Jenny has become a good friend in every sense of the word since she volunteered to help me with my grocery trips several months ago.
After days abed with not a praying-to-die case of the flu, but close, with weakened vision and no appetite, I called Jenny to tell her I was feeling a little better. “I don’t want anything I have here to eat,” I told her. “All I can think of is a big, real-beef burger with lettuce and tomato.” (Fast food is an obsession with those who cannot see to drive.) Two hours later, Jenny was at my door with two burgers. By nightfall, I felt like myself for the first time in days.
Jenny, whose late husband was visually impaired, spends most days of her month making life better for those with vision problems.
On Friday she will drive a group up into the mountains to a camp owned by the National Federation of the Blind. She really wants me to tag along. “It’s peak time for the fall foliage,” she said. “I can’t see it now,” I replied. “That’s why I’m going to describe it to you,” she said.
I do not want to go. I told Jenny I don’t want to go. I cannot explain to her why. But the why of it has been on my mind.
As a child I was never satisfiled with Crayola’s box of eight and can still name every coolor in the box of 64.
I have been on mountain drives hundreds of times. I’ve seen the foliage at Clingman’s Dome and Newfound Gap in the Smokies and across the peaks along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I have stood at the highest point east of the Mississippi River, at the center of a 360-degree palette of every imaginable hue and shade.
In those moments, through the years, I felt closest to God. Now, the canvas will be white. He will trust me to fill in the colors. If I am to fill it in from memory, I need to be alone.
Only then can some who were blessed with sight for most of their lives become true artists.
The imagination is full not just with colors, but with experiences which have colored one's life. The present can be intrusive.
Perhaps I can better explain my reluctance to return to the mountains this way. Have you stopped at a passage in a book and realized the author has touched a thought or a memory inside you? That the words are more meaningful because you’ve experienced them, and you need a quiet moment to reflect?
Because I had lived it with a husband and five cats I loved, I closed my eyes and felt the following scene from James Lee Burke’s “Crusader’s Cross.” In it, his fictional character, New Iberia Parish sheriff’s detective Dave Robicheaux, his three-legged raccoon Tripod, his cat Snugs and his new wife Molly share a backyard breakfast.
“Tripod climbed down from his perch in the live oak, and Snugs appeared out of the bamboo, his tail pointed straight up as stiff as a broomstick. The four of us commenced to share breakfast at the redwood table.
“When the world presents itself in the form of a green-gold playground, blessed with water and flowers and wind and cenuuries-old oak trees, and when you are allowed to share all these things on a fine Sunday morning with people and animals you love, why take on the burden of the spirituality afflicted?”
The week of illness turned out to be a respite from the news, the blogs, the daily reminders of the “spiritually afflicted” who put fault-finding and self-seeking before the greater good.
There is a world of difference between being lonely and being alone. Sometimes we just need the quiet moments, however they might come.