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Monday, December 12, 2011

First Light


First light, so I am told, is a ceremony held when an observatory dome is first opened, and the first star is visible through its telescope. Perhaps I'll get to see something like that one day. For now, I am enjoying Christmas lights. My friend showed me this small set and then told me that there are certain streets where I live where these will soon cover everything. What a shocking idea. This picture was taken through a window at night time. I never knew something so small could cause two people to laugh so much.

After my friend went to bed, I stayed up flipping the Christmas lights on and off, on and off, as could only someone seeing them for the first time. Then I started playing with the speed setting on the program, changing it from sweeps of one second to half a second, then to two seconds and back to one. After at least an hour of looking at these lights at different distances, angles, and speeds, I took the glasses off. The transcendent sounds were still playing in my head, only now there were these pin pricks of something in front of me. They were caused by the sounds but separate from them. I imagined more and more of them all around me and tried to picture them in configurations like a helix or a seemingly infinite binary tree. It took me great effort and lots of pacing to get calm as the tiny apparitions faded away. I was finally rewarded with peaceful sleep.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I told my folks.

I finally told my parents about the glasses. They live five hours away in the small town where I grew up. After they made sure I got a good education through high school, I came to the city, got into trouble at the blind rehab center, and was hardly to be seen in that small town again. I know they are proud of me for doing well in school, but I wonder how many interests we have in common. If I give Mom a lengthy explanation of one of my projects, she might say I'm talking over her head. She is about five inches taller than me and actually means that she cannot understand all of what I am saying. Likewise, if she talks about shopping, decorating etc. I, being her only girl, have no idea what to say. I've always been the strange one that everybody picked on as I spent my childhood alone, waiting for my own kind to show up in a star ship and beam me out of there.
If I tell them, I thought, they will either think me even more bizarre than before, or worse, that I am investing my hopes in something that is a waste of time.

As I explained the basics of the system to Mom, as I told her that I was starting to see, it felt hard to breathe. "I'm starting to understand why you do things like hang balls on Christmas trees," I explained. "Before I could have no empathy. I had to dismiss so many rituals as stupid sighted things, but now they are legitimate and I can study them. I can't see all of what you see, but I want to learn."
She seemed excited and had me tell Daddy. It suddenly became easier to breathe. I was able to tell him that the study of vision had become extremely important to me and that I wanted to study science and technology so that many people would be able to see one day. We had a long discussion. "Keep tinkering," he said.  "Remember Thomas Edison and the light bulb, and Don't get discouraged if it doesn't work out right away. You never know where this will lead in a few decades."

It's going to be a very interesting Christmas. Mom has at least three dogs and a huge collection of mercury glass ornaments to show me, and Daddy wants to hear the soundscapes - he is late blind himself. Maybe I will no longer have to sit outside by myself, wishing for home.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Not a Clutz

Many interesting things have happened since I've written last. These include a broken pair of glasses followed by the War of the Camera Drivers (It took several skilled Seeing with Sound hacks to win that war.), my first women's bench press competition, and my professor and I being interviewed for three publications about his work to make physics and drawing accessible to blind people. My life is rarely uneventful. Thankfully I'm always learning something. One of the most important things I've learned recently is that there are certain characteristics which people have tried to attribute to me that are simply false. Several years ago I took what was supposed to be a series of intelligence and aptitude tests. One of them seemed more like a sobriety test. The part where the officer, err, I mean doctor told me to touch my nose was easy, but I could not walk heel-to-toe. It brought back a memory from first or second grade. I was wondering why the coach was scolding some of the boys for falling off the balance beam. I knew if she let go of me I'd fall off instantly, and then I'd be in trouble. She explained that those boys were falling off on purpose. Until then I hadn't realized anyone could walk across it by themselves, and without walking sideways. Fast forward nearly twenty years from that obstacle course and five from the IQ tests to yesterday. The Neandertodd had me stand, squat, curl weights, and lift a 12-pound ball over my head all while standing on a bosu ball sometimes for two minutes at a time. For those who don't know what that is, picture half a sphere on the ground and yourself standing on the flat side of the sphere. Experts have noted the clumsiness of many Aspies and balance difficulties experienced by some blind individuals. One of these "experts" told me there wasn't much I could do about it. I still can't roller skate very well, but I almost never practice, and there are many physical tasks I can perform much more safely and confidently than I could even a year ago. "For the first time, I can pass a sobriety test," I announced loudly as I walked out of the gym.