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Listening to the Leaves

by Carole Conrad

Sara, the most exciting thing happened to me today! I want so much to tell you all about it and share my excitement with you, but at three years of age you wouldn't understand the significance of my discovery. So I'll share it with you in writing now'and perhaps in reading when you are older.

You were right, Sara; I heard the leaves fall today. I was sitting right here on our cement front steps, looking over our large front lawn, when I heard it. The autumn breeze was stiff, and the giant oaks that line our yard let go of their first dry, brown leaves of October. This they have done for hundreds of years'but today was different'at least for me'because I heard it.

Ever since we learned how seriously impaired your beautiful blue eyes were, I have tried to teach you more about our world. I've struggled to explain what clouds look like and why I can see across a pond but not across Lake Michigan. I've tried to tell you about the beauty of trees and the rich green of spring time. And oh, how we've argued. You say the trees are fighting; I say the wind moves them so that their branches bump into each other. You say the summer leaves are brown at the tree tops and green further down. I say all the leaves are green until fall, at which time they all turn to brown. And I've tried to explain that we don't hear leaves fall; we see them.

Today, as I sat alone on the step, I shut my eyes and listened. It was one of those rare moments when I didn't need to be anywhere or do anything. I just listened. And then I heard them. I heard the leaves rustle in the air as they fell'bumping into each other. When they reached their destination, they tumbled across each other as the breeze stirred them. They skidded stiffly across the paved driveway'scraping their thin yet rigid points. And acorns dropped from the sky to land on the grass with a soft but audible thud. I can hear without straining now. I just needed to tune down my own thoughts so that I could hear. My closed eyes filled with tears as I listened.

I have tried, oh so hard, to see as you do so that I can help you understand things as they really are. I have shut one eye and squinted the other nearly closed to try to experience what you see. But I can't. And I realized today that my objective was to teach you the difference between the incorrect perceptions you acquire and the reality that the rest of us observe. But today, when I heard the leaves fall (much as you probably hear them), I understood something. You have a lot to teach me, little girl. You hear things, feel things, and experience things in ways different'yet not always less correct'than I do.

I will never experience what you do. You always hear trains coming before anyone else. You continually amaze me when you identify the voices of individual children as they play together in our backyard. And only you can tell those neighborhood identical twins apart. You have something special, little Sara. You don't see much anymore, but God has given you perceptions that I can't understand. Thank you for sharing a little bit of your gift with me. Thank you for insisting that I listen...to the leaves.

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