A lot of people have asked me such questions as: How do you know what colour is? Can you see light? Can you see at all? How can you read? How do you write? How do you get around on your own? I couldn’t do that. Do you dream? Do you dream as we do, or differently?
I’ll tell you.
I have lived with my Grandmother since about 3 months old. When I was a baby, she would get toys that had a sound to them, such as rattles, even teddybears with different fur or teddies that sung, or even teddybears that rattled, or had a scent to them. I particularly remember one, that had coco beans in it. Thus, he was named, Coco. He was a mini teddy, so was roughly about a foot tall, maybe less. His fur was fluffy, and longish. He sat on my dresser, next to my shelving.
When it came to night and day, Nana would tell me: “It’s night time, when there are no birds singing, and there’s no traffic going up the road. The air is also colder.” This, I understood to be night. Day, I established, was when Nana came to wake me every morning, to take me to school, or to my aunts, as my Aunt would take me to school, while Nan went to work. The task for Nan was not that difficult. At least, she never made it so. She had plenty of experience. Her Great Grandmother lost her sight, but this was due to macular degeneration. She knew colour though, knew night and day, knew sun rise and sun set, knew seasons changing, knew lightning, knew the colour of the sea, the colour of grass, of the sky, but I knew nothing of this. I only knew it, through texture, smell, touch, hearing, and taste.
Nana was going to teach me the seasons, via smell and texture, as well as touch. It was a cold September morning, and I remember heading over to my Great Granddad’s, where we would receive a lift to school, and she said to me: “What season do you think it is now? We’re walking through crunchy leaves. It’s cold, what can you smell?” I replied “Autumn?” Spring, was the coming in of April, and the April showers, as well as flowers blooming, lambs being born, and other things. Summer was the hot sunny weather, (usually) ice-cream vans, playing Green Sleeves as they drove past, with a Doppler effect, Autumn, was the falling of leaves, and conkers, as well as the smell of old trees, Winter was the crisp frosty days, ice cold winds, snow, and of course, Bonfire Night, and Christmas, as well as the end of the year.
The way Nana taught me colour, was again through texture, and all my other senses. Grass, was the smell of the grass, which was Green. The water of the sea, represented blue, it being cold, and blue was a “cold” colour. Yellow, was the sun, a “warmer” colour. Black, a sort of dark, “miserable” colour, associated with mourning, rain clouds, storms, and other things. Grey was a dull day, with no sun and just clouds. Meaning it was cold outside, or rain was on the way. Orange, was obviously an orange. Purple, was a moody kind of colour, representing stress, or anger, or frustration. It was also quite a bright colour too. Though i would not know “bright” in the sighted world’s terms. White, was just like clear transparent glass, see through, smooth in texture. It could also maybe be white chocolate? Brown, was the colour of chocolate, but also a mucky kind of colour. Red, meant Danger, heat, and anger. It was a threatening kind of colour.
In answer to the question, do I dream in music? I would not know, but if I hear a piece of music on the television or radio, and I seem to have a deja vu kind of feeling toward it, then yes, I suppose. I might say: I remember hearing that, even though I may never have heard it before.
It’s not that hard to get around on my own. I use a cane, but do not get much assistance. I have to ask for it. I keep saying to those who have lost their sight, please, remember this. You knew colour, you knew peoples’ faces, knew the sea, could see the waves rippling across the surface of calm glass on nice sunny days. I never could. I never will. You had something, you will miss it yes. I can’t imagine losing something you depend on, but you just have to move on. Speak to people who have lived all their lives without any light perception, without any sight at all. Not even the colour black, nothing. Just opaque purly mist. All those with sight, blind fold yourselves for a few hours, walk around, without any light perception at all, and see if your mood changes. Will you perhaps become frustrated? Depressed? Angry? Will you perhaps be upset that you cannot see light and others can? Wonder what it looks like? Ask sighted people to try and describe it to you. They will most likely, find this task difficult. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for people in my secondary school, to try and describe light to me, during the physics lessons, where we studied light.
You may also notice when walking, that you become suddenly aware of objects being taller than you, such as trees, walls, buildings, etc. This is not echo location, where a person will make a sound, in order to establish whether the object is wooden, metal, plastic or any other material. This I tend to call “sonar” The air is bouncing from one object to another, then back. This has prevented me on numerous occasions, from hurting myself on objects, as I have not known they were there. However using the “Sonar” as I call it, to my advantage, I was able to move away from them quickly. I hope that this article will help others, to realise, perhaps learn, and understand, the life of a person who is totally blind, and has never seen.
To my lovely Nana.
Without you, I would never be the person I am today, and that I mean. I would not be doing a university degree, I would not be reading braille, writing on a computer, I would not know colour, or be able to tell seasons apart, would not know as much as you taught me. You never cried out for help, you just learned yourself. Got on with the task. Thought of your own strategies. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I mean this very much. Still now, you urge me to keep doing things, being more independent, relying less on others, even with the added diagnosis of epilepsy, but even that you don’t let worry you. You could stop me going out if you wanted, worry I’ll have seizures, even though they are controlled, or worry that I might bash into something, but you do not. You just have faith, knowing I have enough common sense to work out the problem, and solve it myself.
For this, I love you always. I always will. Thank you.