Archive | May, 2013

Climb Every Mountain

31 May

by Maribel Steel

Driving through the villages of the Auvergne region of southern France, vague splashes of colour whirl past my view. The Top Gear team are on a mission – we have a mountain to climb. Harry pulls up in the car park at the bottom of the mountain known as Puy de Dôme, a volcano that, thankfully, last erupted in 5760 BC.

He prepares his camera gear for the long haul and gabbles with excited anticipation. Our teenage son, Mike, catches his infectious enthusiasm. Personally, I wonder what it is about mountains that draw people magnetically to climb them? Hasn’t anyone thought of a ski-lift for non-hikers like myself?

 The sign at the beginning of the track apparently tells us it will take a comfortable two and a half hours return trip to reach the summit and back. Really? I dispute the word ‘comfortable’, knowing that this challenging track up the Puy de Dôme has occasionally been used as the ultimate finishing line for the Tour de France. I begin to grumble, anticipating my cane getting caught in ruts along the way.

“Do we really have to do this?”

“Mum. Come on!” says Mike. “You’re always telling me not to give up.” He grabs my hand and pulls me up the path.

Harry and I soon find we have to stop every few hundred metres just to catch our breath while mountaineer Mike coaches me up the climb. A group of French school children trot merrily past, the steep ascent effortless for light hollow legs. Little brats, I think to myself, huffing and puffing and crawling along at a snail’s pace.

 Three quarters up the stony path and I want to give up.

“Please, Mike. Let me wait here for you,” I pant.

“You can’t give up now,” he scolds. “I will be very disappointed in you if you do.”

Mike bounces ahead and I tell him to stop showing off or I will whack him with my white cane. Harry has trailed far behind us to capture the view on film and with much prodding, I continue the climb.

Yet the fresh scent of mountain pine begins to enliven my spirit and I catch a glimpse of dark mountains rising in the distance and pick sprigs of wildflowers along the path. I can sense the beauty in the quiet climb. Mike skips ahead urging me forward and together, we reach the summit. I can hardly believe we have made it to the top of Chaîne des Puys.

 My son and I stand in awe seeing what I imagine are the green fields far below of Clermont-Ferrand. Paragliders drift in pairs way above our heads – as graceful as soaring eagles. Harry comes puffing up to meet us, his voice bright with joy and we dance a merry jig in celebration of our triumph.

Just one last surprise awaits us at the summit of the volcanic dome…

a vending machine with cans of chilled green-tea!


Maribel Steelis a writer, blogger, mother and vocalist. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her partner Harry, and teenage son, Mike. She was diagnosed at fifteen with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP). It is the journey towards blindness she is grateful for, learning to trust her other senses: to hear, to touch, to smell, to intuit, to love and to laugh. She is proud to announce her brand new travel blog, Touching Landscapes.


Lost Without You

24 May

by Andrea Anderson

You left.
I should have seen the warning signs.
Things were so out of focus.
I paid you no mind, took you for granted.
Now I’m standing in darkness.
I’m lost without you
Own on the floor
Feeling for something
I need just a little more
To get me through the day.
With eyes open, I see nothing.
It gets easier with every passing day.
But I still want you. I still need you.
I wish with all my heart that you’d stayed.
I’m lost without you
Down on the floor
Feeling for something
I need just a little more
To get me through the day
Flashes in my dreams
You’ve come back it seems
But it’s just one of those games you play
I pick myself up, then you throw me down
Maybe I’ll survive without you, but. . .
I’m lost without you
Down on the floor
Feeling for something
I need just a little more
To get through the day
But you ran away

Andrea Anderson was born visually impaired. She is 20 years old and doctors are still trying to diagnose what exactly she has. She has a sister who is also visually impaired. They are both members of a VI group, which is where she got the idea for this poem. Her sister has lost some of her sight, and she wondered what it would be like to go through something like that. (Andrea thinks her vision is stable, although doctors tell her otherwise.

If Pigs Could Fly

17 May

by Nancy Scott

It is the typical Friday night for the Walking Wounded. We have  gathered in the building lobby by 6:45 p.m.

A former tenant, but still charter Walking Wounded member, brings Millie to visit. We love Millie because there is nothing wounded about her. She is a one-year-old Yorkshire terrier. She loves us all with body-wagging and whining till we sit to be leapt upon and kissed.

The talk is food (including doggy pepperoni) and politics. People poke rent checks through the office mail-slot and push grocery carts to the elevator. Several stop to pet Millie.

Doris is feeding two teen-age grandchildren this weekend. “I bought everything to make barbecue but I forgot the hamburger. Can you believe it?” Mid gleefully comments, “You could probably get by forgetting anything else–somebody would have what you forgot. But you forgot the main ingredient.”

Tonight, I’m thinking there must be more to life than being lobby fixture. Once Millie calms down for the sensible nap on the floor, I’m predicting things will get argumentative or boring.      But into our midst comes Pat. Her mail includes a package and we all perk up, rather desperately. We ask almost in unison, “What could it be?”

“Pig socks,” she says.

That stops us cold. Pat knew it would. She opens the package for us to see. We know she collects all things with pigs. But socks? Debbie narrates, for my benefit, thin socks, thick socks, white socks, black socks, embroidered and glittered socks. Front ends of pigs, back ends of pigs, and one pink pig with wings.

I touch the different socks and Pat comments on how Debbie folds them, matching the heels and putting her least favorite pair on top, saying, “Just find me so I can see what you wear with those blue ones.” Nadia, our security guard, checks a pair in Debbie’s pile, saying, “That pig has cute face.” Mid takes off his cowboy hat and taps his prosthetic foot with impatience. Anne holds Millie’s leash and contributes, “You could wear sandals with the thin socks. That would show off the pigs.”

Does Pat have a “pigs flying” dream? I think, but do not say, that we collect the things that strengthen our mythologies.

Pat mentions that she’s bought pig socks before, but they’re hard to find. “It’s been about four years.” She tells us she bought so many pig socks that she got free shipping. I suggest that she might not want to brag about that particular achievement. We laugh and she collects footwear to head for the seventh floor.

As the elevator moans upward, I check my Braille watch. “Time to go.” I unfold my white cane.  We stretch and unstiffen. Debbie and I take the next elevator after goodnights all around. Mid stays to wait for Betsy, quizzing Nadia with, “When did she say she’d be home?” and “Was she getting her hair done today?” Mid likes Betsy.  He’s been asking us whether he should give her flowers, or jewelry.

From social connections to main ingredients to flying pigs.  However we collect and express them, dreams are a wonderful thing.

 Nancy Scott, Easton, PA, is a blind essayist and poet.  Her over 600 bylines have appeared in magazines, literary journals, anthologies and newspapers, and as audio commentaries. An essayist and poet, she has published three chapbooks. She won First Prize in the 2009 International Onkyo Braille Essay Contest. Recent work appears in Breath and Shadow, Contemporary Haibun Online, and Stone Voices.


10 May

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.]

Jack Kerouac Is a What?

3 May

by Jeff Flodin

No Kidding, I really heard this: A young sculptor held court over a lunch table of six colleagues.  “I dated a man who loved Jack Kerouac,” said the sculptor.  “I never saw what he saw in Jack Kerouac.  Jack Kerouac is a douche.”

None of the young man’s tablemates contradicted him and neither did I, never having read Jack Kerouac.  But I took the sculptor’s comment as a challenge to my ingrained literary world view, where Jack Kerouac was a trailblazer, a pioneer, a prose visionary.  Maybe his notoriety came more from his lifestyle than his craft.  Maybe his crowdGinsberg, Burroughs, Snyder, Corso—had more talent.  Maybe Jack Kerouac was a hack.

But a “douche?”  What exactly constitutes a literary douche?  Shallow characters?  Trite situations?  Vapid dialogue? I cannot clarify.  My copy of On the Road stayed parked on my bookshelf, never given the mileage of Siddhartha and The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

I suspect the young sculptor’s verdict on Jack Kerouac had less to do with writing and more to do with the sins of his boyfriend.  People rarely direct their anger at the deserving target.  So be it.  I’m neither the sculptor’s analyst nor Jack Kerouac’s apologist.  What I detect is a lack of cultural and historical perspective.  Jack Kerouac changed the rules of the game.  He deserves his due.  Calling him a douche is like dismissing Jackson Pollock as “messy.”

So now I have decided to read On the Road.  Perhaps this trip will provide the missing perspective on my formative years.Perhaps On the Road will end up in the ditch.  When Ifinish here, when Spelling and Grammar check point out my typos and fragments, I’ll hitch a ride over to the NLS BARD website and download an audio version of On the Road.  Then I’ll be able to come up with my own noun to complete the phrase, “Jack Kerouac is a…”

Jeff Flodin writes the Jalapenos in the Oatmeal: Digesting Vision Loss blog (  He also provides moral support for Stella De Genova as she does all the hard work for the Vision Through Words blog.  Jeff uses the JAWS screen-reading software and found, in this story, a major mispronunciation of the key word, for which he used JAWS Dictionary Manager to change the word’s pronounced spelling to d o o s h.  He suggests that other JAWS users do the same thing, as it helps add meaning to the story.