by Nancy Scott
Wake to the cool, early morning. Waste in routine; wait for sun to burn off haze. Check the synthesized voice’s “to do” list. Do the minimum. Write hopeful rough drafts instead.
Answer the phone after 2 hours and one idea well captured. Say “Yes” to friends who will drive to get you for lunch and shopping out.
Order the expensive iced chai latte but get the cheap tuna hoagie split three ways with green peppers on the side. Listen to narration of slender people creating salads.
Plan to buy triple-chocolate poundcake. Add the banana bread described as looking “yummy” as a pleasant extra. Promise to freeze them both out of mind like so many things that surface in vapors and chills.
Choose strawberries that might be locally grown. Follow the shopping cart. Walk the superstore. Ask about vitamins and melon-scented hand soap. Buy the lavendar/lilac shampoo that will surely cure boredom.
Decide not to spend much. Spend almost twenty bucks, like always.
Put purchases where they belong at home. Slice and eat one big banana bread piece before freezing the rest. Believe it even better than you were told. Share some cake and washed berries with the helpful but underpaid apartment security guard.
Sit out on the 3-person bench with the neighbor who only talks about herself. Know you’ve heard most of her stories before. Understand her need for less lonely air. Don’t mention listening to longest light. Think where far enough is.
Wonder why all the sidewalk bushes were cut down to their roots—those 9-year, 5-foot-tall landmarks suddenly gone.
Give up on the Phillies early, though they will win with 10 runs. Deflower and finger-hull fruit impatiently. Debate sugar and milk. Taste health.
Chat on a phoneline for blind people to the always-cheerful man from Texas. Guess if he’s as wealthy as he claims. Suspect that some other paralysis slightly catches his breath and halts his speech. Never mind because he’s fun.
Set the alarm for next morning’s NASA briefing. Love this less anonymous light and more anonymous dark of long travel and history. Pay attention to passions.
Drift toward sleep reading a digital novel about people and places unknown. Wish for crickets who will not sing beneath nearby windows because they fear the newer air-conditioner tower.
Plan to take the cane some night soon to search out the evening chirps of never-changing but always-changing summer. Think where far enough is.
Nancy Scott, Easton, PA, is an essayist and poet. Her over-500 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. Her third chapbook, co-authored with artist Maryann Riker, is entitled “The Nature of Beyond.”
by Mani G. IyerI remember, as a child I would visit the good doctor’s dispensary announce my arrival to his assistant through a small square window, and blend with his other patients sitting on a hard wooden bench breathing in the medicinal odors staring at the photographs of his association, with Bombay’s film stars for whom, he had a separate air-conditioned waiting room with plush cushioned seats. When I was summoned inside I would begin with my health complaints, and the good doctor would always inevitably ask me to open my mouth, and point his sleek torch into the straining cavern, nonchalantly look askance to continue talking to his cronies, father being one of them, write out a prescription in a dirty scribble, which I delivered to his assistant, who promptly dispensed some gaudy multi-colored pills and a viscous liquid poured into a calibrated bottle with dosage instructions spit stuck on it, and I would return home feeling happy, knowing, the good doctor himself was an effective placebo. I remember him often visiting our home unannounced after a house call informing mother, that he craved for her special South Indian coffee and snacks she would be too happy to cater to his fancies the visit meant free health checkups for our family, lots of wisdom and astrological predictions astrology was something he dabbled into, under the influence of father there was this pleasant, ambient atmosphere that his towering, charming personality radiated, and we basked under it, though I would sometimes wonder about the long line of patients on the hard wooden bench, when he was with us. The good doctor has passed away, I am told, in a manner, befitting his goodness an indelible period, after the long line of his indecipherable prescriptions, and I can imagine him chatting away with father somewhere where the dead go, about Indian politics, astrology, neighborhood affairs, his failed ventures into film production father would then pull out his beedi, light it, and the good doctor would admonish him, to which father would jokingly remind him, they were dead.
Mani G. Iyer was born and raised in Bombay, India and has lived in the United States since 1985. He is deaf-blind due to Usher Syndrome. He became deaf by the age of 4, night-blind by the age of 12, and now has very little usable vision.
Eyes—the head’s chief of police. They watch and make mental notes. A blind person is like a city abandoned by the authorities. On sad days they cry. In these carefree times they weep only from tender emotions.
[Anton Pavlovich Chekhov (1860-1904), Russian author, playwright. A Brief Human Anatomy, Works, vol. 2, p. 199, "Nauka" (1976).] (Taken from http://www.poemhunter.com/ )
John Milton – (December 9, 1608 – November 8, 1674)John Milton was a civil servant, English poet and prose polemicist. Milton was well known through his epic poem Paradise Lost and also for his radical views on republican religion. He never was well adjusted in school and once got expelled for having a fist fight with his tutor. Eventually he began to write poetry in English, Latin and Italian. John Milton became blind at the age of 43 in 1651, and has written books containing quotes of how the experience sometimes made him miserable.
(Excerpt taken from: http://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/famous-blind.shtml#ixzz1StETtuFO)
by Jim Holzman
Thursday night is softball night in my world. I’ve been part of this team for more than thirty years. This year is quickly becoming one of the most challenging. Our record to date is 0-8, with two games to play. Although we would like to win one of the last two, there’s a part of me that would be okay being 0-10 (a new record for us). Maybe we could all wear the number 0 on our jerseys. My idea has found little support among my teammates. I guess some of them don’t view things the same way that I do.
The name of our team is the “Pointers,” named after Point beer which is brewed in Wisconsin (long story and not all that interesting – they gave us free hats!). On this year’s edition of the Pointers, there are 4 of my brothers, 6 nephews, 1 brother-in-law and a few friends to fill out the roster. The oldest player is 56, the youngest is 16. Over the years we have had a fair amount of success. The last few years have become a bit more challenging like (0-8 challenging).
The role that I currently find myself playing on this team is a constant struggle -between many different areas of my brain and other teammates. I usually get to the park at about 6, our games start at 6:30. After exchanging pleasantries with a few of my teammates, I proceed to put on my spikes. Over the years, I have learned to drag out this process. The way I see it, the less time that I spend practicing the less chance of getting hit with a softball, which, by the way is not all that soft. During practice, I usually position myself far away from the guy smacking the ball with the bat. I figure, if he is going to hit me with the ball, he is going to have to earn it.
Although I do still have some vision left that allows me to keep a spot on this team, my playing time is scarce. There are many reasons for this, the first being me. Although I still enjoy playing, after many, many years of denial, I am starting to accept the obvious: that there are better players on the team, and, oh yeah, I am visually impaired. I sometimes still struggle with my desire to play as compared to my disdain for hospital emergency rooms. The second reason is the other guys on the team, mainly my brothers – I do realize that they are truly concerned for my safety, but they still want to win. If I am in the game and commit an error (a 75% chance probability), the response is varied amongst the players, most are encouraging, some are “come on, catch the ball”, but the one that perplexes me the most is that someone will inevitably say “he didn’t see it” or something to that effect. That kinda bothers me because even though I know other people should play ahead of me, when they make an error, it isn’t met with the same reaction or comment. But, on the flip side, people are sometimes amazed when I make any plays at all.
So I usually coach third base, this keeps me involved and is closer to my beer. People often ask, “How can you coach if you can’t see the ball?) I usually tell them that I watch the fielders and their reactions. In truth, I just guess. After all, it’s just a game!
So here’s the recap of our last game: We had a decent first inning – we were leading 2-0. Unfortunately, according to the rules, the other team gets to bat too. We lost 15-3. We all took it fairly well. Most of us have realized what we have become – the team that other teams can’t wait to play.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen (and got old). We have talked about hanging ‘em up and retiring, as we probably should, but we are still having fun and besides, there is nothing good on TV Thursday nights.
Thanks for reading. Tryouts will be in early May 2012, see ya then,
Jim Holzman was diagnosed with RP 25 years ago. He worked at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Board of Trade for 22 years. He has now been a volunteer at the Guild for the Blind for the last year.
by Tammy Curry
On Saturday, July 16, 2011, my partner and I attended the Boulder Blind Café, an event to “Dine & Experience a Concert in the Pitch Dark!” I feel fortunate to be able to share my experience with Vision Through Words. This is only an account of a sighted person’s 3 hours in darkness. While I have a deeper appreciation, respect and understanding of those who are visually impaired, I am sure it only scratches the surface of the lives of those in the blind community. I write this article respectfully and with gratitude to the Blind Café.
To begin with, it was quite impressive, not only how many people showed up to the event, but also how well it was organized. Once it was time to enter, we lined up in designated groups, put our right hands on each other’s shoulders and followed our blind guide into his world. Once through several layers of thick canvas hanging in front of the door, we took small steps together. We walked and weaved in a room the size of a ballroom, listening to sounds of those around us. When our guide brought us to a table, he found my hand and placed it on the chair, something I was grateful for. Sitting down I tried to get acquainted with the surroundings and found the food already served. I needed to be very gentle with my exploring as I did not know if I would knock something over, or even put my hand in someone else’s food.
We didn’t know what we were eating so I tried to figure out what was on the plate though touch. I felt salad – that was an easy one, but not easy to get onto my fork so I used my fingers to help guide the salad on the fork to my mouth. I picked up what seemed like a cooked grape, but when I bit into it, it was a cherry tomato with its juice and seeds breaking open into my mouth as if it were the first time I ever ate a tomato. Eventually, the chef came out and discussed what was served which included polenta, salad, quinoa, goat cheese balls, and fresh peaches whose fuzzy skin seemed to be that much fuzzier.
Dinner was followed by a Q & A session with the staff which was full of great questions, interesting stories and laughter. In-house poet, Rick Hammond recited some beautiful poems in the darkness and silence of the room. Shortly thereafter began the music of Rosh & One Eye-Glass Broken which felt extremely intimate and peaceful with nothing to distract the melody floating in the dark air.
At the end of the event, the group slowly brought light to the room by lighting candles. I looked around and found that the “ballroom” we walked through was only a large room and the volume of the conversation came from only about 100 people, not hundreds as I had imagined.
During the evening my emotional and physical sensations varied each moment. Physically, it felt like I had my eyes closed yet could not open them. My eyes strained trying to adjust and I had to close my eyes to allow them to rest. I felt awkward in my movements so I kept a very small parameter, feeling a bit confined in my space. Emotionally, I felt vulnerable and isolated during the meal, but felt relaxed and connected to my partner during the concert as I was only required to listen. I found a need to reach out and touch my partner to feel his presence, love and security. He was an anchor in the darkness.
Three words I take with me from this experience are: Patience – with myself, with others, and with the situation around me; Trust – I had to trust others as it was crucial and I had to hope that everyone had the same intentions that I did; and Community – from the guidance to my chair, to the conversations at our table, I definitely felt that I lost my sighted independence and could not do this alone.
Between the conversation, the meal and the music, the Blind Café taught me that you do not need to see in order to enjoy the beauty in the world.
Tammy Curry is a graphic artist and a subscriber to Vision Through Words.
To be blind is not miserable; not to be able to bear blindness, that is miserable.
[John Milton (1608-1674), British poet. Second Defence (1654). Milton's sight was impaired from 1644, his blindness becoming complete in the winter of 1651-1652.]
by Jeff Flodin
Here’s what I would do if I could see again. For one glorious summer day, I’d be a bleacher bum. And play Frisbee at Oak Street Beach. And get impressed by Impressionists hanging around the Art Institute. I might paint my bedroom purple. And ride a sleek red bicycle. And watch my big, black dog romp in the cool blue surf.
I’d venture into the unfamiliar: down to scuba dive, up in a glider. I’d find peace in the familiar: gaze upon the face of my beloved, catch the light in her laughing eyes and see the strength I hear in her voice.
I like to think that I’d be grateful for one day of vision. I don’t want to resent it as a miserly expression of someone’s sense of fairness. I’d prefer to remain gracious.
I’d set aside time to spy on myself. Watch how I do things and figure out how to do things better. I’ve never seen me as a blind person. I’m really curious what it looks like to be me, how I put my problem-solving skills to practice.
If I saw my blind self from a sighted perspective, how would I look? Pathetic? Persistent? I live in a sighted world. I’d like to know how other people see me. Maybe I’d understand both sides better.
I want to think that wishing is not a waste of time, that it does not mean that I am doing a lousy job of accepting life as it is, that I seek only to escape. I refute the suggestion that to wish for something not likely to occur will only make me sad or bitter or both.
And when the clock strikes midnight, let me be grateful for what I have. Let me not resent those who have what I lack. Let me strive to make better that which I possess. Let me find peace and bring that peace to others.
Jeff Flodin’s bi-weekly blog, “Jalapenos in the Oatmeal: Digesting Vision Loss,” is posted at The Guild for the Blind’s website (www.guildfortheblind.org, where this essay first appeared. See more about Jeff in this blog’s Statement page.
This site focuses on the creative writings of visually impaired and blind people. As we all know, creativity is crucial to our spirit, whatever form it may be. With that in mind, and for your pleasure and information, we will be posting an excerpt about an inspiring and creative blind person each week.
“Blind” Willie Johnson (January 22, 1897 – September 18, 1945) was an American singer and guitarist whose music straddled the border between blues and spirituals. While the lyrics of all of his songs were religious, his music drew from both sacred and blues traditions. Among musicians, he is considered one of the greatest slide or bottleneck guitarists, as well as one of the most revered figures of depression-era gospel music. His music is distinguished by his powerful bass thumb-picking and gravelly false-bass voice, with occasional use of a tenor voice.
(Excerpt taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_blind_people#Visual_artists)