A DIFFERENT VIEW - Sight or no, life is a learning experience

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For the blind, finding one's way may take practice but is very workable.

A mechanic needs training before to work on your car's engine. The auto body repairman needs training if he is to do good work. It takes training to become a good computer repairman, as it does to become a nurse, a doctor or a plumber.

Life consists of learning and we are never too old to do so.

When blindness strikes, a person has two choices: have a pity party or get the training to continue a full life. The latter may come from weeks or months in a mobility training school or it may come from days and even years accepting blindness while refusing to give up.

A carpenter or mechanic needs certain tools to succeed in his trade. The blind also need tools - hands, feet, ears, nose, memory and, yes, even taste. And later the long white cane and maybe a dog.

Much of my walking, whether in the house, the yard or along the roads, require use of my feet to detect what I am treading on. It is my feet that tell me when I walk on carpet or tile, on a soft grass or hard dirt, on pavement or gravel. One learns the route he walks daily, but how easy it is to upset this walk.

One day my walk was along a hard blacktop paved road. When I would step on the road's shoulder I could tell I was

on dirt, weeds and gravel. But it only took county workers a few hours to change all of this; suddenly the pavement was covered with gravel and my feet no longer could tell if I was on the road or shoulder.

So with my guide dog, for his usual walk had also changed, certain clumps of weeds, a chuck hole or crack in the pavement that before signaled a place to stop or cross the road was gone, making it difficult for him to know when to alert me. The gravel also was hard on his feet.

But after several weeks of traffic flying down the road the gravel was pounded into the road surface and once again there is the shoulder. Times like this can give you great hope, and this came the other day when she told me that our route for walking is one of the hardest routes for a guide dog team. It does take a little more concentration to make sure the pair stay on the edge of the road.

I am fortunate to be working a guide dog, for using a cane on a gravel road - especially a black top that has been covered with gravel - would be harder to navigate. In either case I depend on my feet to alert me to where I am walking while trusting my dog to keep me on the edge of the road.

I need my hearing to alert me when a vehicle is coming, even more now that flying gravel is very likely, especially when the driver is in a hurry.

I also find the nose is useful on my walks, for it helps identify where I am by the fragrance blown to me. Right now it comes from the Paradise Tree, which to me really doesn't smell good and its fragrance fills the air.

But it can also come from a rose bush or lilies in full bloom.

In my case the best help is my guide dog. He is the one to see I navigate corners and intersections and not get lost. It is my guide dog that alerts me when it is time to cross the road to enter the road leading to our house. It is he who stops when he comes across from our driveway, and it is helpful if I am paying attention to his clues.

Almost everything in life takes some training, and for us with guide dogs it is never over and continues daily.

Is today a problem day for you? Remember that life is learning, and some learning must be repeated to sink in.

Ernie Jones, a registered nurse who retired due to vision loss, can be reached at 529-9252 or at theolcrow@charter.net.

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