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Observing Blind

r.graham.barrett's picture

Yesterday during my observation period, I decided to incorporate some of what the class discussed in regards to Caning in the City,as well as the experiences of the "Find Your Tree" exercise into my observation period. Having been inspired by both being blindly led in Morris Woods and Carmen's talk of how being physically blind changed his perceptions of his surroundings I decided to conduct my observation with my eyes closed. I wanted to see if I could be able to observe just as much sitting on my bench without visual aid as I could when I had my eyes open. Naturally trying to do so created some issues, as having my eyes closed led to some horrendous note taking but more importantly blindly observing would be vhallenging my orginal intention for choosing the spot so I could note the visual seasonal changes on the Haverford Nature Trail. But in conducting this visual-free observation time, I nonetheless was able to still take note of my surroundings in suprisingly new ways. For instance I noticed I had a better sense of how intense each gust of wind was and from which direction it was coming from, based on tiny things like feeling the wind on exposed skin or the slight rustling of dead leaves near the bench. I could suprisingly tell the differences between different vehicle engines and animal and bird calls based on small variations in the noise level that was generated (something I may have missed if I merely saw these objects and organisms and only took note of their visible differences rather than the small differences). Most suprisingly I was still able to tell time without opening up my eyes and looking at my watch. With my eyes closed I was able to mark the passage of the hour based on the intensity of the sun's rays hinting my face, and I could tell the hour was progressing based on how the warmth on my skin was slowly diminsihing as the sun went down and the light that I could feel through my eyelids was losing intensity. Through all these observations and perhaps more that I couldn't recognize at the time, I was still able to accurately draw a picture in my head of my surroundings. Just as we were supposed to use our to discover our tree in Morris Woods and find it again while missing a sense, I was able to discover (or should I say rediscover) my observation spot and all its non-visual features that make it so unique. Seeing how I was to learn so much from a spot that I had been continually visiting for weeks now, my visual-free exercise demonstrated to me that perhaps my spot on the bench still had a lot to offer me and I could continue to learn about it in the weeks remaining.



et502's picture

multiple ways of knowing/seeing

I think it's interesting that you point out an ability to mentally draw your surroundings - do you think this stems from your visual familiarity with your site or was it because you were able to sense the objects/sounds in other ways? How did your visual experience of the site inform the things you heard and felt? If someone had lead you to your site, do you think you would have been able to recognize it without seeing it?