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Morris Woods and "Caning in the City"

sara.gladwin's picture

Originally, my intention was to write two separate posts; one about the Morris Wood’s experience and one about what I would have said if I were in class today based on to the course notes. However, after I wrote both posts, I found that the two were inseparable and ended up combining them together.


On Morris Woods and Carmen Papalia:

It was weird to be reminded of how dependent I am on my sight; to the point where I couldn’t figure out how to move my body. I kept feeling like my brain knew what I was supposed to be doing but my leg and hand movement seemed outside of my control; even standing up straight seemed like a particularly difficult task. When I finally took off the blindfold to find my tree, I realized that I had been so busy just trying to figure out how to move my legs forward that I hadn’t been paying as much attention my physical surroundings while Emma was trying to lead me. I also realized later when we met as a group that it seemed like the other pairs had been very careful to lead their partners as best as they possibly could; helping each other along the way. Emma and I actually did the opposite, doing our best to confuse each other further. We even went as far as spinning each other around so finding the right direction back was even more impossible.

While trying to find my tree I did however, take pride when I came across the imprint of a shoe on a decaying log and recognized it as my own. It wasn’t until later that I thought about my awkward body blundering through the woods sightless and wondered what destruction I probably brought to my surroundings. It was weird to remember feeling the soft bark breaking away at the force of my foot, but not have known until after what wreckage looked like. But maybe this is my being swallowed by the illusion sight provides, in thinking I could see the full extent of “what the wreckage looked like.” Had there been microscopic homes within that wood that I couldn’t see?  A modest community I had not considered, having never been forced to consider something I couldn’t see... Had I done the opposite of Carmen Papalia, who writes he “must be aware of patterns and structures, the characteristics of fellow walkers” ? Had I not paid enough attention to my fellow walkers?

I think I was really confused by Carmen Papalia’s article. I don’t think I could access some of the experiences he was talking about. While I’m interested in what it means to “see a thing blindly,” I felt like I didn’t understand from only reading about it and that I’d probably never understand. There were moments in the woods were I could feel things; branches that caught on my clothes and the bumpy texture of bark under my fingers. In those brief moments, I thought feeling became seeing. But overall, what I felt most powerfully was the panic darkness can bring in navigating the unfamiliar, not a heightened awareness of my other senses or other patterns and structures previously invisible to me. I also think he’s explanation is particular to the environment of a city, so it was hard for me to imagine seeing a city as he describes.

There were a couple other things I wanted to say based on course notes that seemed relevant but I didn’t know how to cohesively fit in:

-On knowing directly: I don’t think I believe we can know anything “directly.” I feel like I have first hand knowledge of my own experiences but more often, I am proved wrong. I will be discussing something that happened to me with someone who witnessed it happen and they will say something that causes me to have to reconstruct the way I think about the whole experience entirely. Furthermore, I’ve come to the conclusion that we just aren’t going to get everything. Something will always be lost…. for as many ways we come to know a person or experience or place, there will always be more to know.  Even if we could get everything, what would be the point in continuing to learn? There would be nothing left.

-on boundaries: Like with most things in life, I stand in the middle. I value some boundaries and wish to break down others. I always tend to choose the middle ground, preferring fluidity then to be attached.