Walking Blind

Walking blind is an activity my wife and I indulge in from time to time as we take one of our walks through the neighborhood at night. We don't do this for any special reason. Neither of us has any blind friends we are trying to understand better, nor do we believe it will do anything beneficial like sharpen our other senses. Neither of us think it offers any practical benefit whatsoever and do it simply because it adds variety to our walks. It's interesting, and sometimes, just a tiny bit scary.

Occasionally, one of us says, "I think I'll go blind tonight," which means that either she or I will keep the eyes shut for the duration of the walk. It then becomes the job of the other to act as a guide, to take the blind's hand and make sure there are no mishaps. The guide must warn about potholes, curbs, puddles, etc., anything that might cause the blind to stumble.

Walking blind took some practice to get right. Neither of us were capable of closing our eyes for long distances in the beginning. Our eyes kept popping open, but as time went on, we learned control. Now, both of us usually go blind for the entire walk, anywhere from one to four miles.

Once blind, the eyes stay closed from when we leave the house until we return home, no matter what. At times, that can be difficult, such as when my wife describes how beautiful the moon looks shining through the trees. Those times require some will power. I start thinking, "Maybe I can open my eyes for just five seconds. What's the difference?" It turns out the difference is the guilt I experience for breaking my resolve. That's no big deal, of course, but it's something I prefer not to do.

Anyway, we have gone blind in a few different environments - suburban streets, the cemetery, an industrial park, a forest, the town center, and the high school track. We tried it a few times while kayaking too.

Although each environment looks the same, each is a different experience for both the blind and the guide. Sometimes I just talk with my wife while walking blind, oblivious to my location. Other times I play a little game, where I try to determine exactly where I am at all times. That's a challenge because there are too few clues. I can see my eyelids brighten when I pass under a streetlight, but that doesn't help much because I don't know how many streetlights there are on any particular street. Hills are more useful, I usually know exactly where I am when I reach the top of a hill.

One thing I find odd is that my ears are close to useless. Although I listen intently, most sounds offer little information about location. A car driving by doesn't tell me anything worthwhile, and the wind blowing through any one tree's leaves sounds the same as any other tree. Dogs barking and birds chirping don't help much either.

Different environments give the walks different feels. The easiest walks are through the neighborhood side streets or the cemetery, where there is little traffic or other people. We just walk casually though those environments, holding hands, talking about the day's events. Other walks are a little more difficult, such as walks though the town center where there are other people sharing the sidewalk. Someone once asked if we needed help. "No thanks." My wife said. "We're all right." That felt strange, I wondered how helpless I looked.

The most interesting blind experience is running at the high school track. Whichever one of us is blind runs in the middle of the track and the other runs a couple of yards behind while shouting instructions. "Go a little right, a little more, okay you're back in the middle. You're coming to the turn now, start bearing left." We would each jog blind around the quarter-mile track a few times. After that, I would usually sprint a hundred yards, but my wife never wanted to try that one, which as it turned out, was the right idea. I fell the last time I did it and hurt myself badly enough to decide that I would never do it again, a real shame. Blind sprinting was my favorite blind experience, a truly unique sensation, something like floating in space. I could feel the gravity and my feet hitting the pavement, but the surrounding darkness made the gravity feel different. It was like being in another dimension, the dimension of floating darkness. Although I can feel a little of that when jogging around the track, it's much more pronounced when running at full speed. I miss it.

The walks, which start at the house, goes for a few miles, then end at the house usually leave me feeling a bit weird. I open my eyes and realize I walked for an hour and have no real memory of it, only the thoughts that were in my mind during the walk.

I guess there really isn't much more to say about the whole thing. Walking blind can be a nice diversion that's often interesting. You might want to try it. - COB.

There will be a new post every... Oh I don't know. Let's say every two weeks.