- The Story -

The Story Continues

It's another wintry day. I'm sitting by the large windows in the library waiting for the late bus. Outside, rain is falling through a thick, swirling mist as the afternoon darkens into evening. As the school slowly fades from view, the change of light nudges my thoughts toward Gwen.

A week ago, she returned from the university hospital, and I learned that she is slowly losing her sight. She is wearing glasses now that compensate for the vision loss that has already occurred. However, she remains depressed and withdrawn. At times, she seems to want company. At other times, she clearly wants to be alone. Since her first night back, she isn't very talkative. I try to be flexible and bend with her moods.

A week ago, I also started a sound unit in my science class. Today, we finished the messing around section. My reaction to this first part is mixed. I enjoyed the challenge of building electronic circuits and creating pictures of sound waves. The idea of visualizing sound has struck a chord in my imagination. As I hear new sounds, I find myself creating mental images of the waves.

I have also learned more about the role of the brain in hearing. Because of my increased interest in sound, I actually seem to be "hearing more". Without telling me, my brain has been automatically filtering out certain sounds. How surprising! A sound can reach your ear, but you still don't hear! Now that I am focusing on sound, the filters are being removed. Suddenly I'm living in a world that is much richer in sounds.

In other ways, the first part of the sound unit was disappointing. I was hoping to learn about how Gwen could substitute sound for sight. The whole idea of "visualizing" sound seems contrary to this goal. In addition, I am increasingly aware of an unconscious bias towards sight in most people. Our school and larger society seem designed for sighted individuals. Do you "see" what I mean? The challenge facing Gwen may be greater than I first suspected.
We will be starting the core project of the sound unit tomorrow. This section seems more relevant to the problem of using sound to get around. We will be studying how a sound gets softer as you move away from its source. If loudness decreases in a regular way, then it could be used like a range finder. Combined with the ability to locate the direction of a sound, it seems like navigation based solely on sound might be possible. Of course, it has to be possible somehow. People do it everyday. I'd just like to know how.

To be continued...

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