Would you rather be blind, or deaf?
Sounds like fodder for lively cocktail conversation, doesn’t it? Kind of a bummer to think about, though. In my family, especially. I’ve thought about it a lot. There are seven kids in my family: half are blind, and half are deaf. Not completely blind, not completely deaf….but close enough to take a conversation like this seriously. My sister and I are #6 and #7, and we’re still waiting for our number to come up. We are thinking we both drew the “blind card”, but I’ve had a couple of scares over the years when I thought I’d lost my hearing and it turned out to be wax balls built up in my ears. Whew.
I’ve always thought of myself as a visual person. I love to study faces most of all. I am fascinated by facial expressions and non-verbal communication. Maybe that’s why I can sit in the chicken coop or the pasture for hours, just watching the animals and imagining what is going on. Socially. Emotionally. Intellectually. And I love color and texture, too. Green. Blue. Fur. Feathers. Wood. Rusty metal. Paint. Stones. Soil. The farm is a feast for the eyes. I would miss that if I lost my sight. So I stare and memorize. Just in case. The view through the French doors of our bedroom, looking past the big old oak tree and our new bird feeder, across the West pasture to the white fence the marks the edge of the property. The black, black sky on a night like tonight when the stars are white and spread thick. The lit windows on the barn like calm eyes keeping watch.
But lately, I have come to appreciate sound more that ever before. I’m a loud person and I think that’s probably caused me to miss a lot of cool sounds. The sounds that have always brought me the most joy are on a lot of people’s lists: Laughter (hard, belly aching laughter or uncontrollable giggles are the best kind). Baby sounds (whatever it is that goes on when a baby is content but can’t yet speak). Church bells (the REAL kind…big bells, joyful and random. Not the synthetic kind that plays a song.). That thing they play just before a movie starts to show you how great the sound system is. You know the one I mean: “mmmmmMMMMMWWWWAAAAAHHHHHHHHONNNNNGGGGG!!!”
But this morning when I was feeding the kittens out on the screen porch, it was still dark outside and no one else was up. I stopped just for a moment and I heard an owl. Clear as a bell. And then another answered back. A lighter tone this time. There was a full-on owl conversation going on out there. And it was close. I froze and listened and it almost made me late to work. I wanted to listen as long as they kept it up. And I thought, “Thank God I can hear that.”
It made me think about the sounds I love most, and many are new to me on this farm. The sound of our five goats’ bells jingling across the pasture as they run over to greet us in the morning and at night. The scratching of the kittens’ claws as they scramble up the bark of a tree. Lil Joe’s whinny. The low creek of the barn doors as they open wide. The river. The breeze. I do need to shut up and listen more.
Truth is, silence led me to this farm. But that story is for another day. For now, I will isolate my senses from time to time and let the sounds wash over me.
The correct answer to the question, by the way, is, “Neither.”