Layouts

I store a visual memory of the layout of places I’m familiar with like my house, my office, the grocery store. If I’m going to a new place or it’s been awhile since I visited, I expect surprises. I’m on alert.

I listen for others moving around me. I use my white cane to find a clear path. I wait until my senses adjust to the environment so I can pick up irregular sounds and objects around me that will give the space context. I create a mental map, more than a blueprint to recall. The next time I visit, I’ll retain a basic familiarity–a low coffee table, the dog wandering, the bright sunlight by the picture window, bathroom down the hall on the right, etc–of the unique elements. It’s something that I sorta always did, but now with low vision, I do it for more than pleasant memories.

When we enter a new space, my husband gives me a basic description, a general layout with attention to hazards like cords, stairs, or low hanging objects. With my prompting, he will note which people I know in the room as my low vision can turn friends into strangers or what I perceive to be a coat rack. Until they talk.

Usually I’m curious about the details in a space that texturize a room: wall art, light fixtures, furniture, flooring. Depending on the lighting conditions, I may be able to discern details. If I’m dealing with glare and light sensitivity, I’ll badger Stockton to tell me about what he sees around us.

I listen for ambient sounds. Is there a water fountain in the courtyard? Is there always jazz music playing in this cafe? Is there a distinctive chime when the door opens? Also, I notice the scents. Lysol. Lavender. Baking bread. Coffee. Perfume. I file it away in my mind. The information I take in enhances the memory I build for every location I spend time in, every space a page in the mental scrapbook of the places I go.

Do you create a memory of the places you go? What do you remember about your favorite restaurant, a school you attended, a house you grew up in?

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Trisha says:

    I still remember the smell of my old grade school. I can’t describe it but I sometimes catch a whiff of it when I’m in an old building and it takes me back to that crumbling school building.

    I can understand how important it would be to tune into irregular sounds, especially with dogs around. Our dog will occasionally lay somewhere strange like in a doorway. There are many times we would have mowed her down in the dark if she wasn’t such a loud breather!

    1. Schools do have that kinda musty, pencil shavings/running photocopier/floor cleaner odor. It’s funny how you can forget about a place for years, but catch a whiff of a smell and it’s like you’re right back there again.

      1. I have just arranged to take my grandaughter round my old school soon. I haven’t been back since I left 50 years ago and am now getting apprehensive about what I will recognise and if it will still smell of polish and chalk.

      2. I bet it will retain some of the same smells, Bridget. I hope the visit goes well. When I visited an elementary school years ago, the desks and chairs that once were so big seemed so tiny.

      3. Trisha says:

        It is funny the way scents can do that. I enjoy those whiffs of “old building.” I loved that rundown old school!

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