I’m a creative, experienced, multi-purpose artist
who can take projects start to finish in a variety of styles.
Good designs sell – mine sell out!

http://www.artbyhensley.com/index.html

Friday, September 16, 2011

"Mesmerizing"

I grew up near a large Italian family. I’m pretty sure they had even more children than we did, but they had an unfortunate genetic weakness making all of their kids some variation of blind. It seemed sad to me that they would never be mesmerized watching the ripples in the river, the vultures circling on invisible air currents, or so many other things that occupied most of my existence. I remember holding my breath as the mother led dinner preparation, but everyone cut up vegetables while maintaining their fingers. To tell the truth, I usually bled a lot more in the kitchen than they did. They seemed like a pretty happy family, and the kids walked around The Glen every evening after supper with their hands glued together in a long string of cheerful paper dolls.

I asked them once how they managed to get around without running into trees or getting lost. The oldest boy told me everything has a cushion of air around it. If you pay attention, you can stop before getting hit in the face. I found that fascinating, and since I had nothing else to do, decided to experiment. I folded up a washcloth for thickness and wrapped a bandanna over it, tying the whole thing around my head, covering my eyes so completely I couldn’t see any light through the fabric. I put on my shoes and tied them. Tying shoes becomes a very different experience when you can’t see.

I fumbled my way to the front door and adventured into a very different world. The birds sang louder, probably warning every other living creature to stay out of my way. I felt with my feet for the steps down the porch and steered in the general direction of where the road ought to be. When I hit the crunch of gravel on the edges, I picked a direction and started walking. It wasn’t too hard to stay on the road because it felt different to my feet than the grassy weeds on the sides. A car came by, and I did the obligatory wave. I’m sure whoever was driving waved back and probably laughed at me. Didn’t matter. I was determined to make it around The Glen without dying or cheating.

The road in The Glen is a 1-mile squared circle, or maybe a rounded square. All I had to do is keep track of the corners to know how far I had gone. I felt a little embarrassed when I passed the blind family’s house, but it wasn’t like they were going to see me, and I persevered. It felt like a lot further than usual when I couldn’t see my destination. The sun was hot and my stomach was reminding me about suppertime, but I made it home, made it up the porch steps, and slumped in the chair where my adventure had begun.

I was trying to untie the knot in the bandanna when Dad asked me to explain. I told him about my inspiration and experiment, and he laughed and said it was great. It would be even better if I kept the bandanna on for 24-hours. Uhhh, “But Dad, I’m tired!” Too bad. He thought I should “See it through” to get the full experience. “I won’t be able to wash dishes.” When I got excused from dishes that night, I might’ve considered staying blindfolded for a week or two. I tentatively ate dinner and cursed peas for rolling around so much.

24-hours included going to sleep blind. I was disoriented when I woke up, but it didn’t take too long to remember my predicament. I dressed and escaped to the river. The blind boy was right. There is a cushion of air around everything. I wandered across the field with my hands out and felt the grasses. When I got to the other side of the field, I felt the trees. I backed up repeatedly to figure out the maximum distance I could feel the air. I laid on my back and listened to a mouse rustling through the weeds.

When Dad came home from work, I was liberated. The world was unbearably bright, and I had to shield myself until I adjusted to normal living. I’m not sure if Dad was inspired or sadistic in this story, maybe both, but the experience was important to me. First lesson was to hide my experiments from Dad, but I also learned the power of my own underestimated senses. I feel things more acutely with my hands. I don’t have to look at my feet when I’m walking through the woods. I understand the birds. I appreciate the roundness of peas, and maybe most importantly, I appreciate being able to be mesmerized by all things visual.

30 comments:

  1. And I'm pretty mesmerized by this great post! Wonderful story, experiment and I absolutely LOVE your "cut-out" family! Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
  2. great illo & fantastic post. Your Dad sounds like an interesting fellow, I cant think of many parents who would have reacted that way - very cool

    ReplyDelete
  3. A wonderful post Linda. It helped me stop and see things in a new light. Cheers! R

    ReplyDelete
  4. A very courageous experiment to go through - and I agree with ArtSnark: not many parents would have encouraged you to go through with it, let alone a whole day.
    I am absolutely mesmerized by this idea of a cushion of air around every object. Vision seems to distract us too much from feeling such things.

    ReplyDelete
  5. What a great story! It sounded like fiction at first. Was there REALLY a family with that many blind kids. I'm not sure I'd keep having them if they were all blind. And what a great experiment you tried. Wow.

    I can feel those cushions of air when I walk in the woods in the pitch black. It feels like seeing in the dark, but it's not seeing at all. It's sensing the bulk of objects, but it feels pretty miraculous. I'd sure hate to be blind, though, even though all my other senses would be heightened. I love reading and drawing too much.

    I also really like your picture.

    ReplyDelete
  6. The family was Catholic, so they didn't believe in birth control. In fact, that's how I learned about birth control because other people in the neighborhood kept saying it would be an excellent idea for them to use it. All of the kids were very nice though, so I had mixed feelings about it all. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Heisann!

    May be we all once a year should experience what it is to be blind!
    Our lives would be richer then...

    Artistic illustration ;:OD)

    ReplyDelete
  8. Bravo!!! I love this story. You know my 3 year old grandson is visually impaired, he only sees a little light and extreme contrast. We go to The Center for the Visually Impaired for classes weekly and we as the families have to "experience being blind" at least once per year. It's very hard when you are such a visual person to "not see". I have never heard anyone say that about the cushion of air around everything. What a wonderful little bit of information. Thank you, I absolutely love it. I always wonder how in the world my grandson gets around as well as he does. There have been so many people to tell me that I am wrong and that he really can see, because he gets around with such ease. I think that you must have been an amazing and brave little girl. I'm not sure that I would have braved going outside blindfolded and alone as a child.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I didn't know families of blind people are supposed to "experience being blind". It seems like a good exercise for everybody though. I don't know if I was particularly brave, just curious. There was only one car during my experiment since I lived in the sticks. I was probably in more danger from the older boys and dogs since they sometimes bullied me when I could see to run away.

    Best of everything to your grandson Karen. Sometimes I think blind people are better than the rest of us because they don't get stuck on superficial things like hairstyles and fashions and see other people for who they really are.

    ReplyDelete
  10. it really is a privilege to be allowed to be mesmerized by all that's around us and to translate that privilege back to others.

    nice grist for the mill.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hello Linda, it's a beautiful story of family, and your experiences of your childhood. I went on my second blog and I saw you visited my blog - thank you:)

    ReplyDelete
  12. That was a great lesson. We could all take heart and walk a mile (or 24 hours) in a different pair of shoes.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Geez, you have such great stories! I would guess that most every sighted person has a fear of blindness. I know that I do. But you actually went and "saw" for yourself what it's like.

    I love the illustration too, paper doll family.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Always a pleasure to get a little glimpse of that wonderful mind of yours, Linda. You just have a sharp vision on every little experience you've had. To be honest, I often come here, and at the end of the post I'm usually lost for words of what to say.

    Although I usually end up smiling and nodding. So I guess this comment is a breakthrough...heh. (^_^)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Thanks everybody! To tell the truth, I've kept these memories to myself for a long time because I didn't want everyone to know what an odd little kid I was. It's really gratifying to know that my little stories are interesting to other people. Of course if you keep giving me positive feedback, it only encourages me, and I'll probably keep writing them :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Lol! I sincerely hope you keep writing them! :)
    I loved the story and also the imagery! Keep it coming!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great post. I also hope you keep sharing your thought provoking stories:)

    ReplyDelete
  18. What a fantastic story Linda. Very interesting and inspiring. I am giving you HEAPS of encouragement to keep writing! I look forward to seeing and hearing more through Illustration Friday.
    Julie

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi, Linda, What an interesting story. I read it without stopping ones and then re-read your poetic sentence '(...)be mesmerized watching the ripples in the river, the vultures circling on invisible air currents(...).
    Indeed, we see invisible things by noticing the visible. Your Italian neighbours probably see the visible by noticing the invisible (to us..the cushion of air around objects).
    An inspirational story and touching illustration.
    Paula

    ReplyDelete
  20. Went to art school with a guy who was almost blind. He was an illustration major. So there you go.

    ReplyDelete
  21. What a beautiful post, Linda! I thank God for having the parents I have, and how they encouraged my first steps into drawing. :)

    PS? Thanks for your nice comment on my blog. I´m happy I made you smile. :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. This is definitely a mesmerizing post! I have an absolute terror of blindness (being a visual glutton) but it is a fascinating experience to be temporarily blind by choice. Every now & then I still draw & letter with my eyes closed, & also left-handed, just to exercise my brain & see what happens. It's an interesting experiment. But I would never dare to wander my current neighborhood blindfolded-- it's risky enough with my eyes open!

    ReplyDelete
  23. Thanks for a great story! i would really like to feel the 'cushion of air' around things, though i'm not sure i would dare to venture very far blindfolded... please do keep writing more :)

    ReplyDelete
  24. Hello Linda! Thanks for sharing this inspiring story. Yes, we have much to appreciate and be grateful for. There are so many ways of "looking" at our surroundings and situations, aren't there? Wonderful, crisp contrast with your accompanying "paper doll" family! :o)

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thanks everyone! I've never tried drawing blindfolded. I might have to try that one. I know a color blind tattoo artist. I've never really been able to figure that out very well, but I'll admit he does beautiful work if you like that kind of thing. I guess the main thing is to remember to be happy we can see to draw!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Hello Linda, well wow you have the magic touch, you make us see with your stories just as much as you make us 'see' with your visuals. Perhaps you should be a painter of words as much as a painter of images? But of course, one feeds the other and sometimes sits within one like Babushka Doll, or paper cutouts that have been folded back down into their original form.

    You have a unique mind. In your case it is good ;unique'.

    sorry to be so long. I got made to drive six hours to see a show in Canberra -

    ReplyDelete
  27. six hours there, six back, and three days in between :)

    ReplyDelete
  28. I'm glad you managed all that driving and returned home safe and sound Andrew. Funny, seems like people have been telling me my whole life to be more normal :) I love blogging. It's given me a place for all my little stories. Thanks for the comment!

    ReplyDelete
  29. It's amazing you did that - and I like it that your dad pushed you to to it for 24 hours - must have been a great experience.

    ReplyDelete