I was humbled to see.

The patient’s spouse and child had saved them. The patient had a cardiac arrest (their heart stopped) after going to bed one night. Their spouse noticed, pulled them to the floor, and started chest compressions. Sometime in that whirlwind, 9-1-1 was called and their teenaged child helped the spouse do compressions. The spouse and child did compressions for 45 minutes, just the two of them, until an ambulance showed up. Once the ambulance crew arrived, the patient received a couple of shocks and then, the patient’s pulse returned.

When I started as an EMT, my first medical experience, my crew chief told me cardiac arrest is death. All we can do is try to give the person’s whose heart stopped a chance at a cat life by doing CPR to pump blood while the heart isn’t pumping, delivering shocks (if indicated) to jumpstart the heart, and giving medications that sometimes help the heart restart. 

It’s important to realize that getting a pulse back isn’t the end of cardiac arrest. After getting a pulse back the main question is whether the heart stopped so long that the brain was irreversibly damaged by lack of blood flow. The likelihood of brain damage from lack of blood increases the longer the patient remains without a pulse. 45 minutes of CPR, especially CPR by non-medical people who don’t have access to a device that can deliver a shock, is a REALLY long time.

Most people won’t wake up after 45 minutes of CPR. But this patient did. They woke up and their brain was well enough to talk and move their body. It was too early to know if they’d fully recover to the mental state they’d had before their heart stopped. However, what was obvious when they woke up was that they were mostly there. Their brain had survived 45 minutes without a pumping heart thanks to their spouse and child.

When we successfully get a pulse back after CPR and the patient doesn’t immediately wake up, usually they are sedated and put on a ventilator (breathing machine) for 72 hours. This gives their brain time to rest after not receiving good blood flow. Usually after those 72 hours of rest, we decrease their sedation (medications used to put people to sleep while on a ventilator) and see how their brain is working. This patient underwent this process of sedation and then wakening after 72 hours.

It’s impossible to know exactly what the patient’s spouse and child felt as they waited those 72 hours to see if their loved one would wake up. What I can say from seeing them sitting at the patient’s bedside and sleeping in the hospital waiting room, is that the experience changed them. Once the patient woke up, the stress floating away from their family members was almost tangible. The spouse and child had saved the patient’s life; they had stepped up when the powers that be asked them to step up. They had given the patient a second chance at life. They were, by all definitions I know, heroes.

Finding Purpose and Meaning

The patient was nicely dressed and collected. They sat with elegance as I chatted with them during their checkup. By most accounts they were doing well. They didn’t have many aching joints or the other common issues of people their age. But, as we finished going through all the normal appointment questions and checklist items for a primary care visit, the conversation turned to the main issue at hand: meaningful existence. 

The patient had recently moved from the south to the north to be close to their adult children. In moving, they had left behind the hair salon where they’d worked for many years and where they continued to work until moving. Nobody in their new, northern community would hire them as a hairdresser because of their age. This disappointed them. They were very energetic. They were involved in many clubs and had many social engagements weekly, yet, they found themselves depressed, tired, and empty. Nothing they were doing gave them the sense of purpose that working had.

We brainstormed together. If not work, could the patient volunteer? Where might they like to volunteer? Our town had many opportunities for volunteering. The patient jotted down a few nonprofit ideas and smiled. They said they’d consider it; it seemed better that sitting around doing pointless things.

Depression is common in the elderly. Among other things, it’s postulated that feelings of isolation and loss of purpose can contribute to depression. On an anecdotal level, I’ve heard many elderly patients describe feeling alone, especially when they’ve moved to be close to adult children and left behind an existing community their age or that they had been part of for a long time. Even children who visit frequently aren’t the same as having a whole community – especially a community that has also lived through the same decades and seen the same changes in the world. What’s more, many elderly people are retired or decrease their activity in work and volunteering. It’s easy to say that retirement and less work is good and that these wise people have worked their whole lives and deserve a rest. This is true; however, what I’ve also noticed anecdotally among the hundreds of patients I’ve met as a medical student, is that the happiest people are the people who have meaningful projects regardless of age.

This elderly patient is an example of someone who was driven to work well after they reached retirement age. Their case showed me that perhaps encouraging and supporting our elders to be active participants in their community would be helpful for their wellbeing. This seems especially important in a place like the US where many families are scattered all over the country and generations tend to live separately. There are many elderly folks who find meaning in caring for grandchildren as I’ve seen in other places like when I lived in Paraguay. However, we must remember that there are many elderly people who didn’t have children or who don’t wish to spend their days caring for their kids’ kids and that their need for meaningful activities is also valid. As we forge forward as a society, it seems prudent to keep this in mind and continue to support and develop programs that help an aging population remain active in their communities’ productivity and progress if they would like to be. Be it work, volunteering, or other projects in and out of the home.

Listening in Medicine

This patient was always cheerful. Despite approaching a month in the hospital. Despite extensive injuries for which they required multiple procedures, surgeries, and a long course of antibiotics. Every time I checked in, they had a visitor, were listening to mass, or were simply doing life things.

One day when I stopped in, the patient was different. Still as pleasant as ever, but their cheer was guarded. I noticed that their voice was heavier. That their eyes were drooping at the edges. Their smile seemed more effortful. “Is everything okay? Are you okay?” I asked. In the minutes I was with the patient, I asked these questions periodically. Interleaving with the normal questions about signs and symptoms and physical exams I needed to do. I’ve learned that if you create space for things that haven’t been said to be said, sometimes patients share what’s bothering them and you can do something about it.

I paused as I was preparing to leave and asked one more time if the patient was okay. They started crying. I waited. “It’s just I haven’t seen my children. I miss my children,” the patient said. I’d come to learn that they had two young children who they hadn’t seen since their admission. They video called them but, obviously, that wasn’t the same as seeing their children and giving them hugs.

Since COVID, hospital visitation policies have become more restrictive. There are reasons for these restrictions, however the unintended consequence is patient social isolation which is bad for patient mental health to put it simply. At the time when I was seeing this patient, the hospital I was in was not allowing children to enter the hospital as visitors. Rules, though, usually have exceptions. I spoke with the nursing staff, as they steward hospital floors, and they were able to arrange for the patient to see their children.

This patient interaction reminded me how listening is critical in medicine. The hospital is a difficult place to have a good conversation as patient. The hospital is confusing and foreign to most people; there are unintentional power differences that exist as medical knowledge and understanding are uncommon among those who didn’t study medicine; there are many faces with different roles in the hospital so it’s impossible to keep track of who is the right person to ask for what; and the hospital is busy and short-staffed, so healthcare workers are doing their best but they are always running behind. Given these barriers to communication, the burden falls not on the patient but on their care team to ensure that time to hear patients’ needs is made. To do this doesn’t necessitate longer patient interactions, necessarily, but it does necessitate listening for more than reports of a fever or bowel changes.

It can be hard to listen for things that don’t directly relate to changing a patient’s care plan. Yet, patients are more than carriers of disease and, therefore, to best support them in their journey to better health we in healthcare must listen to all ailments. Sometimes we can lessen a burden and sometimes we can’t. Arranging for a parent to see their children after weeks in the hospital is something we can solve easily. I was glad I was able to help this patient see their children, but I wondered how long the patient had suffered from missing their children. Perhaps, if one of us from their care team had listened more carefully earlier, the patient wouldn’t have had to wait almost a month before seeing their children. To me, it seemed unreasonable to add the burden of missing loved ones to this patient’s burden of healing from an accident that had almost killed them and injuries that would likely change their life. Being sick is hard enough; let us in healthcare not forget the human things, like social supports, that can help make healing less daunting. 

A Palindrome Birthday

The sun sparkles in my windows and alights on the forest of plants I nurture in my apartment. I’m recovering from a whirlwind trip to Oregon to celebrate the wedding of a long-time, dear friend. I stepped away from reading about acid-base disorders, electrolyte abnormalities, and the general unruliness of the kidney to write this post. Residency programs started reviewing applications yesterday; I wait for interview invites to trickle in. By this time next year, I’ll be in the throes of residency and I’m sure medical school will feel like a distant memory. But today, a few days before my 33rd birthday, I’m still in medical school.

Looking at the blue sky and the trees with leaves that are turning red, orange, and yellow, I’m reminded of the mountains that are hidden beyond the horizon of buildings that I see. The mountains are quiet from a distance, but hum with streams, wind, and birds when I embark on their paths. I’ve done 57 hikes (not all in the mountains and some trotting more than walking) since my last birthday.

This has been a long year filled with joy and determination. The number of hikes I’ve done reflects finding a balance between those two forces. Medicine consumes. Yet, since starting my last academic year of medical school, the harrowing nature of academia has dampened and the delight of caring for patients, solving medical mysteries, and contriving medical plans have returned to my lived experience. As I begin my residency interview season, I find myself thinking about life beyond school again. It’s a relief to be nearing graduation.

This year marked a big change; I got married. It’s interesting to shift from plotting my activities and setting goals to stepping back and thinking about sharing my life’s journey with another person who has their own activities and goals. To balance the individuals and the team who form a marriage is a daily endeavor. Of course, my partner and I have been unified for some time now, but something about making our union official and forever makes our collaboration seem more central to daily life.

Birthdays are my favorite time for reflection because they mark my personal new year. I looked back at the previous birthdays I’ve written about – 30 (happy and grateful), 28 (excited), 26 (seize the moment), and 25 (goal oriented). Thinking about their themes, what’s this birthday about?

When I walk along a ridge gazing out at the sky on either side or down a woodland path, I find myself quiet. Quiet in the sense of calm and content and, also, in the literal sense that there is less noise in the natural world than in the cityscape. I hope to hold the quiet I find on the hiking trail in my soul no matter what activity I’m undertaking. The hospital bustles with a din and the street outside my window screams with activity. Yet, I believe coexistence of noise without and quiet within can always be achieved; the way, however, seems as varied as the trails I’ve explored this year. Varied by person and varied by situation.

It’s fitting to focus on quiet movement as I wait to start a new life chapter, the chapter where I close the door to official school (potentially and likely forever) and open the door to learning from a new job. I love new chapters with that accentuated first letter, hopefully a quote, the foreshadowing of the chapter that just ended, and the delights hidden behind crisp pages. I can’t wait to see what this palindrome year brings. At the very least, I know it will bring change, for which, I’m grateful.

Windows to the Soul

I looked into the eyes of a patient for brief moments when they opened their eyelids before falling asleep again. Their eyes were like wells, but there was no sparkle in them like there is in a healthy person. The patient had a bacterial infection of the blood that had attacked their heart resulting in a large vegetation (collection of bacteria and other gunk) on one of their heart valves. Pieces broke off this vegetation, traveled through the blood vessels, and seeded infected clots in the patient’s lungs and spleen. That wasn’t all though. Their body was so inflamed some of the proteins in their blood were destroyed, consumed, or their production reduced. At first, the patient needed transfusions of red blood cells and platelets to survive.

In other words, the patient was sick. They were not just sick, their chance of death within 30 days increased by 16% each day their blood had bacteria in it according to one study.1 Their chance of death was about 40% by another estimate.2 It took us about a week of antibiotics to clear the infection from the patient’s blood, but that wasn’t the end of the patient’s need for antibiotics because of their heart infection and septic clots. They would need at least 6 weeks of antibiotics and likely several procedures and surgery to fix their heart.

I looked into the patient’s eyes each day, hoping to see a sparkle there that would suggest they were awakening from the depths of illness. I hoped and yearned to meet them rather than just examine their feverishness. I was rooting for them. I root for all my patients, but this patient’s eyes were so empty I knew they needed my thoughts more than the other patients I was caring for at the time.

It would take over a week, but one day the patient’s eyes shone with the flame that I think of as the soul, that spark of life. The patient was here with me. They could tell me their name and what was going on. They were awake! How the weeks ahead would unfold could not be predicted. In medicine, we don’t have a crystal ball that tells the future any better than a meteorologist can forecast the weather 10 days out.

My rotation would end before the patient was close to healthy enough to leave the hospital. They were sleepy when I last saw them because they were recovering from their first heart procedure. I touched their shoulder briefly and looked into their eyes. They were so strong and so brave. I reminded them of this and of how much they’d healed since we met. I told them to hang in there. It wasn’t much, I knew, but it was the best I could offer as I prepared to join a different medical team.

In the hospital, we often meet people at the worst crossroads of their lives. We do our best to help them navigate to a destination of better health, but we often don’t get to see where our patients end up after we care for them. We must be comfortable with unfinished odysseys. So, to conclude my telling of this patient’s story, the last time I saw the patient with the wells for eyes, their eyes shown with the brilliance of victory. I will remember them by that brilliance.  

References:

1. Minejima E, Mai N, Bui N, et al. Defining the Breakpoint Duration of Staphylococcus aureus Bacteremia Predictive of Poor Outcomes. Clin Infect Dis. 2020;70(4):566-573. doi:10.1093/cid/ciz257

2. Kuehl R, Morata L, Boeing C, et al. Defining persistent Staphylococcus aureus bacteraemia: secondary analysis of a prospective cohort study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2020;20(12):1409-1417. doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(20)30447-3

Joy

I most remember his rosy cheeks. The humidity and mosquitos hummed around us. We held hands under the shade of widely spaced trees in ferns as tall as our waists beside a beaver pond. There would be many moments I’d attempt to remember from our wedding day – etching them into my memory, writing them down play-by-play in my Spanish journal, and waiting giddily for our photographer to finally send us our photos. But, in those moments between words, I thought about how warm my cheeks felt and how rosy his cheeks were and how it was likely that my cheeks were rosy too.

I was joyful. Some cry when they’re overwhelmed with happiness, but that’s never been me. Happiness spreads across my skin like sinking into a warm swimming hole. The warmth then soaks into my core whereby settling my heart and obscuring all the things that normally zoom through my mind. Happiness is quiet. Contentment. Nothing but his rosy cheeks and my rosy cheeks on our wedding day.

The bright sunlight flickered through the canopy above alighting on my sister, who was our officiant, and our guests. The guests sat amongst the ferns as you might imagine in a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It seemed fitting that the cupcake shelves hanging from a birdfeeder hook and the brightly colored attire of the wedding guests would float across my mind like a scene from a play. As I gazed at the ferns, I realized that this was my midsummer dream. To make official what my partner and I already knew. These moments would give our relationship a label society understood. But despite the label, he and I knew that no one could truly understand what we meant because every relationship is its own unique product of its unique makers.

Which brings me back to his rosy cheeks. He was wearing his finest suit and the fanciest shoes you’ve possibly ever seen.  The paisley on his shoes and the paisley on his tie had nothing but their name in common, but they each worked well with the stripes of his suit. His tufty blond hair curled above his sparkling eyes and his cheeks were flushed because we were outside, because we had walked through the forest to get here, and because it was a hot midsummer day.

I thought briefly about our guests, the witnesses to the words we were saying. They were the people who had played the biggest roles in our lives since we became a couple. I listened to the words my sister said, then he said, and then I said. We had all thought about, written down, and practiced what we were going to say. Yet, it seemed more improv than rehearsed lines. How could any of us have imagined exactly how this moment would be? We couldn’t. There’s delight in comfortable spontaneity. As I replay those moments now, the rosiness returns. The memory is one of the clearest definitions I have of joy.

Anticipation

I live across from a café that is also as an event venue. The other weekend, I glanced out my window when music uncommon to my neighborhood wiggled through my window screens. My gaze fell upon empty tables perfectly spaced with little plant centerpieces, lawn games in the parking lot, a grill, and green cones outlining the event space. The event organizers meandered around arranged things, chatting, and smiling. Soon the guests would arrive; the evening would unfold. There was no predicting exactly how it would go, but everything was carefully planned with the hope that good things would come.  

I found myself amused by the scene across the street from my home. I’d seen it so many times before, not only in my personal life, but also in a past job when I was an event planner. I’d seen many physical set ups like this one and, perhaps more often, I’d experienced setups and waiting for nontangible events to unfold. The metaphor for my current state of being was obvious. My wedding will be in less than a month (the planning is done). I apply to residency programs the rest of the year (it’s a long process, please don’t ask). My soon-to-be husband is about to move to Connecticut and start his first job as a nurse. Those are the major events soon to unfold; of course, there are zillions of little events where the music is just about to start too.

Life is full of wind ups, waits, activity, clean up, and recovery on repeat. Some versions of these relentless series take more effort and planning than others. Some have more ways they could go wrong. Some events are set up and then no one shows up. Some events last longer than expected. Some events turn out better than you imagined. That’s life. Having gone through these actions over and over again, I believe waiting is the worst. Clean up is also hard, but waiting is the hardest. While my neighbors wait for the food they prepared to disappear into hungry mouths and the games they set up to spark laughter; I find myself waiting for other things that took many more moments (years actually) than cones, tables, and food to set up.

Neurocysticercosis

Repost of a post I wrote for the Global Health Diaries, the blog of the Global Health Program at the University of Vermont Robert Larner M.D. College of Medicine and the Western Connecticut Health Network. Find the original here.

Recently, I treated a patient with neurocysticercosis. While infection with Taenia solium is not common in the US, neurocysticercosis is not a zebra in Danbury, Connecticut because many patients are originally from countries where Taenia infection is a threat. The patient I saw was young and presented after having a seizure. Though they had received their diagnosis several years earlier at another US hospital, the disease course had started long before. Initially after their diagnosis, antiseizure medications were effective. The latest seizure occurred after a series of unfortunate events caused the patient to stop the medications.

The CT scan showed speckled calcifications throughout the brain. MRI revealed several enhancing lesions convincing us there was a need for antiparasitic and steroid treatment. The patient did well after treatment initiation and was discharged home to complete their albendazole and steroid course with a plan to follow-up with neurology. Their case lingered in my mind. It lingered not because of sadness or complexity, but because it reminded me of how connected our global population is and because the patient had impressed me with their calmness.

COVID-19 has highlighted how easily communicable diseases can travel and how important the health of the global community is for the health of our local communities. And while Taenia solium is an infectious disease, it does not spread like COVID-19. My chances of infection with Taenia solium are meager while living in Danbury, CT. Yet, we have patients with neurocysticercosis because people are mobile. I find it fascinating that the mix of diseases that are the most common in a particular hospital is not only dependent on the vectors and circumstance of life in the hospital region, but also the experiences and diseases prevalent in the places from which the people who make up the community around the hospital came.

As I contemplated our connectedness, the patient impressed me with their politeness and trust. Here was a person who was sick and did not speak English, yet they had complete faith that we could help them. I found myself humbled remembering that patients rely on us, the medical community, to guide them to better health when disease strikes. The patient’s calmness spread to anyone who spoke with them. There is something impressive about patients who can impart positive feelings on those around them despite being sick. I thought about the patient’s history and all the roads they had traveled so that our paths crossed during my medical training. Mobility is an amazing feature of the human experience. It both connects and separates us.

Learning to See

Before I moved to me latest city, the people I talked to about the city during my travels through medical school rotations didn’t have anything good to say about it. One person said there weren’t any good food. Others said there wasn’t much to do. When I moved here, someone went as far as to tell me it was dangerous. And, while I listened carefully because I knew little about the city myself, I had a suspicion they were wrong.

When I was a child, I learned to see the trees and birds around me. I learned to name them. I could tell a white pine from a red pine or a sugar maple from a red maple. I could tell you the sound of the chickadee and the hermit thrush. I knew the difference between a red wing blackbird and an oriole or a bluebird and an indigo bunting. This type of seeing was the outcome of growing up in the middle of nowhere while surrounded by women who knew these things and shared them with me.

Early on, I learned to tell the difference between real wood and fake wood. I could identify sloppy joints and beautifully joined boards. I judged furniture and house finishings based on their joints. I could tell you how sheetrock differed from plaster. I understood these things because my father had taught me to notice them. My mom taught me to see colors and how they might be paired. I still notice boldly paired colors and they bring me joy regardless of if I find them in a painting or on someone’s clothes.

As a I grew, I learned to name the flowers in people’s gardens because I worked in a greenhouse. I was trained to tell the difference between a rose and a lily, for example. My parents taught me to notice architecture. What makes a classic New England home look as such and how that differs from an adobe house. I came to understand what a well-built house is.

When I moved to DC, I learned how to see a street for what it was. A pathway to somewhere. I learned how to chart my course and tell if I was safe on a particular path within moments. I learned to see the places, like underpasses, I should avoid at night and the places that were filled with architecture, trees, and flowers. I learned this out of necessity and because I have a savage passion for walking and walking and walking.

When I moved to Paraguay, I learned to see what someone was trying to say because I couldn’t always understand their words. I learned to see if they were lying, or friendly, or joking. I learned to see why some people might follow God. I started to understand why life in Paraguay is different from life in the United States. And I learned to see that difference as both beautiful and challenging.

In medical school I’ve spent years learning to see exactly what a normal breath is and how stretchy skin should be. I’ve learned to see how the heart and abdomen are when all is well and what an infection looks like. I’ve learned to understand almost every part of the body and to see when it is healthy.

All this learning about how to see I carry with me always. And, when I moved to my latest home, I applied my seeing to understand what this city was. I learned that there is a lot to say about Danbury. I found the trails (there are numerous) where I can run and walk among the trees, birds, and flowers. I’ve noted the buildings with outstanding architecture. I found half a dozen murals with beautifully blended colors. I’m mapping out the good eateries—so far, I have a recommendation for every meal of the day plus elevenses and snacks. Much like Paraguay, Danbury is filled with people who don’t look or speak like me. But, when I took the time to observe my neighbors; it became apparent that they are a bunch of people trying to carve out a little space to work, eat, and be merry. I came to understand they were just like me in many ways. And, noticing our similarities, I understood that this city suits me. Seeing is something that takes practice. But once you learn to see you can begin to understand.