Apologies to all: Helen Keller’s birthday is June 27, 1880. (Today’s post originally showed it as July 27.)
by Nancy ScottEvery season sends perfect days to remind us to love land and sky. I test my fit in less clothes. The ceiling fan tones low-hum summer, not yet ticking over work. I will sit in slanted morning sun or late-afternoon creative shade and be grateful to step outside to a private place suspended three floors up. Tomorrow, I will lose delight. Tomorrow, I will mind stuck sameness. Tomorrow, obstacles could fix my pace. Tomorrow, I will crave what is not in the house. Tomorrow, I will try not to forget today. Tomorrow, the forecast will say, “Needed rain.”
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.
by Jeff Flodin
Moment to moment, I choose to view this world as harmonious or hostile. It’s an inside job, this choice I make, independent of the acts of others. When I maintain harmony WITHIN, I find complimentary energy WITHOUT. When I choose disharmony, I perceive malice and I behave maliciously. What I feel, I project; what I project, I attract.
Harmony implies equality, humility and humanness. In harmony, I forgive others their mistakes asI forgive my own. Harmony equals acceptance. Disharmony accentuates differences, separating victor from victim, us from them, haves from have nots. Victims forfeit, then resent power, control and choice.
For me, blindness comes with anger. Anger at the gods who single me out and anger at people who disrespect me. As victim, I display the arrogance that my trials are more arduous than yours. Arrogance borne out of self-pity is the victim’s revolt. It is reactionary to the nth degree. It is disharmony of first believing I am less than, then greater than, my fellows.
Back on the street, I realize that when power brokers jostle me, it is my own sense of inadequacy that triggers my resentment. Now a jogger hurdles my white cane and a motorist crowds me in the crosswalk. How dare they? I take it personally. How easily I forget that what others think of me has less to do with me and more to do with them. Insinuating myself as injured party in their life drama is so egotistical as to be laughable. If I need to inflate my importance, I’ll consult my dog. Yes, I grumble at the incautious, then dig deep in my harmony bag. Today’s mantra? Things happen through me not to me. I am the source rather than the object. Repeat as needed.
Jeff Flodin writes from a blindness perspective, but hopes his message applies universally. He authors the blog entitled Jalapenos in the Oatmeal: Digesting Vision Loss. His book of collected stories under roughly the same title is tentatively scheduled for publication in 2013. He lives in Chicago and has lived with RP for twenty-seven years.
by Coriel O’Shea Gaffney
When I was six, I learned that a parasitic disease had infected both my eyes and left me legally blind. I did not discover my handicap on my own. In fact, my school’s records indicated I had 20/20 vision. (In retrospect, I think I must have memorized the eye chart; somehow, I must have known.)Rather, while my mother and I were driving one day, she noticed one eye appeared lazy and casually brought me to be tested a couple weeks later. There was no urgency in our actions. We measure and define ourselves against others and I had no means of comparison. Is there a handicap before there is a diagnosis?
Doctors were able to restore normal(ish) vision to my left eye but scars had already formed over the retina of my right. Since neither glasses nor surgery can correct the problem, I will never have central vision in this eye.
Like the rest of humanity, the conclusions I draw about the world will always be based on my limited perspective. In my case, because the object I am seeing contains holes separate from the object itself, a reflection of my own eye, this means my conclusions will never be finite as they necessarily include their own relativity. My version of the world is like a drawing of itself. When we look at a drawing, we cannot escape the eye of the artist. We see not image, but image as seen through the eye of the artist. When I look at the world, my eye is reporting back to me about the process of looking, so some part of me is always conscious of the fact that this reality-thing is simply my own rendering. My world is a drawing; I am its artist and I am its critic.
Most people are removed from the process of seeing as they look. The retina records an image, which will inevitably change, and therefore disappear, and be replaced with a new image. Each recorded image tricks the brain into believing that what it is seeing is unchanging for that second. That is how the perception of an image becomes a part of a greater narrative. The perceived constancies ground the narrative’s arc with something steady, concrete. The images my retina records, however, are incomplete, already fleeting. I will never fully believe in the illusion of constancy. Perhaps this perception contributes to my obsession with the transience of life and susceptibility to anxiety, but it also ignited my passion for poetry.
For the first six years of my life, I assumed rooms were splotched and lopsided, that when light faded it also blurred, that the middles of things could detach at will. And so the important parts became tops and bottoms, beginnings and ends, the principal’s pointy feet, my mother’s frizzy hair. Details have always guided me and remain, to this day, more useful and important than the whole (which is never actually whole). And because I am always fighting for stagnancy, because what I see is always simultaneously forming and fading, arriving and departing, I reconstruct to fill in, to shape the haze.
Or maybe it is human nature to turn our defenses into art.
Coriel O’Shea Gaffney is legally blind in her right eye since childhood (and was, for a time, legally blind in both eyes) as a result of Toxoplasmosis. She received her MFA from The City College of New York where she is also an Adjunct Lecturer. She has been a featured poet for the Turnstyle, Earshot!, Bushwick, Franklin Park Literary Series, the louderARTS Project, to name a few. As a member of the feminist collaborative 500Genders, she has been featured at the Bowery Poetry Club, Stain Bar, and Perch Café. Publications include: Lyre, Lyre, Union Station, Scapegoat Review, Promethean and more. Coriel was the recipient of the Jerome Lowell Dejur Award in Poetry and the CCNY Teacher-Writer Award.