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What do you see when you close your eyes?

I heard this question on a podcast and it made me think. When I close my eyes, I can see patterns and changes in light, but that's not what I notice.

When I tuck myself into my sleeping bag at night and close my eyes, I notice the breath of the breeze on my cheeks. I notice the sounds of wildlife, seemingly amplified in the dark. If you have read Live Your Bucket List, you will know of the primal fear I felt when I heard a fox bark just outside my tent.

A beetle once woke me up in the Moroccan desert by burrowing into the hard sand right next to my ear. Walking the Camino, I noticed the sound of storks rattling their beaks on the roof of a neighbouring church - but only when resting with my eyes shut.

An old Spanish church on the Camino de Santiago with stork nests on the roof.
If you look closely, you can see a stork nesting on the church roof.

It is as though visual deprivation gives my other senses permission to work, as though what I see overshadows everything else. Have you ever closed your eyes to appreciate the exquisite taste of your favourite food or the scent of a rose?

This morning, I was tempted to stay in bed when I heard the wind and the rain lashing against the skylights. Instead, I pulled on some clothes, full waterproofs and walking boots, and took my usual route to the beach. As I neared the old dock, I could barely force myself forward against the power of the wind.

I had decided not to wear my glasses because they distort everything when they're wet. I closed my eyes against the rain, turned towards the sea, lifted my face and arms to the elements and laughed.

Individual drops of water hit the soft tissue under my unprotected eyes, seemingly trying to pierce my skin. Waves crashed onto the shore. The rain pounded on my hood and the wind beat it against my head.

We usually look out over a bay with a peninsula on one side and hill-backed dunes on the other. A lighthouse punctuates the horizon. I opened my eyes. Today, there was no lighthouse, no peninsula, no dunes. A frothing grey sea morphed into grey sky.

A view over a shallow bay with a headland on the left and land visible on the right. There's also a tiny lighthouse visible - but only to people who look closely.
The view from the beach on a better day.

I closed my eyes again and turned to walk along the beach. I could feel the soft sand giving beneath my boots, each grain grating against the next. The peep of a redshank pierced through the sounds of the storm. I opened my eyes to see a flock of them taking flight, black and white wings beating against the grey sky.

I backtracked along the beach and up towards home, relying once again on sight for safe passage and reducing my other senses back to also-rans.

This is what I see when I close my eyes - a world brought to life by other senses. What do you see when you close yours?

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