I went to a party last weekend and met a gardener who is going blind. Flowers and color matter less and less. Now form and fragrance matter. Big, stately martian leaves. Presence.
He has known for awhile that he will ultimately lose his sight. It’s genetic. But is not yet time for a service dog. There’s still a little hole left that he can see through. The cane is mainly to send a message. Also, it is helpful for distinguishing a shadow from a hole in the ground.
In Miami they would drive right over his cane. The Northwest is civilized. Logical. There are sidewalks, and they are a different texture and hue than the street. His balance is good. He can step off the curb.
Friends helped him build a greenhouse at his property in Astoria, Oregon. He is a collector of hardy orchids, and decided to keep a few citrus trees to remember Florida by. He has two varieties of lemon trees, a lime and a tangerine. They get lots of bugs and diseases.
In Miami the pests are like dinosaurs. Come out to your garden to see a giant iguana chomping on your flowers, or maybe find a 21-foot python sunning himself. In the Northwest, his challenge is deer. I told him that my Mom, in Virginia, strung fishing line among the trees for an invisible deer fence.
With a gay man’s withering authority he replied, “Those are some dumb Virginia deer.”
Everyone always asks whether his other senses are becoming more heightened. He thinks not, but he does notice them more.
Meanwhile, although it is verboten for the photojournalist to set up or fabricate the truth of an image, I found the large quantities of stuffed bears and monkeys dumped on the beach this week disturbing. I rehomed them into the trees. I did.
On Saturday Marcy wanted to go to the jetty to harvest seaweed. I told her I’d meet her there. It has to be a pretty low tide to make it that far down the beach. It’s a nice long walk that I hadn’t done in awhile.
It was walking purposefully away from us in the way that birds that can’t fly do. Like maybe you won’t notice they’re hurt. How many times have I seen a hurt bird on the beach and sadly accepted my powerlessness, thinking: What can I do? It’s natural selection, or maybe, as is the case with the cute baby seals, you mustn’t touch them. The stink of people will make their moms reject them.
Marcy picked it up. Then she handed me her keys and told me to drive. An eagle went whizzing over our heads as we made our way to the car. Back at her place, she put it in a cat carrier and called a bird rescue place way out on the peninsula, in North Beach. The guy said he’d meet us in South Bend.
In South Bend we were met by a bearded mountain man in a rumbling pickup with Maine plates. He was wearing a T-shirt with grease splotches on it that said “Harvard”. He checked out the bird, said it was a “Brant”, and added, “This bird will be in intensive care in an hour!”
Later he called with an update. She was an “immature” female with a “wound” on her tailfeathers (which we wondered if was from the eagle). She was exhausted and had clearly been through a lot but was recuperating nicely.
I was amazed. “Marcy, who does that?” I asked. “Who sees a wounded bird and does something about it? It could have PEED on you!” She admitted that she did find a couple strange beetles in her hair later but acted like it was no big deal.
But I thought it was a big deal, if it is true, as M.L.K. says, that “our freedom is inexplicably tied to the freedom of every soul on earth. It does require us to act in our time. Decision is upon us and we cannot accept delay.”
“You are the change we seek in the world,” I said.