Monday, March 26, 2012

A letter from Helen Keller.

This is such a beautiful letter I came across on a website called Letters of Note

The Empire State Building.

Early-1932, after seeing a photograph in the New York Times of the great Helen Keller at the top of the newly-opened Empire State Building, Dr. John Finley wrote to her and asked what she really "saw" from that height. Keller — famously both deaf and blind from a very early age — responded with the incredible letter seen below, within which lies one of the greatest, most evocative descriptions of the skyscraper and its surroundings ever to have been written.

A truly beautiful letter.

(Source: AFB; Image: Helen Keller in 1956, via.)

January 13, 1932

Dear Dr. Finley:

After many days and many tribulations which are inseparable from existence here below, I sit down to the pleasure of writing to you and answering your delightful question, "What Did You Think 'of the Sight' When You Were on the Top of the Empire Building?"

Frankly, I was so entranced "seeing" that I did not think about the sight. If there was a subconscious thought of it, it was in the nature of gratitude to God for having given the blind seeing minds. As I now recall the view I had from the Empire Tower, I am convinced that, until we have looked into darkness, we cannot know what a divine thing vision is.

Perhaps I beheld a brighter prospect than my companions with two good eyes. Anyway, a blind friend gave me the best description I had of the Empire Building until I saw it myself.

Do I hear you reply, "I suppose to you it is a reasonable thesis that the universe is all a dream, and that the blind only are awake?" Yes – no doubt I shall be left at the Last Day on the other bank defending the incredible prodigies of the unseen world, and, more incredible still, the strange grass and skies the blind behold are greener grass and bluer skies than ordinary eyes see. I will concede that my guides saw a thousand things that escaped me from the top of the Empire Building, but I am not envious. For imagination creates distances and horizons that reach to the end of the world. It is as easy for the mind to think in stars as in cobble-stones. Sightless Milton dreamed visions no one else could see. Radiant with an inward light, he send forth rays by which mankind beholds the realms of Paradise.

But what of the Empire Building? It was a thrilling experience to be whizzed in a "lift" a quarter of a mile heavenward, and to see New York spread out like a marvellous tapestry beneath us.

There was the Hudson – more like the flash of a sword-blade than a noble river. The little island of Manhattan, set like a jewel in its nest of rainbow waters, stared up into my face, and the solar system circled about my head! Why, I thought, the sun and the stars are suburbs of New York, and I never knew it! I had a sort of wild desire to invest in a bit of real estate on one of the planets. All sense of depression and hard times vanished, I felt like being frivolous with the stars. But that was only for a moment. I am too static to feel quite natural in a Star View cottage on the Milky Way, which must be something of a merry-go-round even on quiet days.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the Empire Building so poetical. From every one except my blind friend I had received an impression of sordid materialism – the piling up of one steel honeycomb upon another with no real purpose but to satisfy the American craving for the superlative in everything. A Frenchman has said, in his exalted moments the American fancies himself a demigod, nay, a god; for only gods never tire of the prodigious. The highest, the largest, the most costly is the breath of his vanity.

Well, I see in the Empire Building something else – passionate skill, arduous and fearless idealism. The tallest building is a victory of imagination. Instead of crouching close to earth like a beast, the spirit of man soars to higher regions, and from this new point of vantage he looks upon the impossible with fortified courage and dreams yet more magnificent enterprises.

What did I "see and hear" from the Empire Tower? As I stood there 'twixt earth and sky, I saw a romantic structure wrought by human brains and hands that is to the burning eye of the sun a rival luminary. I saw it stand erect and serene in the midst of storm and the tumult of elemental commotion. I heard the hammer of Thor ring when the shaft began to rise upward. I saw the unconquerable steel, the flash of testing flames, the sword-like rivets. I heard the steam drills in pandemonium. I saw countless skilled workers welding together that mighty symmetry. I looked upon the marvel of frail, yet indomitable hands that lifted the tower to its dominating height.

Let cynics and supersensitive souls say what they will about American materialism and machine civilization. Beneath the surface are poetry, mysticism and inspiration that the Empire Building somehow symbolizes. In that giant shaft I see a groping toward beauty and spiritual vision. I am one of those who see and yet believe.

I hope I have not wearied you with my "screed" about sight and seeing. The length of this letter is a sign of long, long thoughts that bring me happiness. I am, with every good wish for the New Year,

Sincerely yours,
Helen Keller

 "I am convinced that, until we have looked into darkness, we cannot know what a divine thing vision is." 

As someone with vision issues, I am amazed at the struggles and triumphs of Helen Keller.  I am very lucky that Organ Donors have made the gift of sight available to myself, my sister, my brother, my Dad and many other members of my family.  It is easy to get discouraged when my eyes are tired and blurry and simple tasks are more challenging.  I know my issues at the moment are not that difficult and I am fortunate to be able to make small adjustments, on the bad days, to accommodate for my vision when needed.  However, when I had my drivers license taken away for a bit, while I was waiting for my first transplant, I was devastated.  I was feeling very defeated by something I had no control of, and it was a scary place to be.  Corneal transplants do not go well for everyone and I had moments of fear and darkness.  Today I am fortunate to have good vision and I will never take that for granted.

Ms. Keller's message here is such a powerful truth and can be applied to so much in life.  We all have our cross to bear, our battle to fight and we can either let it defeat us or we can alter our "vision".  We can seek out the beauty hidden beyond the obvious.  The road we travel may not be the road we had hoped for or planned but it is the road we are on and there is beauty, and light and poetry to be found and enjoyed.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Oh Happy Spring.

Spring is sooner recognized by plants than by men. ~Chinese Proverb


What a great idea to welcome spring, see the complete how to on the blog,
On the Banks of Squaw Creek.

What do you do to welcome spring?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Starfish, Seagulls and Geese oh my!

Today was beautiful, and after monsoon rains and overcast skies for months on end, I took advantage of this glorious day and took a quick trip to the beach.  Edmonds has so many great beaches and today I decided on the one in Downtown right next to the ferry landing.   It was lovely, not too many people, the ferry had just departed and there were a lot of birds. 


I am always trying to improve my photography skills and did not really have a subject in mind today.  I decided to walk out towards the breakwater and then back along the beach.  Being outside always inspires me and I just started shooting everything that caught my eye.


I really like to capture the simple things in an interesting way, an empty ferry landing,  an upclose photo of a seaside telescope, and colorful shipping containers by the train tracks.


It can all be so interesting with a different perspective, kind of like life.


As I began walking along the shore, I heard a lot of bird comotion and then lots of birds started swirling overhead.  I looked up just in time to see two birds dive in unison towards the water and engage in this scuffle.

Some of these are a bit blurry.

It was this shot that made me think I better keep shooting, somethings going on here. 

The most important advice I have been given with regard to taking great photos is to just keep shooting.  And never delete from the camera wait till you are at home when you can see your photos on a larger scale. 

This all happened so fast. It was skilled and methodical. 

Behold the hunt of the Seagull.


He surfaced with dinner, a red starfish.


It seemed to take him a few attempts to fly off with his catch of the day, I think he bounced back in the water at least three or four times.


And then he soared.


Ok, so I think that was totally cool except for the poor starfish. 

So I thought I'd leave you with another lovely sight from this quick trip to the beach.

Two Canadian Geese.  This reminds me of the movie On Golden Pond,  I thinks it's the shining waters.


They were checking out the whole scene and I loved how they stayed so close together.

Happy weekend to you all. 
I think this is cool that they are looking toward each other. 
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