Author: Ramos, Jean

Coming to My Senses

I began my spring cleaning quite a few weeks back. As I was going through the house, room by room, sorting, editing, polishing and dusting, it occurred to me that I have an awful lot of stuff that has no earthly purpose but to sit on the shelf or hang on the wall to be looked at.

Many of you know that I am an artist who works in a variety of mediums. As an artist, I have all kinds of artwork displayed on every wall in the house. What doesn’t hang on the wall can be found in glass display tables, cabinets or bookshelves. These things are called by many names. A polite one would be “collectibles.” Other words used, will depend on the beholder, words like, “geegaws,” “knick knacks,” “eye candy,” or “tchotchke.” (That’s a fancy word for junk). I call all this likeable clutter, “my treasures.”

It dawned on me while I was cleaning all this stuff, that if I was blind, none of it would mean a thing to me. Its only purpose is to bring some sort of pleasure to me through the viewing of it. If I didn’t have my eyesight, I wouldn’t be an artist. If I were blind my world would change drastically. I would choose shoes that only fit well and felt good. I wouldn’t care about the color of my clothes or bedspread. It wouldn’t matter that the towels in the bathroom don’t match the wall paint or rugs. I was about to say, I wouldn’t care what color my car is, but then realized that I wouldn’t be able to drive.

One night, my husband went to visit a friend who was blind. He invited Terry into the house and took off down the hallway toward the living room and left Terry standing there in the dark. When Terry mentioned that he couldn’t see, his friend laughed and said, “I forgot you were handicapped.” Blind people save on electricity.

Though I gain so much pleasure in life through the things I can see, I’m guilty of taking my vision for granted. The smile on the faces of my grandkids, the little trinkets they make for me, their works of art stuck to the front of my refrigerator, to name a few. Recently, Cliff posted some old photos of himself on Facebook, Ken and Grace Reynolds did the same. What joy and emotions these photographs must have stirred as they viewed them with their eyes and hearts. JD Rhynes mentioned on the Message Board that he has a couple large photos of his ole buddies Vern and Ray adorning his living room wall and how they bring back some happy memories. When I get lonesome for my family members who are gone or far away, I can open a photo album and it brings me close as I recall happy times. Today, I am appreciating my eyes.

Are you wondering if there will be any bluegrass content to my column? Well I won’t let you down, because now we will turn to the subject of hearing! Think of the joy and pleasures we have known because we are able to hear. Since joining CBA, I have made many new friendships and literally gained a whole new family, and it’s all because of my love for the music and because I’m able to hear.

A few months ago, I had an interesting conversation with Rainy Escobar. Both of her parents were deaf and had been since early childhood. It’s interesting to note that they met at a high school dance. Though they couldn’t hear the music, they could feel the vibrations and the beat. I was curious about how Rainy, who grew up in a house with deaf parents, would end up playing the guitar and singing. As she was growing up, her first language was sign language. She said she mumbled until she was about 12 or 13 years old, as she had no one to teach her to speak. It was during that time that she began listening to the radio and learning to play the guitar; she liked listening to Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. If you detect a little bit of a country inflection to her speech, it’s because Patsy and Hank were her tutors. You will also notice that when she talks to you, she will maintain eye contact and use facial expressions. This is all part of her first language training. To communicate with the hearing impaired, it’s best if they can see your lips and watch your facial expressions as well as see you signing; there is no place for “flowery” speech or sarcasm.

Rainy’s father made a good living as a carpenter and when he was young, he played basketball and football. He was a prizefighter from 1939-44. He fought 44 bouts and only lost two. Her Mom was a wonderful seamstress. They adapted well to their silent world as Rainy adapted to the world of music.

For those of us with no hearing impairment, we can differentiate between a guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, Dobro, or bass with one strum or stroke across the strings. We can make so much music and bring so much joy to ourselves and others by blending those sounds together in an orderly fashion.

I’m thinking ahead to the Father’s Day Festival, where all five of our senses will be on overload. We’ll have the opportunity to see and hear the paid performers on stage as well as the many musicians and singers who will be jamming all over the Fairgrounds. We’ll see the joy on the faces of the Kids on Bluegrass as they get a chance to play on the main stage. Of course we will see Dancing John and the Chicken Head people (Rose and Artie) doing their thing. The aroma from barbecues will be wafting through the camps, as well as the smell of fresh brewed coffee in the morning air. There will also be the tell-tale smell of Nu-skin that’s been applied to the abused fingertips! There will be many opportunities to exercise the sense of taste at the Festival. Who can resist that wonderful ice cream sold by the people in the pink truck?

That brings me to the sense of touch! First of all, there are the hugs and handshakes from folks you haven’t seen in a while. There’s the touch of your fingers to the strings. There’s the painful throbbing of fingertips after endless hours of playing. You find that it hurts more when you stop picking. There’s the welcome feel of your head hitting a soft pillow in the wee hours of the morning. You get to turn your eyes and your ears off for a little while. The assault on your senses finally gets a break, until the next day.

I’m so thankful that I am able to experience life through all of my senses. If I’m going to be blind, I hope it will be to the faults of those around me; I haven’t walked in their moccasins. If I’m going to be deaf, let it be to gossip and discouraging words. I’m thankful for my CBA family and friends. We are bound together by heart strings, not to mention a stray guitar, banjo or fiddle string or two. Remember, those instruments you have sitting around the house are not meant to be ornaments. Get them out of the case or down off the wall and start practicing. The Spring Camp-Out and Father’s Day Festival will be here sooner than you think.

Posted:  2/27/2011

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