Archive | October, 2012

Inside a Kaleidoscope of Sound

27 Oct

by Maribel Steel

Sitting on the veranda listening to the natural music of the Australian bush, I ponder how to write a post about the sounds we heard in the ancient stones of France. I close my eyes and allow my ears to see the world in front of me and realise why I get so excited about the sound of music in nature.

As humans, we cannot reproduce sincerely the sound of a gust of wind through the tops of trees, the chandelier quality of birds trilling, lizards scooting around leaf litter, extroverted frogs croaking with impeccable rhythm, soothing water playing over rocks in creeks, the crashing thud of a dead tree giving

up the ghost as it falls to the forest floor, dashing busy bees, or impatient flies. All that whirring, whooshing, the creaks and groans, the trills and other sounds add significant ‘sonic-colour’ to the landscape.

Man has learned how to reproduce the colours of the rainbow in the fabrics we wear, in the paints we put onto canvas to imitate Nature’s beauty – but give me a symphony of sound any day rather than a palate of colours, for in the hearing, I see more than I can see with eyes wide open. With eyes closed, skin and hair follicles also become part of the world of interpretation. And so, with my limited tunnel vision, I find life to be a constant surprise as objects jump out in front of my blinkered visual scope and if it were not for a heightened sense of hearing to warn me of sudden changes, I would possibly be a nervous little rabbit stunned by the bright headlights of life.

Living in a hectic city, each time I venture out the front door, along with my purse, my cane and coat I take my alert senses which have been honed to expect the unexpected, even more so when travelling through a foreign country. My brain switches into detective mode, gathering zillions of clues from the other senses all clamouring to offer a flurry of interpretation while at the same time, my sighted guides, Harry and Mike, are painting postcards on the canvas of my imagination.

But where I can really excel without the need to see is when I listen to the landscape, when I hear the sound within ancient stones. One of the extraordinary surprises we discovered on our tour through southern France was the deep resonance within century old stone churches, medieval castles and handmade brick wine vaults.

It is the ancient sweet textured space within three very special locations that calls our hearts forth to sing. Our voices glide with improvised notes, searching for echoes in and around small gaps as if we are sifting through the ruins of sound.

The full account can be read at Maribel’s blog:

To venture inside the kaleidoscope of sound link to Maribel’s first youtube:

Maribel Steel is a writer, blogger, mother and singer who lives in Melbourne, Australia. As a person with Retinitis Pigmentosa, she believes her life is about learning to trust her other senses: to hear, to touch, to smell, to intuit, to love and to laugh.  To learn more about Maribel Steel visit her website:

Fat Blind Guy

23 Oct

by Fred Nickl, Sr.

Once upon a time there was a fat blind guy.  Not just any fat blind guy.  This was a super fat, super blind, fat blind guy.  He wasn’t always a super fat blind guy.  He started out just like anyone else, a normal fat blind guy.  No one knows exactly when it happened, but it was about the time he was eighteen.  He was exposed to the curse of pizza.  Someone with no regard for the fat blind guy’s future turned him on to the terrible food.  It wasn’t long before he was eating the stuff at every meal.  He didn’t settle for  just the basic kinds of pizza, he loaded them up with every kind of topping.  He was not above getting four kinds of meat on one pizza.  Of course it goes without saying he always ordered the largest size.  He ordered sizes like the giant and the stadium.  He especially liked searching the internet for pizza places advertizing the weirdest combinations of ingredients.  A pizza with fish or pickles was not out of the  question.  Pizza delivery men knew him by his first name.  He was known in cities all across the country.  You know it had to happen, one day he ordered a pizza he could not possibly finish.  It was called the United Nations.  The ingredients were too numerous to list here.  They stood about six inches high and were hanging over the sides.  The pizza was so big they had to bring it in through the window.  This was the kind of challenge he liked.  Little did he know this pizza was about to be his undoing.  The first slice went down quickly, so did the second and the third.  Even the fifth and sixth pieces went down easy.  It was about the tenth piece that the trouble started.  The toppings started to pile up under his nose and caused some breathing  difficulties.  The bucket of diet soda that came with the pizza just caused foam to form around the piled up pizza.  This caused him to start sneezing.  Again this by its self would not have been a serious problem except for the fact that he was too stubborn to stop and clean off his face.  The combination of all that and the fact that he was already in distress from all the years of over eating pizza.  The doctors later surmised his blindness kept him from realizing the sheer quantity of pizza he was trying to consume.  The autopsy showed that all those years of eating pizza had caused a massive blockage of his stomach with undigested cheese.  Pizza shops all over the country mourned his passing.  There was an immediate down turn in the economy.  All the makers of pizza ingredients suffered an immediate down turn.  The only people that were happy were the trash haulers whose loads sizes went down dramatically.  I suppose he will be missed by more people than that as he was a very generous tipper to the delivery men.  My feelings are mixed as my job was to clean out his apartment.  If I had a dollar for every pizza coupon I found, I would be rich.

Fred Nickl, Sr. is 69 years old and has fun writing.  He lost his sight when he was a young adult but has never let that stop him from being a great dad, grandfather, friend, advocate for the blind and generally nice guy.  Blindness has also never stopped his love for adventure – sky diving being his latest feat!

Green Tea, Green Time

12 Oct

by Emily K. Michael

I am sitting in a heavy, hard-backed chair, at a small bistro table, a few feet away from the stairwell. Tucked into the corner of the elevated sidewalk that hugs my department building, the table provides an ideal place for listening to the sounds of the courtyard below, the passing students, and the occasional birds. My large dark blue schoolbag sits by my feet, my cane lies folded across the table’s lattice top, and my bright blue thermos stands in front of me. With its subtle hourglass shape and sturdy handle, the thermos holds about 20 ounces of green-ginger tea. The early autumn breeze flicks the dangling tea tag against the side of the thermos, a soft shff shff shff in the quiet afternoon.

I pop the top and enjoy the resonant click of the plastic lid. The tea is piping hot, surprisingly welcome on a warm, breezy afternoon. Green-ginger has become indispensable to me; its spicy, fragrant flavor soothes my sore throat and relaxes my body. It’s a good tea for contemplation.

As I place the thermos on the table, I wonder how soon I should return to my office. Can I justify a half hour of quiet meditation out here? I decide that I can. After all, the green time will make me more productive.

Since I’m wearing my sunglasses, I begin visually exploring my surroundings. I can clearly see the stairwell, the rails, and the elevator doors to my left. I look to the right, where something dark and scraggly nuzzles against the side of the sky, its shape uneven and coarse. It must be a tree. I turn my head, and the corners of another building come into focus. Strong right angles and a medium unknown color set off the building’s roof.

Both the tree and the roof draw my eyes to the contrasting sky, the pale, translucent backdrop that makes each separate piece of this landscape so visible to me. I tilt my head back so that the sky fills my entire visual field. Through the dark glasses, I see that the sky is comprised of two textures: something sheer and slightly darker and something puffy with a shiny brightness. The puffy material stretches across the sky in patches—or does the sheer, smooth material stretch across the opposing texture? One of these textures must be clouds, but I can’t decide for certain which one.

I think about how often we invoke clouds in literature, film, and other art—how often we reference clouds in everyday speech. I remember countless scenes in novels and movies where two people—friends or lovers—lie on their backs in the bright green grass and find significance in the sky.

To me, the sky looks like an optical illusion, the kind where two images exist inside one frame. Is it the single vase or the two faces? Do the clouds lie along the sky or does the sky push through the clouds?

Emily K. Michael is a legally-blind writer, musician, English instructor, and freelance editor, living in Jacksonville, FL.  She enjoys reading, writing, editing, gardening, singing, and cooking. When she’s not involved in academic pursuits, she work with blind or visually-impaired people and their families, teaching self-advocacy and independent living skills. Emily doesn’t believe in advocacy without humor.  You can see Emily’s blog at:

Helping Hand

7 Oct

by Jeff Flodin

I tell the paratransit driver to take me to the west entrance.  When I get out and start feeling around, he asks me what’s wrong.  ”I can’t find the west door,” I say. He tells me, no wonder, the west door’s somewhere else.  “Idiot,” I mutter.  “Another idiot.”

I ask the old guy manning the information desk how to get to the west wing. He tells me to take a right.  So I take a right and he says no, that he meant left.  And I think, “Mister, I’ve got a dog here who knows left from right.”

An old lady volunteers to lead me wherever I need to go.  She takes my hand and I’m all set to tell her that’s not the way to guide a blind person, that I take her elbow instead.  Then the hand she’s put in mine starts to flutter.  Her hand is like that little bird, that little bird lying there, just bone and trembling, after it hit the window. So I hold her hand in mine and we walk.  She offers small talk about my dog and about her sweet dog from long ago and all the while her hand is fluttering with Parkinsons but she doesn’t talk about that.

We find the elevator and she gets right in with me.  And she holds her one hand steady with the other so she can press the right button. Then she takes my hand again, like I might get lost in there.  And I’m ready to tell her there’s no need, but I feel there is.  We stand silent as the elevator rises to the top floor.  And all the way, her hand trembles inside mine, flutters like a little bird trying to escape.

Jeff Flodin is a writer.  He has been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa for 30 years.  Jeff’s bi-weekly blog, “Jalapenos in the Oatmeal: Digesting Vision Loss,” is posted at Second Sense – beyond vision loss’s (f/k/a The Guild for the Blind) website (  Read more about Jeff on the Statement page of this site.

All in a Day

4 Oct

by Stella De Genova

It’s as easy as a walk through your own neighborhood to find the worst and the best of the human spirit.  I know because it happened to me today!  It was one of the last warm, sunny days before the colder side of autumn will set in on Chicago so I took the opportunity to take a walk to the grocery store.

On my way, I came across a large tree limb with many smaller branches sticking out in many directions laying across the sidewalk which crossed my path.  I stopped walking, took off my sunglasses and tested where the safe path was with my trusty white cane.  While I was beginning to continue through, a man in a car stopped, telling me to stop and wait so he could move the tree limb for me.  I let him know I was fine but he still proceeded to move the limb onto the grass and out of the walking area.  I thanked him and we both went our ways, thinking to myself how nice of him that was.

I made my way to the store, found what I wanted and asked the butcher for chicken breast filets since I couldn’t read the labels myself.  He was also kind enough to show me exactly what I was looking for.

What a nice day.  Things are going so nicely and I’m on my way home now. I’m at the far end of my block and it’s sunny enough for me to see that someone is walking toward me.  I made sure I stayed to the right since that is normally the side we Americans walk or drive on when there is oncoming traffic = vehicle or pedestrian.  I continued walking and so did the woman but she did not move to her right.  She stayed on her left which was right in front of me and she kept coming.  I walked and thought she’d get it and move over, especially that she could see me waling with a white cane.  Nope!  She was about 3 feet in front of me when I moved out of her way!  And she proceeded to walk right past me and on her way.  All I could think was “Really? Did she just do that?”  I just shook my head a little and continued home.

I didn’t let that ruin my day.  It just made it as clear as ever to me that humans are made up of good and bad and I’ll continue to try and have the good win over the bad.  It’s the best anyone can do for themselves and for their fellow man, right?