Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Outdoors is good for eyes

I haven't been posting because I've been on holiday: I volunteered as an untrained assistant on an early-season sailing trip in Greece. It was great. I couldn't afford a paid-for holiday, having given up my job. But I wouldn't have wanted one. The trip was for the handicapped, and their carers, and one of the girls I was looking after was legally blind.

Her seriously impaired vision is the result of retinitis pigmentosa, a fairly common eye disease with no known cure. Often the syndrome begins gradually, with poor night sight and a slowly narrowing field of vision as a person ages, until all they see is a tunnel. Julie's condition had worsened much more quickly &mdash they guess it's a genetic thing &mdash and now she can barely see at all.

It was amazing to see what this girl could do without using her eyes at all. Gradually she learned all the parts of the boat: the ropes, the stays, the boom. She learned them by touch, with all their proper names. The thing about a boat is that everything is very neatly arranged, and a good sailor is supposed to know where everything is without having to look. Julie was wonderful. Like the best seaperson she learned how to listen to the way the boat was moving, to the sound of the wind, to the hum of the hull through the water. With the slightest adjustments she could trim the sail to perfection.

Julie was inspiring, but the whole trip did wonders for my eyesight. Mostly it's what comes from being outdoors all the time, with no straining to see. When did you ever see a sailor who wears specs? They all have 20/20 vision, and I'm sure it comes from spending your days scanning the horizon, looking into the far distance, never struggling to make out ugly things like signposts and unfriendly faces. I hardly wore my glasses at all, and when my jobs were over I'd sit on the front deck of our boat and watch the waves and the birds and the colours. I relaxed. There were flashes of total clarity, of perfect acuity. My eyesight is improving. But will it last back at home?


At 8:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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At 11:03 PM, Blogger Luci said...

Hi There... What was the name of the program that offered this for people with disabilities? I have RP too and am always looking for things like that.

Love the blog... And, what's crazy is my name is Luci Anne. Don't meet too many of those in the world, much less another Lucy/Luci Ann/Anne with eye issues! :)



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