By Maribel Steel
‘One may not reach the dawn, save by the path of the night’
Hello dear reader,
Let me introduce myself as I join the world wide blogging-brigade of enthusiastic writers, to share my experiences of living with a vision-impairment. The thought of creating my own blog has captured my imagination and I am looking forward to relating stories that may give people an insight into the world unseen: the good, the bad and the unbelievable!
I live in Melbourne, Australia with a wonderful partner and teenage son – my sighted guides who are almost as well trained as my retired guide dog. I love to get around independently too with a white cane which took many years to accept but have happily learned this cane is my magic wand of power… it gets me to the front of long queues, brings help from kind strangers, parts a clear pathway (usually) through busy city streets, gets me on a plane first and then escorted off last, on the arm of a handsome pilot - and so much more...
Yes, I might be described as an opportunist – it is the journey towards blindness I can be grateful for, learning to use many other senses: to hear, to touch, to smell, to intuit, to love and to laugh. But I do not pretend that the sun shines every day, and at times I cry with sheer frustration or feel wild indignation, for the gradual loss of sight, for things that might have been, for the tedious effort required on my part to carry out a simple sighted task.
At the age of sixteen, I was diagnosed with an incurable eye condition, Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), then I received bee-sting therapy in the UK, in the hope of a ‘cure’ and in the same year, at seventeen, my family lost our dear mother to cancer.
Somehow I moved on to fill the job description of mother, masseur and musician, holding this position for over the next thirty-odd years…which are some of the stories in my unpublished autobiography, Chasing the light.
The stories yet to come in this blog, are intended to not only be my reflections of the challenges encountered along this journey, but is an invitation to the reader to suggest topics of interest, by asking those questions you puzzle over but dare not ask for fear of offending a blind person. Consider this blog as your opportunity to be in touch with a different view point as we stand together, facing the gateway to blindness.
‘What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the master calls a butterfly’
23 November 2011
Blindness is bliss.
By Maribel Steel
It occurs to me, as I stand at the shop counter over run by gadgets, toys and an overwhelming assortment of ‘things’ that the silly season is well and truly upon us - and I can blissfully ignore their silent plea ‘come on, buy me…you know you want me…’ I can’t be tempted. This vision-impaired shopper is on a mission, with blinkers on and is happily waiting for the three items she has already purchased, to be tied up with pretty ribbons and bows by the kind shop assistant. I stand patiently, completely oblivious to the items bulging on shelves in the shop trying to lure my cash from out of my purse. My hand glides over the counter and feels a smooth tin, a small cardboard box and curiously, I ask ‘what is this? Just another useless must have. I take a casual look around the store pretending to see and laugh, ‘It is at times like this, I am really glad I can’t see in your store.’
But withholding from impulse buying has not prevented my reputation as ‘the bag lady’ as even with partial sight, I can still sniff out a bargain! Such is my joy for shopping that recently when my dear menfolk and I were touring the scented streets of Paris, I would often ask, ‘what shop is that?’
Their reply, wanting to keep moving onwards, knowing how long I take to touch everything in the store, came the unanimous, ‘Fish shop!’
‘Come on guys, there can’t be that many fish shops in Paris?’
‘Yes there can.’
‘Look, what is that shiney thing in the window?’
‘Smells like Chanel to me.’
‘Yep. Chanel for fish.’
And we keep striding onwards to their desired destination – the mobile phone shop.