I can see clearly now.
I said that a lot after I got my new glasses. Suddenly, I could play the alphabet game again while whipping down the highway; find streets in unknown neighborhoods before I passed them; read maps without switching from my sunglasses to the readers.
Sight is perhaps my favored sense. I love the nuance of color. The subtle shades of the trees changing from deep green to chartreuse to yellow to gold to brown.
The colors of my food on the plate or flowers and veggies at the farm market.
Paints -- awaiting my creative interpretation.
The colors of life -- the things that surround us, our friends. Beach towels, the Fiesta dishes, a colorful quilt.
I like to see all the things I drop on the floor in my art room so I can find them before my bare feet do. And while I may close my eyes to the never-ending piles of clutter, it's nice to see what to throw and what to put away -- and where!
I've thought about sight a lot lately as a good friend is dealing with some health issues that could ultimately make an impact on her sight. She must weigh her decisions carefully, for much is at stake.
And yet, in recent months I've encountered two people whom I admire tremendously, and from them I've learned that it isn't what you see with your eyes, but what you see with your senses and your heart that really help us survive -- and thrive.
Nino is a friend of Rick's and he's a bike rider. The first time I heard that, I was stunned. How do you ride a bike when you can't see? Even on a tandem -- how do you ride and not feel terrified of the wind hitting you in the face, unable to see where you are going?
But then I met Nino.
Nino's ability on the bike is so finely tuned that when he's on the back of the tandem, he knows when to shift the gears before the captain in the front does.
I get pretty darned terrified on a bike in general -- and certainly going at the speeds these guys do!
Add to it not being able to see (well, maybe that's a good thing) and putting your faith in your captain to be able to guide the bike around curves, darting animals or crashes up ahead -- well, I'm not sure I'd have it.
We've been at some of the same home stays -- and yes, we make sure he has a clean path to wherever he needs to go. And yet, I suspect that if he wasn't given that path, he'd be just fine.
He and Rick do the crossword puzzles in the paper while they're on their rides. Rick fills it in -- Nino has the answers.
I don't know how Nino lost his sight. I'm sure he'd tell me if I asked. But frankly, I sort of forget. Unless I see him with his cane, I don't think of him as not being able to see anything I can't.
And the fact is, that without it, I'm convinced he "sees" as much if not more than many of us sighted folk do.
Then there's Mexicali Rose's "mom."
Being a bad blogger, I didn't have my camera with me as I went to the clinical center to pick up a prescription. So I couldn't photograph the beautiful Middle Eastern woman with her seeing eye horse. (The photos here come from this very good article, which is about a year or two old.)
But check out this video. It's fascinating and it says it all.
I was at the Clinical Center picking up a prescription when I saw this young woman -- maybe 30, but I can never tell -- waiting with her seeing eye horse, Cali.
It's not a common sight, and it begged a conversation and further research.
She said that Cali, a three-year-old miniature horse, was chosen as an assistance animal because in her Muslim faith, animals are considered unclean. The article I read and linked above quoted the director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter as saying most Muslims believe dogs can violate ritual purity, horses are seen as "regal animals."
Her parents wanted them to be her "eyes," but she wanted her independence.
Cali is the size of a very large dog. And sweet as can be. And yes, you might wonder, does the horse go to the bathroom? Yes -- in a little bag under his tail.
Does he get on the bus? Of course.
Cali's mom was born blind and prematurely. As an observant Sunni Muslim, she respected her parents' aversion to having a dog, and at the time, she lived with them in a Detroit suburb.
Cali was a good compromise. At two-and-a-half feel tall, she was a former show horse, used to people, and easy to train. She will also live a very long time -- possibly 30 years or more.
I was profoundly impressed for a lot of reasons. First, she was working on her Ph. D in child psychology, here in mid-Michigan, about 90 miles from her parents. In a sense she defied her parents' wishes to rely on them for her independence by getting Cali, then moving away. And I got the impression that nothing would stop her from achieving her goals.
Was I inspired?
So many times, we see the label "disabled" put on people. My friend Judy, who has a good deal of experience in this area as the author of a book on parenting for children with special needs, focuses on the ability. And really, that's so true.
Some of those who have most inspired me over time have been those who live an extraordinary life with some extraordinary challenges. It may not be so easy to get around or or do something so many of us take for granted.
When I see someone like this woman with her horse or Rick's pal Nino, I know there is so much we all can do. If we choose. And that should empower us all.
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