21 May 2015

Treasure the Art of Being Blind



Do you sometimes get lost or frustrated hunting down articles of interest when visiting a blog? I sure do. I am aware my blog is not the easiest one to navigate around due to my lack of vision in setting it up with tabs and categories, social shares and friendly comment boxes.
So, to avoid any frustration you may experience at the Gateway, I have dug up some of the little treasures hidden within 200 pages on this blog and have placed links to each one in today’s post.
If you are new to the Gateway, or if you are a subscriber, here are my 15 most popular posts as a quick reference map to read more on ‘the ART of being blind’.

1: 8-threads to weave into the garment of change

When I began to lose my eyesight, it was natural to fear losing so many other aspects of my life that I treasured. The hardest hurdle to overcome was knowing how to weave positive threads into the garment with the label of disabled firmly secured to the fabric of my life.

2: Many Different Hats

My mother hat is swiftly replaced with a survival hat to help me cross the six-lane highway with its heavy traffic using my white cane as my trusted guide. I listen intently with complete focus and concentration – not one other thought crosses my mind except “Stay safe”.

3: 5 key ways blind people do it better

It’s true! Anything sighted people can do, visually-impaired or blind people can do it better. Be warned, we know our limitations and we’ve adapted to this blind-challenge. Being blind brings a new spin on life. When you accept the ride, you actually find many ways in which to excel.

4:  What colour is that?

For as long as there are some shades in the colour spectrum to discern, my brain will offer logical deductions to help make sense of the blurry world all around. But when the object is too far away or impossible to see because of faulty light- sensitive cells at the back of my scarred retinas, my brain asks: ‘Eyes, please be more specific, I have no idea what that is!’

5: Benefit #1 being blind: you are the rose among the thorns

There IS a better way to take hold of this thing they call blindness. When we choose to look for the symbolic rose among the thorns, life takes on a new perspective.

6: Insight through sound

Imagine a spider in her well spun web who becomes acutely aware with her sensitive receptors when an accidental intruder bounces onto the invisible threads guarding her territory. I too receive information from the ‘vibes’ bouncing towards me, partly through hearing and partly by trust and intuition.

7: It’s touching to see the world

As I stand at the gateway facing the ever-diminishing sense of sight, my view of the world would be dim indeed, if my hands were bound together, and never allowed to reach out and touch what my eyes fail to see. 

8: Tools of the blind-tradie

Among my collection of tools are four qualities that I recommend to any person embarking on the profession of blind artisan. No matter what the obstacle ahead, I can guarantee from personal experience four attributes that will help you meet any challenge – and come out smiling.

9: A license to laugh

Humour is a tool that has the capacity to open the heart and unlock the gift of laughter to any soul seeking the truth. Seeing the ‘funny’ side of life when it could also be seen as ‘tragic’ is a tool worth its weight in gold.

10: To braille or not to braille: that was my question

Sometimes, my mother sat by my side and coloured in parts of my school work that I was struggling to see. She added her artistic flair to brighten up the pages of my books as well as lighten our hearts. But then came the Question I had been dreading, to braille or not to braille.

11: Blind Sherlock and Dr Memory

As sight fades, I am aware of how much I am gathering clues from listening, touching, smelling, tasting, feeling and observing as best my eyes can but above all, there is one undeniable device working over time in helping me to adapt to change.

12: The scent lingers on International Women’s Day

True friendship grows out of a genuine desire to sweeten the life of your friend when they have a bitter pill to swallow. When sight began to fade during my teen years, I found such a true friend at school. Like two peas in a paranoid-pod, we soon became inseparable confidantes for one another.
  

13: Why be fashionable if you can’t see?

Choosing one’s clothing is a matter of FEELING first, then seeing how it all fits together. When you feel good in what you wear, you will look great. Feeling textures of clothing is not always because I want to buy it but is a curious desire on my part to see the choices at my fingertips.

14: Writing Blind: how blind people manage to write

As a visually-impaired writer I compose stories, store documents to folders, read and send emails, create posts for blogs and surf the internet – all without being able to see the screen on my laptop. Come and meet my verbose parot, and see how we work together…

15: Mastering Blindness: Radio Australia Interview

if you want a front row seat, sit back and listen to the conversation where I speak with the charming Phil Kafcaloudes, presenter of a popular morning breakfast show on Radio Australia. We talk candidly on ‘ Mastering the daily challenges of living with blindness and journey back in time to explain how it all began with the diagnosis in my teen years.


Got any of your favourite stories to share? Please leave your comment here…

You may also like to read travel stories from a blind perspective. 



Copyright © 2015 Maribel Steel
Photographs Copyright © 2015 Harry Williamson

3 May 2015

How We Can Be as Wise as a Child



“Tarry a moment to watch the chaos of a playground,
crayola-colored shirts of running children, all trying out their wings.” Sun Wolf


Have you noticed how the little people in your life know the true meaning of living in the moment? If we take time out of our busy schedule to stop and observe their play, we will see how their chaotic activity is actually a better strategy to making the most of life.

They experience everything as the present, being in tune with the gift of time.

My three-year-old grand-daughter surprised me one day when we were spending a few days together. Silver delights in going to the café to eat cake and have her own cup of bubbachino  – so off we went, with her mother too, and it was this outing that really taught me the meaning of time.

Making light and letting go


It was during our four day holiday on the sunny shores of Queensland where I met up with my daughter Claire and her little Silver. I had forgotten how being with a small child can be both laboriously slow and athletically fast. They can be happy one moment, demanding the next. It’s a life of swinging contrasts that move by the second, not by the hour.

Being with a small child challenges your energy level and mind, challenges your patience yet brings incredible joy.

I noticed that Silver’s day consists in appreciating minute by minute distractions but in allowing herself the
freedom to explore the newness of everything, she is being fully present to the activity of the moment.

Claire and I often found ourselves laughing at the way our plans were diverted to following Silver’s non-planned agenda. She stopped to admire what seemed to us to be every bug and leaf on the pavement: completely living in the moment, one by one by one.

When we decided to let go of controlling the time it was taking to walk to the café, our annoyance shifted to one of acceptance and in making light of being led by our cheerful toddler, we could relax into the moments with her too.

Swing into the moment

When we finally arrived at the café, I decided to be on holiday too and watch Silver play.

I noticed her mother swiftly remove any breakables from the top of the table and produce a soft toy to distract Silver while we placed our order.

Silver sat looking, with wide-eyes observing everything in the world around her at each moment. She pointed at the noisy bus passing by the window, then squealed with delight seeing a cheeky pigeon pecking at a doughnut on the pavement and then quickly swung around in her seat to contemplate what she might do next with the leftover piece of banana in her hand.

Her happiness was pure and simple. In that moment, I saw the gift of time as she did.

Her joy is in the small detail of experiencing life.

Like all children, Silver is never ahead of herself, she is always with herself in every single second of her day and lives life to the full. She is not planning what she and her mummy are doing in ten minutes time. She’s seeing the plane flying high in the sky or knocking over the ice cubes in her drink, throwing herself down on the floor with bitter disappointment for her spilt drink followed by a swift pick-me-up cuddle!

It’s a rollercoaster ride with a young child…swing right up there in a burst of laughter, dive down there in the pit of despair. Children take us on this ride of our lives too – to experience every moment as it happens without judging it as good or bad: it just is!


"Love children especially. They live to soften and purify hearts

and, as it were, to guide us.”
Fyodor Dostoevsky

Obviously 

we can’t behave like young children in every moment of our day. But we can stop to give ourselves the precious gift of time when life is getting way ahead of us.

Whatever life-challenge or stress you may face, remember that it is taking time-out to proceed step by step that will bring you joy in the moment. Let go of your plans every now and then and discover the healing gift of time!

Let your joy be in the small detail of experiencing life as it unfolds, one amazingly beautiful moment at a time.



In loving memory of my mother Piluca, who's love of children is especially remember today on her earth-birthday... and felt every moment in my life as my heavenly-angel  xxx

you might also like to read

Love and Kindness

Lladro - Language of the Heart

Copyright © Maribel Steel 2015

18 Apr 2015

Are You like a Carrot, an Egg or a Coffee Bean?


“One mother teaches more than a hundred teachers.” Proverb

When you come across the words of another writer who touches your heart by the words they write, it is natural that you want to share their story with your friends. Today, I am doing just this – and by the time you have read the following words of wisdom, I hope you gain a different perspective on that next delicious brew of aromatic beans…

A Carrot, an Egg and a Cup of Coffee

by Frances Ship

A young woman went to her mother and told her how hard things were for her. She didn’t know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved, a new one arose.

Her mother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to boil. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second, she placed eggs, and in the last, she placed ground coffee beans.

She let them sit and boil; without saying a word. Twenty minutes later, she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in another bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in yet another bowl.

Turning to her daughter, she asked, “Tell me what you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

Her mother brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. The mother then asked the daughter to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, the mother asked the daughter to sip the coffee.

The daughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma the daughter then asked, “What does it mean, mother?”

Her mother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity: boiling water. Each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior, but after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.

“Which are you?” she asked her daughter. “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?


Think of this — which am I?


 Am I the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity do I wilt and become soft and lose my strength?

Am I the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did I have a fluid spirit, but after a death, breakup, financial hardship or some other trial, did I become hardened and stiff? Does my shell look the same, yet on the inside am I bitter and tough, with a stiff spirit and hardened heart?

Or, am I like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavour.

If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

When the hour is the darkest and trials are their greatest, do you elevate yourself to another level? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean…



My heartfelt thanks to Jena Fellers, for posting the above article on her brand new blog. Please do visit her site for many more insights,

Changing Focus ...Helps when life's problems cause you to lose your sight

You may also like to read:

Love is Blind – the Tale of Two Horses (Sept 2013)

Love and Kindness (April 2013)

Photos Copyright © Harry Williamson 2015

14 Mar 2015

5 Key Ways Blind People Do It Better





“Master yourself, and become king of the world around you.
Never be a victim of life; be its conqueror.”   Mike Norton



It’s true! Anything sighted people can do, visually-impaired or blind people can do it better! Don’t believe me? This photo was taken of me zipping around an actual race track with other blind drivers in Melbourne – have you been there, done that yet?


I’ll admit, I don’t drive a normal boring car – the tech guys are working on it though, I’m imagining the driverless car will be available for blind people soon. What a hoot!


Yes, be warned, we know our limitations and we’ve adapted to this blind-challenge.


Being blind brings a new spin on life. When you accept the ride, you actually find many ways in which to excel, exciting ways in which you can put your ‘foot to the pedal’ and enjoy life to the full. Come and take a back seat and allow us to show YOU the way for a change.

I’m raring to show you five keys to help you navigate through the racetrack of life.


Get ready…set…GO!



  Key 1:  blind people are experts in decision making

We know how to  cut down on too many choices and make a decision to save mental energy.

According to research, we all have a limited amount of brain power available to us every day. The more decisions we have to make, the weaker our ability to decide on many aspects of our day. And we can suffer from brain-fatigue too.

The simple act of having to choose between too many options can lead to overload.

When I read this, it became clear to me why as a visually-impaired person, I like to ‘cut to the chase’ and focus on realistic options when I am with sighted people because it allows me to reserve my thinking-battery and be more effective with brain-energy for those other important decisions.

The mere action of getting around is taking up most of my brain and sensory cells in decision making, to stay safe, to negotiate around obstacles, to listen out for sudden changes as I tread carefully around my neighbourhood or for example in the supermarket. My shopping list says ‘orange juice’. Please don’t tell me the other fifty shades of orange – I am really content with my original choice of orange juice.


Making a firm decision once we know our options is also liberating for our sighted helpers: we have freed you from feeling overwhelmed by having to tell us every detail in front of your eyes. Let’s keep the wires clear to our thought process and enjoy the decisions we make with confidence.


Key 2: blind people are natural problem solvers


Every single day, we are confronted by tasks which would be easier if we could see but our eyes have gone on a long vacation without us so what can we do? We can adapt to seeing the task differently.


Watch how your visually-impaired or blind friend finds creative solutions that meet the task requirement by being resourceful rather than resentful, and good-humoured instead of bad tempered.

We problem solve and avoid frustration by looking for alternative methods to achieve a visual task.


Getting from point A to point B without sight requires practiced skills in problem solving, being tenacious,persistent and open to creative solutions.

Asking a blind person directions is not as silly as it sounds because we have already mapped out the route…going my way?


Key 3: blind people are natural observers


Gathering detail about our environment  is not only in the seeing, it is in the feeling, in the knowing, in the observing of tiny details the eyes can miss because they can’t see for looking. Close your eyes and what happens? Your entire body becomes alert to subtle sensory observation.

We are expert detail detectors because we take notice from a variety of sensory skills.

Our ears hear you, our heart feels for genuine communication or awkward silences, our body alerts us to physical changes, our hands hold a picture of life and our intuition has a clear line to a deep knowing that guides us.

Close your busy-body eyes in a café or any other place as an experiment and see how well you begin to observe so much more. Leave your visual prejudice in the dark and open up to the full experience of observing life differently. We actually do see more in the dark than you realise.


Key 4: blind people are awesome time managers 

Dali - the persistence of memory - tapestry by j cinquin
You know the saying, ‘if you want to get a job done, ask a busy person?

This is because they know how to manage the task within realistic time constraints and boy, have we had our share of adapting to visual restrictions.

Losing the ability to see means people who are visually-impaired or blind take much more notice of the time it takes to achieve their tasks.

We have to be realistic in setting our goals and pace ourselves.

Time checks are a regular part of our day: as in preparing for an outing, a meeting, a deadline, cooking for our family, organising our children for school.

We have learned the essential skill of keeping time so we can saunter through our task with good old Father Time.

He’s got all the time in the world for each one of us – so take his hand, the minute one or the hour one and be realistic when setting deadlines.

Notice the grace and skill of the blind person who manages time wisely and you too can enjoy the time of your life – every second of it!


Key 5: blind people are ambassadors for living life to the full

You may not think it possible to rediscover the joy in life when you are losing more of your sight or when you have to face the frightening reality of impending blindness. Your life is never going to be the same, it is true, but it’s going to be different, not necessarily worse.


People who are visually-impaired or blind wake up every morning alongside their sighted loved ones with the same desires: to be happy, to be fulfilled, to be at peace, to feel a sense of belonging, to want to contribute to our families wellbeing, to feel safe and secure emotionally and physically, to take our place in the world, so why would anyone see the one weak part of their life as the whole part of who they are?


I won’t deny it has taken many bumps and bruises to my ego and much effort and soul-searching to understand this ‘blind-life’ but what I have discovered is a real treasure: being blind doesn’t stop anyone from enjoying a fulfilled life.


It’s the choice and decisions we take that can keep us striding onwards like ambassadors for life. Come take our hand and the blind will show you the way to find courage and how to keep your face to the sun even on a cloudy day.

After all, it’s the life we were born to live, so we might as well make it the best one we can…




There you have five ways to see how blind people do it better. I have more in draft but for now, we’d love to hear other key ways from your own experiences…

Copyright © Maribel Steel 2015

Photos Copyright © Harry Williamson