Things were easier when I had my eyesight. Walking down Ashland Avenue, crossing at the light, strolling into the Swedish bakery, eyeing the breads, the cookies, the cakes. Signaling for the counter girl and pointing to that one, no, that one right there, that’s the one. Sometimes I want to stay home today because going out and going through all this effort seems like too much work, too much fear. But when I put forth the effort, a lot of times the payoff is even greater than it was back then. The reward is more generous, the breads and cakes much sweeter.
Here’s a story Annie Dillard tells in her book, The Writing Life:
Every year the aspiring photographer brought a stack of his best prints to an old, honored photographer, seeking his judgment. Every year the old man studied the prints and painstakingly ordered them into two piles: bad and good. Every year the old man moved a certain landscape print into the bad pile. At length he turned to the young man. “You submit this same landscape every year and every year I put it on the bad stack. Why do you like it so much?”
The young photographer said, “Because I had to climb a mountain to get it.”
Blindness is an Olympic event: the movements remain the same; the degree of difficulty increases. My trip to the Swedish Bakery requires minimal exertion. But the concentration is exhausting. Every trip is an adventure. It’s effort versus payoff, risk versus reward. And, aside from really great donuts, the reward is intrinsic. It’s the sense of accomplishment. Fear is a daunting foe. Some days I need to push myself. I don’t want to stay relegated to the sidelines, to the life of what might have been.