S1: Episode 12 - Ann Humphries

Portrait of Ann

Episode Information

[Intro Music]
Narrator:        Welcome to My Heart is Not Blind. Narrative histories about blindness and perception. A traveling exhibition and book published by Trinity University Press, supported by Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, edited and hosted by Michael Nye. Every person. Every place is a map to somewhere else. Episode 12, Ann Humphries.

Ann:              As a girl, growing up in the Hill Country, what comes to mind are images of the Frio River, the Angora goats, the horses, the saddles, the skunks that we had as pets, distant views. The fog rising on the river at sunrise, those images are great comforts to me. The word blindness doesn’t scare me anymore. I used to fear being called blind. I’ve crossed over and it’s taken so much to adapt to being blind that I hesitate to go back. When I was in my early thirties, I started noticing a shimmer. And over the years, my vision is gradually diminished to where I no longer see colored shapes, buildings. I can no longer see the ocean. The things are either a fog or dark. I can perceive the moon. If someone guides my eyes, I can see a candle. It doesn’t have shape. It’s more of a sense, an aura, like a bright cloud.

When you first get a diagnosis like retinitis pigmentosa, then you go to the step of, oh, my, now what? And I remember the staff would tell me, don’t overthink it. Just go with it. It will be gradual and you can adjust. So we got counseling, and during one of those sessions, the grief came to a head and I really remember weeping, like shaking my shoulders and weeping sad. I had to get that out and really release the old life in order to embrace the new life. A sense of touch is much more magnified. It’s the sensitivity of your feet to change in pavement, roots, all the different surfaces. Of course, the sense of feeling as you go past space and people, parking meters, trash cans, mailboxes. You sense the flower pot as you go through a street. These days, I don’t really care so much what people look like. I hear their voices and their manner and their energy. I can sense that when I was hugging my family, whom I hadn’t seen in at least a year, the way my father’s back felt, the chest, his muscles, my mom’s softness. What I sense about people now is more their sense of compassion, how they reach for my hand. So the physicality of the image isn’t necessary to be satisfying and fulfilling.

I have a wonderful companion as seeing eye dog named Brego, and I consider his coming into our family’s life as equivalent as our marriage and the births of our children. It’s that significant. The way we know each other, he’s trained to have intelligent disobedience. He’ll stop and block his legs and I’ll know to pay attention. He comes to my bedside when I don’t feel well. He’s keeping me company standing by me. I will say I do miss moving in a crowd independently, going over and speaking to people, however, they’re trade-offs that are of equal value. When I hold babies, how they sit in your lap, you smell their hair more, you feel the soft spot. You feel their bones. You just experience people in a slightly different way. You, you shift some of the ways I perceive my surroundings. It’s almost as if I create a radar, hearing the echo how close something is.

Last night, we were driving home from swimming up a hill through San Marcos to the golf course. And the sound difference between the main street and sliding through that golf course was so lovely and soft. Blindness has cautioned me not to rush. Get in a hurry. I know how the wind feels on my arms, my shoulders. How it blows my hair. And there are times when I revert not being able to go and do like I want to. But again, I’ve learned not to overreact and wait and shift gears. It’s like you pivot. I pivot and find whole new worlds that are equally satisfying.

[Outro Music]
Host:           Anne is a writer and poet. Her voice pulls us inward toward her. It’s honest, revelatory of her ability to observe and reflect. For an example, she said, “Last night, we were driving home through a golf course. The difference in sound from the busy streets to just sliding through that golf course was so lovely and soft.” She talks about her seeing eye dog Brego and said, “I consider his entry into our family life as equivalent to our marriage and the birth of our children. It’s that significant.” Anne’s voice has weight and gravity. She said The word blindness doesn’t scare me anymore. It’s not to be feared. It’s not sad, it’s not dark, it’s not a door that’s locked. You go internally, you pivot, adjust, and you adapt. You experience people and places and time in a slightly different way.

Join me next week, two new episodes will be released. Please subscribe, rate, and review this podcast. You can also go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for transcripts, and other information. There are so many ways. Different ways to experience moments to their fullest. Thank you for listening.