Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday, Niagara Falls

We are ensconced in snowy Niagara Falls on Easter Sunday, with one day to rest and relax before our Laughter Yoga training begins. Most places are closed for the holiday---even the local Starbucks----so the day is free and open to exploration and, most of all, doing nothing (or next to nothing, that is). Having left our original hotel after one night due to inadequate facilities and strong chemical smells throughout the hotel and rooms, we immediately packed our bags this morning and found a much more agreeable locale where we can feel comfortable, with no obvious triggers for our Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS).

Last night, we went to great extremes in order to be relatively safe in our noxious hotel room: cramming towels into the space at the bottom of the door to block out the strong chemical stink of the hallway which leaked through the cracks around the door; sleeping with a window open to the 25-degree (fresh) air; and sealing the bathroom shut since it stank of cigarettes, the stale odor of which was pouring in from the broken "exhaust" fan. Luckily, Mary slept with sheets and pillow cases brought from home, sparing her the often bothersome facial rashes which she experiences from hotel bedding. Oh, the places we go!

Traveling with MCS is a significant challenge. Hotels are ubiquitously cleaned with harsh chemicals, fragranced products, and deodorizers. Sheets, towels and bedding are washed in scented detergents, dried with fragranced dryer strips, and sometimes sprayed with flower essences in fancier establishments. Add to this picture residues of recent guests, cigarette smoke, carpet shampoos, new carpeting, recent painting or renovations, and a host of other products or activities, and the person with even mild MCS can face a traveling nightmare. Last night was no exception, but after a very long drive and arriving at 11pm, looking for another hotel when exhausted (and irritable with chemical poisoning) seemed even worse than spending one night in our reserved room. That said, since we had called in advance to request a room free of chemicals and the use of cleaners for 24 hours prior to our arrival, the hotel manager was kind enough to not charge us for our stay, making the transition elsewhere less painful indeed.

Being Easter Sunday, we are experiencing our own rebirth this morning, rising out of the nocturnal ashes of our petrochemically intoxicating stay at the first hotel. As a middle-aged (who, me?) man of Jewish descent who was raised in an excessively secular home (where Christmas and Easter were celebrated as mainstream cultural extravaganzas of candy, tinsel, Santa Claus, eggs, and bunny rabbits), Easter has little personal meaning for me in and of itself. With only marginal ties to the pagan community, I understand the meanings of rebirth, the equinoxes and solstices and such, but I am, by and large, a man without a religion or culture. Sad as this may seem to some, it is my personal creation, and my church, as it were, tends to be that most expansive and welcoming of churches---the "Church Without Walls", Nature herself. So on this Easter Sunday, we will go take a look at the icy, snowy and windblown falls of Niagara, and send our wishes for cleansing, rebirth and new beginnings, sending outmoded ways of being and thinking careening down the cascading waters.
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