“Which do you pick?”


And so I ask Helen my favorite question: “If you could have one sense back, which would it be?” Her fingers go round and round in circles, and I can feel the girl actually thinking in my palm.

“Which do you pick?” she asks.

Though I have been deprived of all senses save touch since the age of two, while she is only deaf and blind, for me the choice is simple. “Sight,” I tell her, all the glorious colors God has painted on lands and faces. Green is the color I remember with the most pleasure: green from the grass outside our house in New Hampshire. Blue still spills from that square of sky visible over the bed where I lay ill for almost a year, and Mama says my eyes were bright blue before they shrunk behind my lids. Red I have a strong and disagreeable sense of, from when they bled me with leeches. And black, black I know the longest and best because it is my constant companion. These are the only colors I can recall or imagine with any clarity.

~ Kimberly Elkins, What Is Visible, A Novel

This is an excerpt is from a novel about Laura Bridgman (1829-1889). Laura Bridgman’s family was struck with scarlet fever when Laura was two years old. The illness killed her two older sisters and left her deaf, blind, and without a sense of smell or taste. She is known as the first deaf-blind American to gain a significant education in the English language, fifty years before the more famous Helen Keller.

Photography: Media.photobucket via Your Eyes Blaze Out


  1. To weave words together to make one feel what the character feels – and to do it with serious sensory deprivation – amazing.


  2. A reminder, David; there are some amazing people in our world – past and present.


  3. sensual memory.


  4. David, I volunteer at a center for blind and low-vision folks. It never ceases to amaze me how they ‘see’ through other senses. If I could but wave a magic wand and give them sight through the visual, what would their lives be like? Cher xo


  5. Reblogged this on THE STRATEGIC LEARNER.


  6. We take so much for granted…and hardly ever imagine what life would be like without all that we take for granted…until we read such words as are in your post. To read such cherishing of colors and association with the color black really tugs at what is felt in the heart. Blindness is something I worry about, not for me, but for one of the precious beings in my own life. People who have gone blind with this person’s illness have described it as a red curtain being drawn over their eyes…just one more description of the association with colors. Anyway, thank you David for sharing this.


  7. Some folks have eyes, but can not hear, ears but do not hear, and touch but cannot feel the beauty all around us. And there are those who have lost certain senses yet can recognize the world as something truly glorious.


  8. Dear David,

    Thank you so much for excerpting this passage from my novel, WHAT IS VISIBLE, and for providing such a wonderful image to go with the text. And also to all those who’ve shared this, I’m truly honored.



    • Wow, a guest visit from the author. What an honor Kimberly. Thanks so much for dropping by and for sharing your book (and this excerpt) with the world. Incredible. The honor is all mine.


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