October brings a crispness to the air, like the apples we would bite into soon. A hint of color is beginning to show on the trees, though an occasional one has already dispensed with its leaves. Not enough to rake up yet; just little clusters that swirl near the curb with the intermittent gusts of chilly wind.
I put on a jacket this morning to walk Bailey. She investigated the mysterious, moving leaves, then resumed sniffing in the grass. A bush that had worn delicate flowers in the summer was now draped in spider webs. Ah, yes. Autumn. The onset of a darker season. Shorter days, fewer birds, fewer boats. People would begin to bundle up, stay indoors more. I sensed a loss, familiar to me at this time of year. I longed for warmth, the sounds of people enjoying the outdoors, and daylight. We would soon lose that extra hour.
Due to my night blindness, I am considerably more handicapped in the winter months. I tend to avoid nighttime activities, just because I’m uneasy walking through a parking lot or down the sidewalk when the lighting is spotty. Uneasy? Well, afraid.
Along with the night blindness, I’ve also incurred a gradually narrowing visual field. Normal retinae reflect a vast range of vision. We humans have binocular vision, each eye taking in a roughly circular area in the direction of the gaze, with the two fields overlapping in the center. The brain perceives this as a single image. Because I now have less than 20% of that normal visual field, I miss a lot in the periphery. Peripheral doesn’t mean only to the side; I don’t see above and below the center either. Picture a giant circle that shrinks down to 20% of it’s normal size. Less than 20%, in my case. Because I see through this “tunnel,” things seem to appear out of nowhere.
I’ve been known to step on small dogs, body slam children, run the grocery cart into displays, and totally miss people I’m passing on the street or at a party! It’s embarrassing; particularly since I don’t appear to be blind. Indeed, I am not. Looking straight ahead, I see very well. People don’t know I’m looking through a tunnel.
All of this renders me on edge. I don’t know when the next unexpected low branch will brush the top of my head; can’t anticipate a rock on the sidewalk, or the unevenness of cobblestones. I try to consciously scan my environment, and this takes a great deal of mental energy and vigilance. Basically, I’ve become a big scaredy cat.
Dave and I munched on left-overs for lunch while I mentally noted the need to shop for soup ingredients soon. We would be needing our soup for the coming days of cold weather. I was beginning to enter my hibernation mode.
I took a nap after lunch. I was a bit foggy on waking up and the house was perfectly still. Was Dave outside? I rolled myself slowly out of bed, stood up to stretch, then padded into the living room with eyes half open. I looked toward the sliding glass doors, but was taken aback to find only darkness. It can’t be that late, I thought. No, of course not. It wasn’t dark in the bedroom. At this point I wasn’t frightened, just curious. How could this be? As I typically do to make my way in the dark I put my arm out in front, to sort of feel my way, avoid running into things. That’s when I screamed. Not five inches I front of me my hand encountered an obstacle. A person!
I think I was still screaming when Dave turned around to face me. “Oh, my God, Dave! What the….!” I was aware of my heart racing, “Oh, my God!”
He was wearing a black t-shirt, and my tunnel vision could not see beyond the darkness.
“I was just standing here,” he said calmly but a bit defensively. He tires of my jumpiness. But he often just shows up unexpectedly in the room I am occupying. He should be used to my heightened startle response by now. I’ve told him he needs to wear a bell so that I can hear him coming. He’s shown no interest in that, and I haven’t pushed it.
Autumn is not my favorite season. Nor is winter. I try to practice the Buddhist principle of equanimity, accepting the entire spectrum; the warmth and the cold, the light and the darkness, the green, leafy trees and the barren ones. And I know (another tenet of Buddhism) it is impermanent. Spring and summer will come again, along with daylight savings time. I’ll be a bit calmer then.