LEADING THE BLIND
I’m leading the blind these days. Sporadically. The sidewalk fronting the studio where I practice yoga is dug up. Huge gray chunks of capsized cement and brown rubble leave only a narrow path to the building’s entrance and no access beyond. Blue sawhorse barriers are in place along with orange cones. Big planters have been relocated to the street at the sidewalk’s edge. An obstacle course for the sighted and impossible to navigate for those tapping their way out of the Lighthouse Guild for the Blind a few yards down the block. They know the route to the subway but now their guide canes hit unexpected hindrances. I offer to help. May I have permission to hold your arm, each one asks––young, old, big, small, black, white, brown. They all clasp my arm the exact same way, a firm grip just above the elbow. In one instance, a woman’s seeing eye dog blocks her way in front of the barriers, but is uncertain where to lead her next. Walking up to them, I yearn to pet the dog––a magnificent German Shepard––but know enough not to, at least not while the dog is working. But as we wend our way around the obstructions, the woman fastened on my arm, I can’t resist asking the dog’s name. Sadie. What’s your name? Julia. And Yours? Ann. I apologize for inquiring about the dog before her. Many people do, Ann says. Once our path is clear I turn my attention to her: a petite woman, slender, wearing faded jeans, a light blue blouse, and blue earrings that sparkle in the sunlight. She’s probably in her 60s. She holds her head of cropped gray hair high, her face serene. I am as awed by Ann as I am by her dog. Sadie is beautiful, I say, and so are you. We reach the subway. I detach her hand from my arm and place it on the cold rail leading down the steps. Thank you, Julia. Have a good day, she says. You too, Ann. And thank you.
I am learning from the blind. Learning to proffer my arm where it can easily be found, learning ways to introduce myself and ask their names. Learning to put aside stubborn pride and ask for help as I reach limits imposed by ageing. Learning gratitude and humility, acceptance and serenity in the face of obstacles large and small.