Now see here! Do you see what I mean? If you could see your way clear. . . .
Like verbal latticework, our eyesight structures our language and outlook, until our very dreams and prophecies and deemed "visions."
But how do you feel?
For the blind, that question takes on a whole new dimension. They -- along with children, artists and people with just plain itchy fingers -- "see" Washington as a many-faceted, multi-textural city.
Here, then, is a touch tour of Washington: Art
The National Collection of Fine Arts (8th and G Streets NW): Imagine an art exhibit where you can run, crawl, finger the pictures and sit on the sculpture. The Collection's Explore Gallery provides all of this and more.
Children and adults are free to stroll about the room, peer at the portraits, crawl under the platform to mirrors and pillows below, or run up the ramp and jangle the bamboo chimes. A darkened alcove fosters the ham in all of us with a stage and series of switches for various colored lights. Open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The Hirschhorn (Independence Avenue at 8th Street SW): Contains "one of the finest touch tours for the blind in this country," according to education director Ted Lawson.
Says Vicki Eaton, Ft. McNair, who visits often with her seeing-eye golden retreiver: "I wouldn't want to come to a museum without a touch tour like this. Here, I don't have to rely on someone's else's opinion of the works -- I can feel them for myself."
The 30-piece sculpture tour, designed by Lawson to act as a history of 20th-century art, ranges from a bronze cast of a Degas wax sculpture (done while his eyesight was failing him), to Raoul Hague's huge "Sculpture in Walnut." ("Very difficult," says Vicki. "You really have to concentrate on a piece this big to remember what you felt on one side when you get to the other.")
Her favorite pieces are five bronze heads by Matisse. "They're playful -- unreal. And they make me feel like grabbing a lump of clay and doing some sculpting myself."
The tour is available at any time to the legally blind. Those without a sighted companion should call ahead (357-3235) during the week so the museum can arrange for a docent to lead the tour. Nature
National Museum of Natural History (Constitution Avenue and 10th Street NW): Everything in nature but the bug bites. A self-guided audio tour points out exhibits, such as the mammoth's tooth, that can be fingered.
The second-floor Discovery Room holds a sensory bonanza: shelves full of animal skins, insects nests, teeth, shells, bones, feathers and fossils, all there for the touching. The shelves are marked in Braille with a Brailled guide.
The room is open Monday through Thursday from noon to 2:30 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Rock Creek Park Nature Center (Military and Glover Roads NW): A selfguided hike through the woods, following a rope railing. Literature
Martin Luther King Library (9th and G Streets Nw, right off the Metro stop): One of 56 regional groups participating in the library of Congress' free distribution of Braile, Talking Books, tape cassettes and playing equipment. The material ranges from a Braille Playboy to a Talking Book U.S. News & World Report.
All distributed free to those unable to read or to hold standard printed materials. Fill out an application (obtained by calling 727-2142), and get it certified by a physician.
For the library's weekly children's story, dial 638-5717.
The Washington Ear: This special radio-band station reads the newspaper daily and features book discussions, symphonies and other programs. To apply, write The Washington Post Corp., 1011 Colesville Rd., Room 123, Silver Spring, Md., 56901. Visions
Fort Dupont Activity Center (off Randall Circle SE): Anyone who can perceive light -- and that includes 7 out of 10 legally blind -- can enjoy a room here called "Glowing Vibrations," designed especially for them.
The black light center is flooded withfluorescent light which bounces off dayglow posters, irridescent letters, shapes and numbers, a variety of games treated with fluorescent paint, and any light-colored clothing you happen to be wearing.
"This is a room that happens to you," says designer Jacqueline Boston.
"Not just something you come to see. We set it up originally for those with poor vision, but we've discovered it meets the needs of a wider public."
The mentally retarded, for example, are rivited by the vibrant colors, finding it easier to concentrate on the shapes of letters in their names. Children from everywhere greet the room's vibrations with oohs, ahs, and "Hot diggity -- look at this!"
The center is open Monday through Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Technology
Museum of History of Technology (Constitution Avenue between 12th and 14th Streets NW) and Air and Space Museum (7th Street and Independence Avenue SW): Offer Braille guides to their exhibits, open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily through Labor Day. Air and Space also has a floor plan in Braille and tape cassettes describing exhibits.
For a guide to the whole Smithsoniancomplex, check the bookstore at History and Technology for paperback, Braille or tape cassette copies. Politics
Ever had the urge to sit in the President's seat at the Senate, or finger the desk of your favorite senator? The blind are invited to do just that on occasional tours sponsored by the National Visitors Center (50 Massachusetts Ave. NE).
The trips include visits to both the House and Senate galleries and a stop for a committee meeting. To sign up for this and other tours, call 523-5033 or 523-5300, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. -4 p.m.
Those who want a larger hand in influencing the political system might consider joining one of the D.C. organizations -- and active lobbies -- of the blind:
The American Council of the Blind: Headquartered at 1211 Connecticut Ave. NW. For further information, call 833,1251.
The National Federation of the Blind: Headquartered in Baltimore; the D.C. chapter may be reached by calling 484-1640.
If john Denver never sang "you fill up my senses" to our town, perhaps it's because he never "saw" it this way.