Sometime in my past I did an experiment. I blindfolded myself for two weeks.
I knew the layout of the campus I was on so that helped me to get around.
I was living at a place called the Esalen Institute along the central California coast.
It was designed in the 60's for the exploration of what it means to be a human.
At that time the studies were primarily concerned with human psychology. And, of course, massage. It was the early 70's after all. Esalen was on the forefront of the "human potential movement".
My space mate, the name given to any sort of living partner, was my good friend. He was
also the head chef. And gay, flaming gay.
At the institute there are some hot springs which cling to the cliff edge. The native Esalen tribe used them for thousands of years prior. The evidence of them being there remains. The gardens have a rich black soil with flecks of abalone shell throughout as there had been, and still are, mounds of abalone shells – their old compost heaps all over the grounds. Those flecks over time had migrated throughout the top soil. In a full moon walking through the gardens was as magical and experience as it gets. Sparkling rainbows at your feet and rows of monstrously large kale, chard, lettuce, and sage waving at you as you passed by.
It is hard for me not to fall into a dream-like reverie when thinking about that place. It is one of those majestic geological spots that once it gets inside you, it never goes away. Sometime I will write about the hot water waterfalls that fell from the cliff sides onto the rocky shoreline of the cold Pacific ocean below. (I use the past tense because after a fire one year the mud came down the mountain and wiped them away). The flowing hot water built up a wall of bright green algae on the cliff face as it fell eighty feet to the shore below. And which when I stood under it I'd feel hot water drizzling down over the top of my head covering my naked body and at the same time it would send bubbles up my back when I leaned into its slick and spongelike embrace. Tiny warm bubbles all up my spine. I can feel it to this day. And, after having blissed out on that for a while, I'd jump into the icy and salty ocean and be shocked into a feeling of life and being alive that was as vibrant a feeling as I have ever had. At Esalen I was safe.
I could blindfold myself for two weeks and the staff was supportive. If I looked like I was headed somewhere dangerous, (we were after all living on the very edge of the continent), they would guide me back to a safer path. Mostly I didn't need their help, nor did I really want it. My hands became antennae, and my smell became acute. But it was sound that I realized I had not paid enough attention to. Yes, I liked music, yes the sound of the waves, yes the river and rain and clapping at concerts, but what I had not known was how much it gave me my sense of space. Through listening I was able to guide myself through the environment. I could hear when I was getting close to something because the sound changed. When the wind blew I could hear the leaves rustle and know how far away the tree was. And when people talked, I could feel their emotions more acutely through just listening to the sound of their voice. I learned how much my sight drove my communicating into my conceptual mind first. When listening only, the communication was directed to my stomach or heart first. The tones talked in the language of feelings.
It seemed obvious once I saw it but until blindfolded I hadn't really understood how much information is bypassed by the primacy of sight.
All this brings me back to audio description.
Having had that experience, once I heard about AD I knew I wanted to do it. What was the richest way I could pass information through my voice to the listener that would paint the fullest picture possible of what is happening on the screen with the least amount of words?
Both a delightful challenge and gratifying outcome. Making the unseen seen.