White Darkness

“What the…!?!” One moment you’re trudging through a snowfield and the next you run smack dab into a wall of snow. There aren’t supposed to be any walls out here, right?

Three friends and I had set off on telemark skis from the top of the lift at Tsugaike Ski Resort in Nagano on our way toward the hills of Hakuba Norikura-dake, known to locals as “Haku-Nori.” The field of vision was still fairly decent as we arrived at Tenguhara, the midway point, and we sat down for a short break. However, visibility soon took a turn for the worse, so we made the decision to pass up “Haku-Nori” and make our way down the mountain.

As we began our descent, visibility went to zero, and I took a spill. Unable to differentiate between sky and land, it was definitely a “white out.” Without hearing, I am forced to rely on my sense of sight to take in the world around me. However, there was no color, form or borderlines to distinguish even the snow from fog. It was simply pure white.

Without a sense of anything, save for your own existence, the elements required for decision-making are eliminated. It’s as if you have been flung into a weightless world of space, void of all sense of life. Fear grips you as you consider what might happen if you don’t get out of the situation. For deaf people who unconsciously establish their position and existence from a sense of sight, this “white out” is really a “white darkness.” It was a painful reminder of the importance of sight.

 
I soon experienced my first sense of relief as an icy cold hit my cheeks, the “white darkness” providing a new twist on what should have been a very normal sensation. I had regained one of the five senses – the sense of touch. I intuitively made the decision to wait for one of my friends, at which point I felt another gust of wind, the temperature of which was spectacular.

 
Had I been traveling under blue skies, the biting cold of the snow and the crispness of the wind would have likely been lost on me. The experience allowed me to appreciate my surroundings in a new way as nature had sharpened my senses.