I just came back from a week in the Colorado Mountains. Our cabin was broken into by a Black Bear. Through the window screen, he smelled the fruit on the top of our refrigerator. He stood up, pulled the screen off and leaned in and munched up half of the fruit in the basket. He left slobber all over.
While learning about the habits of a bear, I learned the following American Indian saying. "When a pine needle falls, the bear smells it, the Eagle sees it and the rabbit hears it.
I have been kicking around how it applies to blindness. What do you think?
e-mail responses to firstname.lastname@example.org
**1. "I am glad your vacation went well and that you had a bit of unusual excitement, It keeps the blood flowing. I Have noticed that our creator has endowed us with many senses that we all both sited and blind take for granted. I suppose that as I am learning to deal with being between both of these worlds that I have become much more aware of some of the senses that I very seldom thought of before. Like the bear I now rely on my sense of smell to help me identify both the familiar and unfamiliar surroundings and people. Probably the sense that I have noticed most and am beginning to rely heavily on is the sensing of people and objects not perceived by any of the normal senses. I can feel their presence, I don't know what this is called but it is very reliable and I can trust it completely. Thanks for the thought provokers keep up the good work.
Jerry Whitaker (Omaha, Nebraska, USA)
FROM ME: "Wow, check out some of those key points! About his increasing use of his remaining senses he reports, "have become much more aware of some of the senses that I very seldom thought of before." that explanation makes the most sense to me when the question is "Do your senses get better?" . Next in relation to how his heightened senses are assisting him, he said, "to help me identify both the familiar and unfamiliar surroundings and people." Isn't information to our minds like fuel to a steam engine?"
LATER: I too have this, how'd he say it- "the sense that I have noticed most and am beginning to rely heavily on is the sensing of people and objects not perceived by any of the normal senses." I call it "radar," crude, but my point of reference. What do any of the rest of you call it?
**2. A. "I have thought about this letter for a little while now. First off, Did you mace the bear? I think he was pretty fair to leave half for you!! I am trying to get a handle on the Indian folklore. To relate to blindness, the analogy must be stretched a bit. The bear uses his nose. to what Purpose? To take care of his needs, i.e. hunger, perhaps for warning. His Eyesight is weak, so he keys on the smell. As a blind person, I do the same. "Smell this! Is it fresh??" Sometimes I feel like a big dog riding Down the highway with my head out the window, slobbering as I smell the Smells. The eagle sees from a distance, much as the blind folk do that once had vision. I can not speak for the ones that have not. We are much removed from the sighted world, yet, still use this remembered sense to find our way and sustenance. The rabbit. He seems to live in a world of Reaction foremost. He must react to every sound he hears. But yet, There are plenty of little rabbits around, so he is not too "heads" up!! It is just his reality and he does fine. We could easily take a lesson from the Bunny. Glad you are home and the bear was a dancing one!!"
Pamela McVeigh (Herman, Nebraska, USA)
FROM ME: "See that! The crossovers in 1. And 2 and 3. To come? There is humor in 2. And 3. Next in 1. And 2. There are references to the senses assisting in thought, in judgement. But, I'm not so sure I understand this next sentence, "We are much removed from the sighted world, yet, still use this remembered sense to find our way and sustenance." Now I dig the last part of the thought. But how is the first part to be under stood?"
B. "To explain my statement, I was thinking on the fact that I still move
around the house with a visual memory. When I go out to a new place, I
still think in visual terms, more than the tactile. Jonathan brought up his
felt PCscreen. I could remember what a screen looked like and what he meant
by a drop down menu. A person blind for life, I understand, does not quite
know what that means. These kinds of things. colors. Purple means something
different to me than to someone who has never seen it. These things make a
significant difference and we should not ignore the various parts of our
whole as a group!! OH, I would personally like to see the early demise of
"here" and "there"."
C. "It seems to me that this sensitivity issue is all through society.People are "offended" at everything. The only fair targets seem to be fat people. The whole controversy about the Mr. Magoo film was a good example. People thought less of us, I think for not having a sense of humor. True acceptance starrts at being able to laugh at oneself. Animostity is Mainstreaming is the only way, as I see it."
**3. "Sometimes you eat the bear. Sometimes the bear eats juice."
Rick O'Malley (Omaha, Nebraska, USA)
FROM ME: "This Rick guy, a friend and a great peer counselor in his own right has gone for the throat. His humor is an important element in coping with life, with blindness. I'll let you decide his exact point."
**4. "In kicking this saying around and thinking of it having meaning to blindness, I do find it to be a bit elusive, yet there is something there. Firstly, the needle falling I see as a small event that causes a rippling effect of other events. For example, in blindness I many times see that a single word or phrase or notion can cause the wrong idea to get started in someone's mind about blindness. Like hearing someone saying, "Did you listen to that movie last night?" Or, "Go get your stick." Or, "You people aren't so different." Or, You do so well, I forget you are blind." All said by well meaning folks, but...off from where they really need to be if they are in tune with our potential to live with loss of sight. So allowing that word or phrase or notion to hang out there unchallenged is to allow the ignorance, misconceptions and even fear of blindness to go on unchanged. As they say "Words Count." And as we see in these "Thought Provokers" thoughts Count, too." So on one hand we better smell out, see and hear those wrong words and thoughts that either you or others use in relation to blindness and point out what they really mean. Or on the other hand, those bears, eagles and rabbits who don't know about blindness will take those wrong ideas and spread them even further. And yes, this isn't always an easy task, but you, we and they are worth it."
(Person from Omaha, Nebraska, USA)
FROM ME: "Interesting! I too say "kick" those perpetuating wrong words, phrases and notions clean out of the forest. Some may cry "semantics" or "oh you know what I mean." But let us indeed communicate straight from the shoulder and insist we get it right. After all, when someone cries "FIRE!" or "STOP Or I"LL SHOOT!" I want to know what they mean. And above all I want to be treated with the same expectations in life as the next guy; I'm here too. Maybe we'll need to further examine the issue of "is a compliment always a compliment?"
**5. "Your misfortune was unnecessary. Carelessness set yourself for trouble. A little forethought and effort to find out what you were getting into might have saved you some heartache. I suppose much of what we encounter in life is like that."
Bob Deaton (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)
FROM ME: "Yes, with we and Mr. Bear it truly was our doings that tempted the hungry tummy. I have read accounts of how to set up a non-bear attracting camp that holds true to a cabin or house. Out there they say it is "two strikes and your out" for the bears and I do not like thinking that I had contributed to our furry friends delinquency and possible demise. I know others near by saw him the very next day and the day after that, while we were out on a horse back ride up and across the mountain, our wrangler saw a bear running over a near by ridge. I've been home for more than a week and I wonder about him and other campers. Hope no one has gotten hurt. Your point, though a pointy one was well deserved and a point well taken. Think of it dear readers! There is bear and bare wisdom being said here."
**6. "Now, about that Indian saying, that is very much like the "How many angels" phrase I quoted above but I have applied my great mind (Joke!) to the task and tried to come up with something wise, witty, and Wonderful (more jeering laughter!) The saying only means each animal uses its keenest sense--the eagle's eyes, the rabbit's ears, etc. So if it has any applicability to blind people, I suppose it means they should trust, and cultivate, one (or more) of the other senses. I'm sure most blind people have a better tactile sense than I do. I see Braille signs on bathrooms, elevators, etc. I touch them and can't determine any pattern to the dots.
I'll interject here that cultivating your best sense, or senses, applies to everyone. And not just the senses but other talents we are born with. Why, for example, could that girl just sit there and draw down an "A" in class while I knocked myself out to only make a C? Why are entrepreneurs the way they are? They certainly have innate skills I don't have--and they have discovered they have it! My, my, how many people go through life with a potential for something but never discover they have it!"
FROM ME: " There are many forces or circumstances in life that can push and test a person. Finding out what we are made of and capable of doesn't always come easy nor at all. Maybe it begins with a dream, then a thought, then an action and on and on...not always easy, not always successful. But retrying, retrying, retrying is part of this process. I know there are more parts? What are they?"
LATER: For Dan; I have personally taught Braille to people ranging from five to ninety-five years old. Works good. You could handle it.
**7. "Regarding your story about the black bear, I will borrow a saying I learned from the mighty, if not somewhat overblown, Bob Shankland. He said, "perception is reality." Each one of us perceives things differently. But that makes us no less right or wrong than the next person. Each one of us holds a different perspective on life and we should all learn to appreciate other views besides our own."
Ryan Osentowski (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)
FROM ME: "All the more reason we educate people to the human potential to function and successfully live with blindness."
**8. "Hump... I suppose we all have to rely on our best instincts. I being a blind and hearing-impaired person find that we have more senses than the traditionally thought "5." Common sense for one, and faith for another. If I were to cross the street, I know that I cannot rely on sight or hearing, so where does that lead me? Certainly not my nose, smile. Faith and good common sense, if that bear had any sense, he would have eaten it all and then some, never know where his next meal might come from."
From Me: "I too say we have more than five senses. In fact, with out that sixth sense of "common sense," how do you make sense of your other five? Plus, our smarts are not rapped up in any one sense. They are only pathways to the mind.
FROM ME: Finally, note this is the second writer who speaks of faith. Bet a lot of you use this as well, right?"
**9. "I believe that I like the part of the story about the eagle. >From what I have read so far I haven't seen anyone touch on it. If that the eagle uses his sense of sight to see great distances, but a blind person can do just the same. Sometimes we try to think too literally when we say that we are completely blind, or have a visual disability. I believe that a person can and will see what they want to in life. If an object to you is beautiful to someone by the touch, then they should say it is beautiful, and not that they don't know what it looks like because they are blind. This is why I think the eagle is important to us as blind people. We don't have to look at something to see it for what it is.
From Me: "Beautiful."
**10. "When a blind person makes a mistake, we hear about it. When blind people travel, we are aware of it. When stupid ads say "Love is blind, not senseless" we cringe. So I think it does apply. We are aware of what concerns us, through our own attention, or the assistance of others to bring it to our attention."
Lori Stayer (Merrick, New York, USA)
**11. "I'm glad to here that your vacation was not boring. To what the Indian saying, you smell things coming that are sometimes there bad and sometimes it is good, and to see like the eagle is to imagination to see past the end of your cane. and the rabbit hearing it is the sense to survive good things and sometimes the things that are going to hurt us."
Tim olmstead (Fremont, Nebraska, USA)
FROM ME: "Imagination that can soar as an Eagle, to react as quickly as a rabbit and to be able to smell the difference between bad and good...is a human thing. He who is blind in his imagination is truly blind."
**12. "I can remember when I was in junior high school, many years ago, I read a short story called, "Bruin and the boxing match." The story was of a bear that was wandering through the forest and came across a mallet that someone had left hanging from a limb. He reared u and pawed this object and it swung in the air from the force of his touch and struck him in the face as the pendulum returned. This annoyed him, so he struck it harder and, sure enough, it came back and hit him even harder and so it went on until he gave up in great pain, somewhat bloodied. Ironically, I read the story in Braille and, unless I am mistaken, I even thought it was funny. Why have I remembered it for over fifty years? I don't know. Clearly, the bear had gotten into this situation because he was unable to see properly what the object was; or, perhaps, too stupid to understand something he could only see imperfectly. And, who said Mr. Magoo wasn't alive and well long ago! But, I have to add that I don't think the that story gave me any bad images of blindness, nor did I, at the time, translate it into a stereotype story that might influence my view of myself or the view that others had of me as a blind person. That stage of consciousness had to come much later after I was introduced to the NFB in California when I started graduate school at Berkeley and came to know Tenbroek and Jernigan and many others. So, what's new, Magoo? Does the understanding philosophically bring out the stereotype and make it harmless but offensive? Does it do more harm when it just lies there in your subconscious and governs your behavior. When we confront someone who has a stereotype with the nature of that stereotype, does that clear it out of the mind and allow them to see more clearly? Or, does it just tick them off and take away the funniness of something they thought was fun? Judging from the reactions to our position on Mr. Magoo, I would think people feel cheated, and maybe a bit embarrassed, to have the basis of the alleged humor pointed out to them."
James Nyman (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)
**13. "I concur with response 4 where the author writes about "words count" and with response 10 where the author wrote about the problem with sayings such as "Love is blind." I have found one here in the computer environment that when I see it I cringe, it's the BCC" field which of course stands for "Blind Carbon Copy." Aren't we sensitive to these things yet? Aren't we smart enough and articulate enough to find other words to convey the meaning we want and know? Let's write Bill Gates and get him to put some thought into it."
(Person from Omaha, Nebraska, USA)
**14. "I see the saying meaning that there is much in nature which is sensitive, even to the smallest of happenings. I just wish people were. Though I am aware that many of us are and some of us are too sensitive. Here I guess I am talking on two levels. First, we as blind persons need to be sensitive to the needs of others. For example, their ignorance to blindness, their acts of meaningful kindness to us, even if it is misguided. But I am not saying we should let them continue to be this way, but to educate them.
Second, we as blind people must not be so sensitive that we allow ourselves to be hurt by the unintentional or even the intentional harming words or acts of others. If we shut down our feelings or even run from those who hurt us, then we gain nothing for the future.
I see it that with each old needle that falls from the tree of life we have an opportunity to grow in another. If we work at it, it will hopefully be one that is stronger, smarter and wiser."
**15. "I think one of the biggest things this incident brings to my mind is that we as blind people experience normal things. Things don't happen to us just because we are blind. Everyone else in your cabin also experienced the bear's visit. They probably had the same emotions about the visit as you did. Watching the bear do his destructive deeds was probably somewhat frightening. As a blind person, you heard and knew what was going on. One of the things we sometimes try to avoid as blind people is accepting the inherent risks of living life to its fullest. If we camp, there might be a bear. If we job hunt, we might get turned down. If we accept a job, we might loose it. What if things don't work out. Maybe we don't know enough about keeping the bears away. Maybe we don't have all of the skills as well in hand as we thought we did. I think one of the things we need to do is to accept not only the responsibility for our actions, but the bumps and bruises that come along with taking a risk to live life to its fullest."
Nancy Coffman (Lincoln, Nebraska, USA)
From Me: "Bear or Bull? Haven't we all heard these terms used in the daily news when the stock market is active? Well, like dear Nancy points up here, the inherent risks of living life to its fullest has its risks and to live you must risk a bear. Then following this same logic, could we say if we choose not to stand up and take risks, that we then leave ourselves open to being bullied? Would life then be just a bunch of bull?"
**16. "What I like about this Indian saying is the fact that something in life had enough of meaning to a group of people that they felt it was worthy of being captured in a saying. We the blind also have our special sayings which carry significance to us too."
(Person from Omaha, Nebraska)
FROM ME: "This person didn't offer any of those "sayings." What do you think they may be?"
**19. "I am not blind though I have worked very hard on developing senses beyond those that see in this physical world. I am involved in much Native American spirituality and lore to this end, and I thought I would give you some exegesis on the meaning of the Native American saying. Much wisdom is packed into that small sentence.
First, the pine needle. Native Americans revere the pine tree more than all other plant life because it is eternally green. As such, it is seen to possess more universal energy than any other plant. It is seen as a wise being who never dies (passes through seasons like deciduous trees) and symbolizes the eternal cycle of life. It is also used for healing. Native Americans (and others who do healing work) lie at the base of a pine or wrap their arms around it for protection, energy, wisdom, etc. Thus, when a pine needle falls, it is unusual and is falling to Mother Earth to pass along a message or teaching.
Animals in Native American tradition are "totems" or teachers. Each animal has a different significance, and it is thought that when one sees a particular animal, there is a strong lesson that is trying to be passed on. (I could go on at length about the significance of your bear eating the fruit in Colorado!)
Bear is the totem of introspection. Bear teaches us that all wisdom lies deep within ourselves. When Bear shows up, he is telling us to find a quiet space of hibernation in which we can find enough silence to tap into that inner universal wisdom for the answers we need. Because Bear tends to curl up in dark caves, he has a keen sense of smell.
Eagle is the most sacred animal totem in many cultures. In Native American culture, he is Great Spirit or God. When you see or hear Eagle, you literally are thought to touch the Divine. Eagle shows up when we need to remember that we are not alone and when we need to tap into the divine. Eagle asks us to give ourselves license to feel joy. Eagle, as a high soarer and representation of Great Spirit, knows all at once, both the detailed and the broad. Eagle not only sees, but inherently knows all through gnosis. Eagle sees the pine needle because, as God, he is aware of every event at every moment, no matter how small and distant.
Rabbit is an interesting one. Rabbit is known as the "Fear-Caller." Legend has it that Rabbit was friends ages ago with either Wolf (teacher) or a wise, old good witch. The story goes that the witch shared all her special spiritual knowledge with Rabbit. But Rabbit decided to turn his back on the witch because he was afraid of the magic that she possessed and was passing on to him. He roamed for eons all alone, having foresaken the witch's powerful and magical friendship. When again their paths crossed, witch cried and bemoaned Rabbit's betrayal, so she placed an eternal spell on him. The spell said that because he didn't trust her magical knowledge, he would be condemned to always call to him that which he most feared. Thus he calls Wolf and Bear and Snake to come to him and eat him. Rabbit's lesson for us is that some of us tend to have to learn the hard way by calling our fears to us and submersing ourselves in them. The wisdom comes from confronting those fears and releasing them. In terms of the pine needle adage, Rabbit hears the needle fall because the wisdom and message frighten him and he is listening for his fear to approach.
Hope this lends an added dimension to your discussion.
Jena (Rides as the Wind of the Balanced Shield)
d"FROM ME: I wrote her back and asked what she knew about how American Indian people felt about blindness and she wrote back the following:"
"Thank you for your message. I am mostly white, but I have Sioux mixed in 13 generations back. In Native tradition, blind people are revered because they are considered to have a higher sight--the sight of the "Third Eye", the eye that sees into the spirit world. There's an interesting fictionalized account of a real blind Chippewa medicine woman (which alludes a great deal to Native views on blindness) named No-Eyes. The account was written by one of her shaman students, Mary Summer Rain. The book is Phoenix Rising, but you could really read any of the early Summer Rain books to get to know No-Eyes.j"
**20. "Regarding the "sense of knowing someone is there"
In Eastern teachings, we all have a chi/aura/life force that can be sense by our own life force. Have you ever encountered someone that instinctively made you angry, or to whom you were attracted to as a friend or more? Well that's just one example of being able to sense something without the use of eyes.
Something I've recently learned is that when vision through eyes is removed, even temporarily; I relied on my other senses more than with vision. Hence I exercised them more. I was more in tune with smell, hearing, touch, taste, and other. This greater in tunement led to greater acuity, not Necessarily improved hearing -- (e.g. I could not hear a broader range of Sounds, I could not smell a broader range of smells). This is something I will be pondering for a while -- efficiency vs. improvement To Jena: She who Rides as the Wind of the Balanced Shield.
Thanks for listening.
Geoffry Kettling (Victoria, Texas USA)
**21. Well, Have you ever been poked in the eye by a Pine Needle? The Indian phrase simply refers that Animals are WELL AWARE of there Surroundings at all times. They see everything going on in there world. People However do not. People look at what's in front of them and are blind to all else around them. It's like you bend down to pick a beautiful wild flower, and don't see the snake next to it. The phrase is a lesson to be more like the animals. Natural and part of nature. To be aware of your surroundings in life and not blind to them. Well heck, I'm an artist that weaves Pine Needles into Bears. Life size Bears. I was just kicking around the Pine Needle Websites when I came upon you. A for real Indian Chief saw My Pine Needle Bear at the Great Bear Honoring in Missoula, Montana in the year 2000. He blessed my bear and told me that the bear was a symbol for New Life. Not knowing this before hand, I had titled my art sculpture " Mountain Magic A New Life". Just thought I'd throw that in.
Richard Carpenter, Salmon, Idaho
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