Category Archives: Life

Archery for wheelers

I had not shot an arrow or held a bow since I was a camper at Robin Hood Country Day Camp. That was when I was still on my feet. In 1988 I lost the use of them thanks to a car accident. Since then I tried several things in an attempt to keep in shape: skiing, tennis, martial arts. Each had limited success. For the past few months I had been contemplating archery. My interest was sparked every time I drove to the local shopping mall. There, by the side of the road, was a yellow billboard advertising archery supplies. Each time I past it I felt beckoned, but I never pulled over to investigate further.

A week or so ago I decided to take my interest a step further. Sitting in front of my computer, I googled ‘archery on long island.’ In a few seconds the search engine responded with a list of possibilities. I clicked the one geographically closest to my home. The website looked promising: instruction, supplies, and a shooting range. There was nothing, though, to indicate whether the place catered to wheelchair users. I clicked on the phone link and waited for the Skype connection. During the call I learned that the place was chair friendly. In fact I was told they had a few wheelchair-using clients. So, I made an appointment.

As I said, I’d studied martial arts, but not in recent years. My former sensei was still a good friend though. He was constantly encouraging me to get more exercise. So, when I told him my plan, he was all for it. In fact, he said he’d go with me sometime. He warned me, though, that I was in for more of a workout that I’d expected. I laughed off the comment, not remembering a tough time of it when I was that kid in camp.

Jump ahead two days. When I arrived at the archery place for my one o’clock appointment I was greeted enthusiastically by the man I’d spoken to on the phone. After paying the fee, and filling out some paperwork, he introduced me to my instructor.  The other students were much younger than me, reminding me once again of that camp experience.

The lesson consisted of the rules of the range, and a brief introduction to two types of bows available. I chose a compound bow, the kind with a pulley system that both made pulling the string easier and gave the shot more power. I had never used one and I was intrigued.

Over the next two hours I shot arrow after arrow at the target some 5 yards before me. I learned many lessons. The parent of one of the other students suggested that I lock the wheels of my chair. He said every time I pulled the bow back my chair shifted which, he surmised, made my arrows fly awkwardly. I hadn’t noticed but followed his suggestion, and he was right of course. My aim improved, though I still hardly ever hit the precise place on the target I was aiming for. I learned other lessons too, including the best position to lock my chair relative to the target.

There are many sports that have been adapted for people in wheelchairs. Archery seems to be one that does not need much adaptation. It does require a sense of balance though, and the use of muscles one might not normally use; muscles that might have become weakened by years of sitting in a wheelchair. I intend to continue with my lessons and my shooting. My sensei was correct when he warned me I might be sore after my workout, but I assume that feeling will diminish over time. Now I have to wonder if a blind man can participate in this sport. How would my character, Douglas Abledan fare with a bow in his hands? Comments welcome!

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How Does It Feel?

 

  How important are architecture and décor to the way we perceive the world around us? How do these things impact our comfort? These questions came into sharp focus in my mind when my mother decided to update the house I grew up in. Truth be told, she never liked the shingled décor of our house, a fact I only recently learned. Fortunately or not, the opportunity to correct what she saw as a flaw in the building’s original design came when the last coat of paint refused to adhere to the house’s fifty-year-old shingles. Each time the rain fell water seeped under the paint, first bubbling then peeling the thin coating. Neither sanding nor repainting alleviated the problem. Finally, mom decided to take bold action. The house is currently being resurfaced with stucco.

There is no doubt; we live in a visual world. For most of us our eyes are the first sensory organs to take in and interpret our environment. But, what is this world like for someone without sight? How are things sighted people take for granted perceived by those without sight? Are they?

In my Blind Traveler mystery series (Blind Traveler Down a Dark River and Blind Traveler’s Blues) the protagonist, Douglas Abledan, is a blind man who was born sighted. Before losing his vision, Douglas developed an appreciation for art and architecture. I wanted him to keep those interests in his newly darkened world, but I had to figure out how to do that.

I studied the other senses people make use of: touch, smell, taste, and hearing. I decided to show my readers that a widely held belief, that remaining senses become stronger when one sense is lost, is a myth. To do this, Douglas had to learn to pay closer attention to his remaining senses. So, in order to acquaint himself with his environment and learn about the architecture and décor around him, Douglas uses his hands. He pays attention to what his fingers tell him. He feels the textures of artworks and buildings. He reacts to the temperatures various materials relay to his fingertips. So, if Douglas were visiting my house he would pay close attention to the materials used to construct the building. He would feel the roughness of the stucco. His fingers would perceive every curve, nook and cranny of each architectural feature.

 

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Sometimes days are just bad

I had every intention of doing some writing on my next Douglas Abledan novel. I’ve been doing some outlining and know somewhat where I want the story to go. I even know some of the subplots I plan to incorporate. Unfortunately, today was not the day to do it. Sometimes when you have a disability the day is just too painful. That’s the kind of day I had today.

Every inch of this body, which I refuse to call MINE anymore, just hurts. I’m sure many of you have had days like that.  I’m sure many of you have days of utter agony, and trust me when I say I feel for you.  Pain blocks the mind. It intensifies the senses so everything internal and external just hurts

The character in my Blind Traveler novels, Douglas Abledan, has days like that too. He pushes through them as best he can to be sure, but there are just days when he doesn’t want to do anything. Days when he just can’t. From a personal perspective I can’t tell if blindness physically is painful, though I suspect aspects of it can be.  I’ve not asked any of my resources if they experience physical pain, though I do know they have many days of emotional and psychic pain, days they just want to curl up.

But, here’s the thing, in some ways I suspect society EXPECTS people with disabilities to just curl up and give up. We do in some respects live in a paternalistic society where people are supposed to take care of those they deem in need of taking care of. I may be wrong about this. I may be saying this because of how I feel today. I may be speaking out of depression and pain. But, if I am right, the point is….we CAN’T!

It’s not that we have to show the world we are better than the others, but it is that we have to show we are all equal to the task of living life to the best we can, no matter our physical, emotional, or psychic condition..

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Emotions

Sometimes it’s good to wear your emotions on your sleeve.  Sometimes it helps other people to see how you feel. That idea was reinforced for me today.  I learned that someone was compiling a series of articles about fathers and sons into an anthology.  I thought about it for a while and then decided to offer a contribution.

You see, some years ago, when my father passed away, I wrote a short article about his battle with cancer and disability. I wrote about the fact that he and I had something in common, my struggle with my own disabilities and now his.  I decided this article might help others to deal with not only death but also disability.  I wanted readers to see that sometimes these things can bring people closer together, to bridge a gap of understanding they may not have been able to understand before. So, I submitted this article and shortly thereafter learned that it had been accepted and will be a part of this anthology.

I see it as a dedication to my father.

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Wednesdays

What is it about Wednesdays that makes a person slow down?  I’m sitting here trying to think about what I want to write next.  Alas, my brain is in full-blown revolt.

I have a thread coming together for the next Abledan book, but it is still only a tiny thread.  Keep finding new information about Antarctica and new technologies for the blind (like a “smart” white cane complete with cell phone) that I think would be cool for the new book, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.

I’m thinking I need a vacation, but who can afford that these days.

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Reviews

I keep getting wonderful reviews for Blind Traveler’s Blues, and I am thrilled about that.

I’ve also set up a Douglas Abledan group on

where I invite conversation about my books, my characters, and blindness in general.

So, come visit, please.

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