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Traveling Blind: Adventures in Vision with a Guide Dog by My Side

Susan Krieger
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Purdue University Press
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  • Book Info
    Traveling Blind
    Book Description:

    Traveling Blind is a romance, a travel adventure, an emotional quest, and a deeply reflective description of coming to terms with lack of sight. It reveals the invisible work of navigating with a guide dog while learning to perceive the world in new ways. Although an intensely personal account, Traveling Blind is not simply memoir, for it extends beyond one person's experience to illuminate our understandings of vision informed by the academic fields of disability studies, feminist ethnography, and the study of human-animal bonds. What does it mean to "travel blind"? What is it like to live in a world where things are not black and white so much as shades of gray? How does it feel to navigate through constantly changing imagery that requires changing inner perspectives as well? What can experiences of blindness tell us about sight? The book confronts these questions and more. In a series of beautifully textured stories, the author takes the reader on a fascinating journey as she travels with Teela, her lively ""golden dog," through airports, city streets, and southwest desert landscapes, exploring these surroundings with changed sight. This unusual account of travel will inspire the sighted as well as the blind, offering pointed observations on processes of learning to work with a service animal and on coming to terms with a disability. In remarkably visual detail, Krieger makes palpable an ambiguous world. Repeatedly confronted with social stereotypes (that she should be totally blind and incapable of mobility), she comes to value her own unique ways of seeing and her interdependence with both her animal and human companions. Her descriptions of exquisite natural landscapes and intimate personal moments will touch as well as educate readers.

    eISBN: 978-1-61249-008-3
    Subjects: Sociology, Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Traveling Blindis a romance, a travel adventure, an emotional quest, and a book about coming to terms with lack of sight. It explores the invisible work of navigating with a guide dog while learning to perceive the world in new ways. In a previous book,Things No Longer There: A Memoir of Losing Sight and Finding Vision, I described my initial experiences of loss of sight.Traveling Blindbegins whereThings No Longer Thereleft off. As my eyesight worsened, I began to use a white cane and soon I wanted to have a guide dog. After completing a...

    • Chapter 1 Starting at Sunrise
      (pp. 13-26)

      Big Hatchet looms in my imagination, a mountain glistening darkly against the desert sky. Lifting my binoculars to my eyes, I see it ahead of me, its broad silhouette topped by a dome and peak. To my right stretch the Little Hatchet Mountains. Between them, far off, shimmering like jewels in the distant sky, are the Sierra Madres of Mexico. I stand in a vast desert basin between these mountain ranges, surrounded by cactus and creosote bush and dust and little else and do not want to leave. This is a story about the day I traveled to Big Hatchet...

    • Chapter 2 Finding Big Hatchet
      (pp. 27-40)

      Wide vistas now extended on both sides of the road. My view was of whiteness—hazy, blurry whiteness—interrupted by fences, the suggestion of brown, a low mountain range in the distance. The landscape was so phantomlike I worried about whether I would be able to see anything well as we continued on. I seemed to be taking us into a land of invisibility, where I might not see what I had come for.

      This trip to the Bootheel was planned especially for me. It was my day to take us somewhere I had long wanted to visit. Many years...

    • Chapter 3 Leaving with Regrets
      (pp. 41-48)

      The light overhead seemed darker than before, dusk was approaching. At Hachita, we parked in front of a church that I thought I had seen in the magazine photos. But when I looked up at it, I could not get an angle from which to see it well, or it was too dark, or I was too tired, or too used to seeing mountains. I thought perhaps this was not the same church as in the magazine. It seemed darker, more odd; maybe there was another church, or the photographer took his picture on a sunnier day; mine was bleak...

    • Chapter 4 Crossing Borders
      (pp. 51-72)

      As we drove the thirty miles south from Deming, the sun glared and the land seemed inhospitable. Hannah and I had traveled east this morning from Silver City and were dipping south now into Mexico for lunch. The desert plains in all directions looked parched and brown. To the west, I saw three volcanic peaks sticking up abruptly from the flat land, the Tres Hermanas, or Three Sisters. I had hoped to see Big Hatchet in the distance, but either it was too far away or the Tres Hermanas blocked it. Earlier on our way, Hannah thought she saw Big...

    • Chapter 5 Morning Walk
      (pp. 73-82)

      The next morning while Hannah slept, I started out early to explore the streets near the lodge. As I stepped outside and walked down the path toward the front gate, I looked back up at the adobe-colored building glowing a golden tan in the morning sun. The lodge looked far warmer in the early morning than it had at night, far less harsh and intimidating, a lone Spanish-style building on a hill, the sun shining on its face. I stepped outside the gate, guided by Teela, then peered in both directions on the quiet street ahead. I thought I would...

    • Chapter 6 Evening Lights
      (pp. 83-92)

      We drove north and the next night, Hannah had a treat in store for me. After dinner that evening, in the crisp cold of a black sky, we bundled into the car.

      “Where would you like to go?” Hannah asked me.

      I knew only that I wanted to see lights. For me, since the night is almost completely black, lights stand out in relief, glowing with a simple beauty, providing a view not complicated by subtle questions about what I see. Things are either light or dark, visible or not. Glowing shapes hang like artworks in the night sky. Especially...

    • Chapter 7 Navigating Duality
      (pp. 95-104)

      I am blind and I am sighted. I am often not sure of what I see. Do I see what is there? The images look so small. People on the street at any distance seem tiny to me, with thin legs that disappear in the shimmering sun. Often the people themselves disappear if they are not in my direct line of sight. Cars on the street also look tiny, like toy cars in the distance. Up close, however, they appear so large that I must take them in piece by piece: a part of a fender, the blue oval emblem...

    • Chapter 8 Are You Training that Dog?
      (pp. 105-116)

      In the supermarket, I am carrying a basket with my jar and a few other items up to the checkout counter. I’m remembering the time I bought sauerkraut thinking it was applesauce. I am more careful to study labels now. I put my groceries on the moving rubber counter, holding Teela close at my side. As the clerk begins to ring me up, I hear a woman behind me in line speaking to my back. “Are you training that dog?” she asks. I flinch, feeling frozen to the spot. How do I answer her? Why does she assume from my...

    • Chapter 9 Airport Stories
      (pp. 117-132)

      I am at an airport on my first trip alone with Teela. Checking in at the United terminal in Los Angeles for a flight to San Francisco, I ask the clerk to confirm that I have the bulkhead seat I have reserved to allow room for Teela to lie on the floor.

      “I can’t let you have that seat,” the clerk says to me. “It’s in our emergency exit row. Passengers sitting there have to be able to read and follow directions and help other passengers in an emergency.”

      “But I reserved it,” I tell her.

      “I am changing you...

    • Chapter 10 Luminarias
      (pp. 135-154)

      I finally saw luminarias—at night in the dark as we pulled the car into the lot behind where Martha’s Black Dog Cafe used to be. I had been to the plaza in the small town of Socorro before, but now it was very dark and my vision was limited in ways I might not be aware of until I actually confronted them, until I got outside and began to walk in the blackness among the small lights.

      From the car I saw a row of glowing candles in brown paper bags lining the sidewalks of a narrow street. I...

    • Chapter 11 Heading South
      (pp. 155-164)

      The next day, we headed south. That day appears very bright in my mind. Unlike the night before, it was basked in sunlight and blue sky. Our journey was full of changes in place and cautions for me about my vision. Looking into broad expanses of rolling plains dotted with green cactus and brush, I marveled at the landscape—broad enough for me to see, cool in winter, endless, unpopulated in the areas where we drove.

      That morning, we stopped at a state park where a dammed-up lake lay ahead. “I’m not sure about driving farther,” Hannah said suddenly. This...

    • Chapter 12 Back to Big Hatchet
      (pp. 165-172)

      I remember the view as we approached Big Hatchet. We were driving south through the broad desert surrounded by a bright blue sky when I saw that just ahead near Big Hatchet, billowing white clouds had gathered, and over the peak of the mountain, a dark cloud hovered. As we drove closer, Big Hatchet loomed larger in front of us while the tower of majestic fluffy clouds tumbled around it, the sunlight glinting off them. It was as if an invisible force above was playing in the sky, dramatically setting forth these glowing shapes, singular in the vast, flat desert....

    • Chapter 13 The Hachita Bar
      (pp. 173-182)

      With the sun now about to set, we pulled into the town of Hachita, turning left on the road that parallels the old railroad track bed where empty stores faced the desert fields across the way. Driving past a row of dark abandoned buildings, we stopped in front of a white building with a sign over the door that read, “Hachita Bar.” I had not seen this bar on our trip here two years ago when we had parked beside the boarded-up brown building on stilts, the Hachita Tavern of my memory. That day as we ate our lunch in...

    • Chapter 14 Traveling Blind
      (pp. 183-198)

      We drove north, mostly in silence, each of us thinking, listening to the road. I was glad to be with Hannah out in this strange nowhere, trucks soon breezing by on the interstate. We stopped in Lordsburg and had dinner at Kranberry’s Family Restaurant, where we had stopped two years ago for a takeout lunch. Back then, when we drove east to Big Hatchet for the first time, I had not known how wonderfully resonant that destination would turn out to be—how much the mountain would become a beacon for my sight, a place to reflect on, return to,...

  9. Bibliographic Notes
    (pp. 199-205)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 206-206)