Tag Archives: essay

A Little Glass Box

18 Nov

by Nancy Scott

          Some days you know you need an adventure.  You are bored.  You can’t settle.  You are too sad and only want to whine.

          After pacing or eating too much sugar or sitting too long in front of the tube, you leave your too-safe haven.  Fast food, the mall, maybe that movie.

          But some days, you are happily tucked in and industrious.  ‘Till someone else needs the adventure.  Oh, you need it too.  You just don’t know it yet.

* * *

          It was an almost-summer November day when my almost-lunchtime phone rang.  I had already drafted an essay, sort of cleaned the bathroom, and balanced the checkbook.

          “I just got my hair done, and I don’t want to go home and be diligent.  Can we do something?”

          I try never to refuse adventures when they’re offered.  “Let me think,” I hedged, mostly so I could seem diligent. 

          “I’m about five blocks from your house,” Vicky’s cell-phone voice informed me.  “Keep thinking, and I’ll see you.”

          Besides loving adventures, I don’t drive and must take advantage of vehicular opportunities.  We could make copies at the printer’s, and I did need more Christmas wrapping paper.  Aha!  The Dollar Store!

          With official errands finished, we roamed and handled and discussed the merits of Dollar Store merchandise.  I love containers.  Maybe it’s my dream of being organized, or a desire to  make what I give other people more interesting.  Presents should combine practical with magical, just like any other adventure.

          And since it was nearly Thanksgiving, I found lots of Christmas themes—snowman stockings, gold cloth bags with tassels, small felt boots just the right size to hide lottery tickets. 

          But the best box of the whole day was not designed for Christmas.  It was heavy glass with a substantial lid and a glass bow.  It spoke of January and presents beyond the predictable.  I have a friend whose birthday is in January.  I felt the rightness and the weight and size of this box.  It could hold money, a gift card, prayers, or anything else small that needed to be seen and kept.

          I bought it, happy that in these more uncertain times I could think about next year’s hope.  Who could ask for more of an adventure than that?


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.

Funny Phrases and Revenge

30 Aug

by Nancy Scott

          Stealing clever phrases and writing ideas is something I do all the time.

          I told my friend David that I’d used his getting lost while we were going to a writers’ meeting, in an essay.  And I correctly wrote that he didn’t confess lostness right away.  “I have news for you,” he immediately informed me.  “Sometimes it takes me awhile to figure out that I’m lost.”  Now that was something I’d never considered.  I basically expect to get lost.  It would never be something I’d have to figure out.

          Vicky, during lunch at the Hoagie place said, “You like people who talk and people who are characters.” 

          “Do you mean I encourage people to be characters?”  (Could that be true?) 

          “Of course,” Vicky answered, as if this were obvious.

          Melanie, after only three weeks working with me, was trying to reorganize my mailing-label mess.  She still preferred understatement, saying “It’s amazing what you can find in here.”

          When I asked my elderly neighbor how he was feeling and he said, “I’m complaining much better now,” I knew I’d use that somewhere.  I think you could use it too, if it gives you a good comeback.

          Sometimes good comebacks are hard to come by.  Like when Dr. M., who knew I was blind, yelled up to me one morning as I walked on my balcony, “I know what you’re doing up there.  You’re birdwatching.”

          The only comeback I could think of was, “They’d have to be very big, noisy birds.”

          And Terry’s only attempt at anything approaching humor happened the day she couldn’t reach to dust a cabinet top.  She proclaimed, “The stepladder is shrinking.”  Being over 50, I understood that phenomenon.

          Recently, though, we finished cleaning my large bedroom closet in record time.  I complimented her, saying, “You’re so fast.” 

          “Well, you don’t have as much crap as you used to,” she said, straight-faced.  I laughed and told her she was becoming a smart-ass.  “I’ve been hanging out with you for over 20 years,” she stated.  “What do you expect?”

          This time my comeback was better.  “Keep that up,” I warned, “and you’ll have an entire essay of your own.”

 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.

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.

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 (www.second-sense.org)  Read more about Jeff on the Statement page of this site.

Call for Creativity

6 Apr

Vision Through Words has posted something about creative people who also happen to be blind on a weekly basis.  The information I’ve found is about people who have made a name for themselves in one way or another.  But the archives are starting to run a little low, even with the assistance of Google.  I can’t imagine that there are only 50 blind people who are doing something creative in this whole world!  So I’m putting a call out to everyone to let me know about yourself or someone you know that does interesting and creative things due to or despite a visual impairment.  This blog is not about world-renowned people, it’s about us!  So let’s have fun and learn about each other.

If you have a story to share, please email it to visionthroughwords@gmail.com .  And remember, we also take submissions for short essays and poetry written by visually impaired and blind writers.

Randy Randy

12 Dec

by Jeff Flodin

In honor of my friend Beth finke’s new Seeing Eye dog, Whit, whose full name is Whitney, this blog is dedicated to my Seeing Eye Dog, Randy, whose full name is Randy.

 What’s in a name, anyway?  My first dog’s name was Sherlock, which everyone thought was the coolest.  When I was introduced to my new dog on March 1, 2010, I said, “Randy. What a stupid name.”  Randy Quaid came to mind, the dimwit of the National Lampoon V acation movies. Then, I was reminded that randy as an adjective means frisky in a sexual way.  A tease. Being fixated at adolescence, I began to see Randy in a different, much cooler light.

 Then the veterinarian at the Seeing Eye told me that Randyhad been destined from birth to be the patriarch of a new string of brawny black Labs.

 “You mean he was supposed to be a stud?” I asked.

The vet demurred.

 I persisted.  “So, what happened?  “It obviously didn’t take.”

 The vet sputtered and stuttered and said nothing.

 Try as I might, I could not crack the code of silence surrounding Randy’s failed career as a stud. Perhaps his puppy raising days in Florida had unwittingly accentuated a retiring personality. Maybe his was an  issue of sexual preference.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Whatever forces lay behind Randy tweaking his destiny, we embraced one another as a Seeing Eye team.

 Randy’s Chicago debut was  a picnic  on the shores of Lake Michigan in late spring.  The picnic was a benefit for an animal rescue program.  Lots of dogs were there.  They competed for prizes in fetching, heeling and all manner of obedience.  Randy finished out of the money in all those contests, but he captured first prize in two categories: youngest dog and largest nose.  That was the day I learned the true meaning of the phrase, “Everybody’s a Winner.”  The Special Olympics comes to the canine world.

 Randy remains true to his calling, whatever that calling might be. Some days, it’s that golden retriever across the street.  Other days, it’s working the crowd from the doorway of the Ravenswood Pub. Every day, he’s attuned to food.  His concentration is unwavering.  Randy can stare a hole through a block of Swiss cheese while, at his south end, Mulligan the cat hangs from his tail. 

The last day of training at the Seeing Eye, the instructor took me aside and said conspiratorially, “Jeff,you know we couldn’t give this dog to just anyone.”  I smiled and nodded and wondered what on earth he’d meant by that.  Each day of the intervening twenty months has illuminated another facet of what he meant.  Not that Randy defies understanding. On the contrary, he is a quick study.  He was and is eager to please.  He is  totally without guile.  Everything Randy does, he does full bore. He’s neither the brightest nor the dimmest.  He knows no subtlety.  He’s just Randy.  He’s the dog who understands the phrase, “Be yourself and you will be loved for who you are.”

 Jeff Flodin is a writer.  He has been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa for 30 years.   Read more about Jeff on the Statement page of this blog.  You can see Jeff’s own blog called Jalapenos in the Oatmeal, which he writes for The Guild for The Blind.

Our Normal Life

7 Nov

by Stella De Genova

Fragments of Parenthood invites people to share their parenting experiences on Facebook and here’s something I posted:

Whose to say what is or isn’t normal?  I was born with a retina disease called retinitis pigmentosa.  I’ve had “night blindness” since childhood.  I am now legally blind and left with some central vision and fading colors.  I was married, had 3 children, was divorced and raised my kids as a single-parent through the tough teenage years.  For the most part, my kids didn’t know I had any sort of condition.  When they were babies and awoke in the night, I could hear and feel to help them, turning on a lamp if necessary.  I read them bedtime stories and helped with homework.  I couldn’t drive but we took buses or trains to the beach and summer city fests.  If we were away from home at night, they knew to hold my hand to help me more than I helped them.  I will admit that when I trimmed my daughters’ bangs, they were pretty lopsided but I worked fulltime and could pay for professional repair.  I may not have seen my son sneaking to the snack cabinet at midnight but I caught him in the act because I could hear the crunching.  Then there was the time I served my daughter buttermilk instead of milk and she ran to the sink to spit it out.  Teenage years were based on trust and since they were teens, not always so trustworthy.  But we all survived each other.  Now that my kids are grown, they help me get to the train, help me read the mail and make sure the food I prepare is not spoiled or something it shouldn’t be.

Was it abnormal for my kids to have a visually impaired parent?  I asked them and they said no, it’s just our life.  I was always there for them and now they are here for me.  Can’t get more normal – or better than that.

My Left Foot

17 Sep

by Beth Finke

I swim laps two or three times each week. Tapping the lane marker with every other stroke keeps me swimming straight, and limiting myself to the crawl stroke means I always have one arm in front of me — my head never bangs the end of the pool. Swimming has always been a safe form of exercise for me. Until last Thursday, that is.

I finished my laps that night and was heading back to the desk to fetch Harper when I slipped and fell back into the pool. My left foot must have gotten caught in the gutter as I took the plunge. It broke. In three places.

Can you tell which foot was broken?

“That cast is huge!” my friend Jenny’s 20-year-old daughter Claire exclaimed while we shared iced tea on their deck late Saturday afternoon. “It looks like the kind of Santa Claus boot we would draw when we were little!” The image made me laugh — one of many laughs I’ve shared with friends and family after my fall. All to explain how it is I am able to sit here and publish this blog post today. You know, rather than curling up in the fetal position in the corner to spend my days whining about my inability to swim or dance or walk or do much of anything until August.

Mike helped me hobble into the car Friday morning and accompanied me to Midwest Orthopedics for the diagnosis — and the cast — that I had dreaded. The first call we made once we got home was to the Seeing Eye so Mike could talk with trainers there about what he could do to help keep Harper on track during my recovery. Doug Bohl from the Seeing Eye encouraged Mike to take Harper on long walks for exercise. “But really, you all should focus on getting Beth’s foot back to normal rather than worry about how Harper will perform once she’s better,” he said, describing one Seeing Eye dog who had to quit working for four months when the person he guided got hurt.  “That dog did fine after that. These dogs don’t forget their jobs.”

Mike uses a leash on walks, and the two of them stop at each curb, just like I do when Harper is on harness. Mike follows other Seeing Eye rules, too: dog lovers can’t pet Harper, and Mike doesn’t let Harper lunge or sniff at other dogs during walks, either.

Harper was supposed to lead me to the train to Glen Ellyn for their Bookfest Saturday. My friend Jenny’s husband was working in downtown Chicago Friday and offered to pick Harper and me up and drive us to Flo’s. My sister Cheryl was there waiting with a bottle of wine when we arrived. We shared some wine and laughs with Flo, I stayed overnight and slept like a baby.

Jenny’s sister Jill picked Harper and me up and took us to breakfast near The Bookstore the next morning: Harper’s first ride in a convertible. I hobbled with them to The Bookstore after breakfast and spent the afternoon seated at a table (foot up, per doctor’s orders) visiting with friends, signing books for customers and using my slate & stylus to poke out children’s names in Braille for them as they passed through the store. Bookfest 2011 was a hit.

After the Bookfest, we sat outdoors (my foot elevated, of course) at Jenny’s, sharing iced tea and stories with her and her family. Mike drove in from Chicago and joined us for a while, then helped Harper and me into the car for our ride back home.

Being with Mike and all of these other loving and supportive people the past three days really lifted my spirits. This is only a broken foot, after all. It will heal. And in the meantime, I’ll read books, work on a story assignment from National Geographic School Textbooks, brush Harper, watch White Sox games on TV with Mike, attend lectures, see a few plays (I have tickets for Porgy and Bess at Court Theatre), play fetch with Harper, check my blood sugar levels, get more comfortable using my iPhone, work up some jazz tunes on the piano, sit and share stories with friends, practice my newly-repaired accordion, publish blog posts, write a few books…as Flo would say, “I’d better get cuttin’.” There’s not enough time in a day to accomplish everything I need to do while this cast keeps me off my feet!

Beth Finke has been an NPR commentator and is an award-winning author, teacher and journalist. She also happens to be blind. Beth’s memoir, Long Time, No See was named one of the Chicago Tribune’s favorite non-fiction books for 2003.  Her children’s book about seeing eye dogs — Hanni
and Beth: Safe & Sound
– published in October, 2007, won an ASPCA Henry
Bergh Childrens Book Award in 2008.  This essay has been shared with us from Beth Finke’s blog: www.bethfinke.wordpress.com.

A Bicycle Built for Two

5 Sep

by Stella De Genova

Yesterday was a beautiful, end of summer and I did something I haven’t done in at least 25 years – rode a bike!  My husband and I rented a tandem bicycle and rode along the Chicago lakefront.  We went about 4 miles each way.  Since my vision has greatly diminished, I would never ride a bike myself – for mine and the world’s safety.  But with my husband in the steering position, it was awesome.  At first, the feeling of gliding along was a bit scary and I was a little nervous about passing the beaches that are always more congested.  But after a while I felt more comfortable and loved it.  With my husband in the front, I got to sightsee and enjoy the ride.  I didn’t have to worry about my lack of peripheral vision or not seeing much detail.  With the day being sunny, I was able to see the bright blue lake specked with white boats and people and music everywhere.  Our rest stop before our return ride was North Avenue Beach where, many years previous, I used to bring my kids to the beach for the day.  I couldn’t do that myself now, but the memories I have will always make me smile – and so will today.

Invisible Blind People

9 Aug

by Nancy Scott

New neighbors across the alley from my old apartment were having a wild summer party.  Colorful almost-violent language, lots of beer, and a quoit match. I’d never heard such goings-on outside, and I couldn’t quite hear enough from inside my open kitchen window. So I decided to go outside and sit in my backyard swing (which I often did anyway) and try consciously to be as invisible as possible.

I didn’t usually need a cane in my own yard. I sauntered calmly, slowly, non-threateningly, like I wasn’t nosy.

Tiny pushes of the swing. Face immobile. Mantra: “I’m little. You don’t really see me and if you do I’m not paying attention.” And it worked for about 15 minutes of behavior that would have embarrassed most of us, disputing scores and ring-tosses. Until it got quiet and someone asked, “Do you think she’s meditating?”

I knew I was the “she.” I couldn’t hear the host’s answer, but I bet it had something to do with “blind.”

But I almost lost it at the meditation question, and very nearly started to laugh. That would have blown my non-attention cover, which I needed to maintain. I fought, commanding my face not to move. Mantra: “Not funny. Freeze face.” It was hard, but it must have worked. They went back to beer and badgering.

As time went on, of course, I got used to new noise. But I still used possible invisibility to eavesdrop.

No one else has ever asked if it’s meditation. But it worked once, and I like being thought of as the meditation type. I’ll settle for that sort of invisibility. If you’re a writer or a curious person, you might try it too.

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.”