This morning my mum, her partner, the 2 dogs and I visited Woolton Woods and Camp Hill which are a 10 minute drive from my mum’s home.
The ancient woods where full of the scent of newly mown grass, the heady smell being heightened by the showers which for brief periods chased the sun away.
Both the woods and Camp Hill which abut them contain many ancient oaks. I have always had an affinity with these great trees which derives from happy recollections of collecting acorns with my grandfather. I love the smooth feel of the outer shell of the acorn and how it contrasts with the softer seed within.
One huge oak branch lay on the ground. The wood felt hard to the touch indicating that it haden’t resided long on the woodland floor and was, perhaps a casualty of the recent after effects of the tail end of the hurricane which recently invaded our shores.
A large tree stump stood on the ground it’s roots still clearly visible. The great cycle had begun with grass growing out of this once venerable tree as, imperceptibly decay set in. In years to come this tree trunk will, no doubt fertilise the woodland floor allowing new saplings to take it’s place.
Feeling a little self conscious I tried to put my arms around a huge oak. Unsurprisingly they reached barely halfway round the trunk. The rough bark felt good under my hands, the tree and I sharing a connection – both products of nature’s rich tapestry. This great oak and the others surrounding it have been there long before I was born and unless a mighty natural disaster uproots them will remain long after I have ceased to be. Whenever I see ancient trees the paltry arrogance of humanity is put firmly in it’s place. Those oaks have doubtless seen generations come and go, people living what, for them are lives full of meaning while the great trees look on silently watching generation succeed generation.
Does the fact that I am blind impact on my writing? This question pops into my head occasionally and it is one which I have been meaning to address for some time. First let me describe my level of vision. Sitting in my spare room (where most of my writing takes place) I can see my computer screen. The screen appears blank to me although I know that words are gradually populating it’s surface as Jaws (my screen reading software) announces each time I type a letter). IF I raise my eyes I see the outline of a poster with writing at the foot of the picture. I wouldn’t know what the poster is except for the fact that friends tell me that it shows rather a nice representation of a dolphin. To my right and left are book cases full of braille books. I can see the outline of the books but nothing else. The sun is shining, it’s light on my wall and the quilt make me feel happy. There is something about the gentle rays of the sun which I love and I’m grateful that I have sufficient vision to appreciate the sun.
The fact that I am registered blind does, I believe mean that senses other than sight feature more prominently in my writing than would perhaps be the case where I fully sighted. For example when describing Sam’s visit to Woolton Woods in my book “Samantha” the sound of Sam’s feet crunching through the leaves features prominently due to me loving the noise made when walking on newly fallen leaves. The crunch of freshly fallen leaves coupled with the gorgeous scents which rise from them make for a heady cocktail of sensory delight. Passing through Woolton village Sam is delighted by the fading splendour of the flowers in the hanging baskets which festoon the cottages. I can’t see those baskets but I know through having passed often through the village and having had the baskets described to me what a wonderful display they make. This is not the same as seeing objects oneself, however I do, I hope still manage to impart Sam’s pleasure as she looks on the fading blooms.
For me what is fascinating about people is what makes them tick. Why individuals are as they are and act in the manner they do is a subject of endless interest. I am more interested in a person’s personality than in how they look which does, very possibly arise from the fact that I can not see people very clearly. Where a friend to pass me today in the street I would see a passing shape. Only when my friend speaks to me do I know that it is John, Brian or Jeff the identification being made by the distinctive sound of my friend’s voices. Living in a sighted world I do, of course fully appreciate the fact that most people are interested in the physical appearance of persons both in real life and fiction. Looks self evidently play a significant role in explaining what initially attracts one sighted individual to another. Talking to my sighted friends I know that physical factors are what first draws them to a person of the opposite sex. All this is not to say that looks are the be all and end all of attraction. Once most people fall into conversation with a person to whom they are physically attracted factors other than appearance come into play, for example does he/she make me laugh and does he/she have similar interests to mine.
Returning to the issue of writing, as a blind writer I find that I sometimes have to remind myself to describe the physical appearance of the people who populate my stories something which I suspect does not happen with writers who are fully sighted. As pointed out above, I am well aware that I live in a sighted world and physical attributes do play an important role in life as in story telling. In certain instances physical attraction is central to my stories. For instance the fact that Becky (a young graduate who enters the world of escorting in order to pay off her debts in “The First Time” is slim and blonde) plays an important role as many customers of sex workers like slim blonde ladies. Consequently it is important that Becky’s appearance is described as “The First Time” would lack authenticity where the central actor’s physical attributes to be overlooked. Having said that the primary point of “The First Time” is to explore the psychological effects of prostitution on Becky. I am more interested in how Becky’s engagement in sex work impacts on her emotionally so once Becky’s description is provided the story concentrates on Becky’s emotional state which is, in my opinion as it should be.
In conclusion my writing is no doubt influenced by the fact of my blindness. I do not believe that this is to the detriment of my craft I do however need to keep in my mind the fact that I live in a sighted world in which vision plays a pivotal role and ensure that where appropriate the visual aspect is reflected in my story telling.