This I Believe

Joan - Loleta, California
Entered on March 16, 2007

“I believe in letters that dance.”

I believe in letters that dance, beautiful shapes, arcs, circles, and lines in motion that bring joy to my life everyday.

I was born with vision problems. My young world was a blurry mix of colors and patterns. At five, an eye doctor said I had a good eye and a bad eye. He gave me eyeglasses and a black patch to wear over my good eye everyday.

The patch sessions made my head hurt. I tripped over things even more and spilled more milk trying to figure out which of the two or three glasses I saw was the real one. Slowly my vision improved. I figured the bad eye was learning to be good.

My sister decided to teach me to read. She pointed in a book to the letters C and A and T and that’s CAT and that’s a word. Words mean things. There was a picture of a cat. We had a cat. I got the idea.

I made out the picture alright, but the letters danced. C and A and T were curves and lines in motion. It was beautiful.

When I told about the dancing, everyone got upset. They said there was no such thing as dancing letters and to stop playing games. This was serious; this was Reading.

I wanted so much to read like everyone else, but how they did it was a mystery _ how they opened a book and looked at the pictures and the letters and said the story. I had no idea what they saw. They had no idea that letters really could dance.

Each word eventually developed a particular choreography. I guess that I first learned to “read” by memorizing those patterns of motion. Thus, I too could open a book, read the patterns and pictures, say the story and look like everyone else.

But the letters still danced.

I learned to concentrate and force the letters to hold still. But when I was tired, the predictable words would explode into motion. That detonation took my breath away; it was electrifying.

I would then just drift away for long periods of time and play with the shapes on the page with my eyes. The headache went away and I was captivated by the pure joy of what I now know as creating art.

This went on for years. I must have looked like a real space cadet.

Turns out I wasn’t just a cross-eyed kid. Later on, I learned I’m dyslexic with multiple learning disabilities. I’m synesthetic, wherein my senses are cross-wired, i.e. smells have color, and colors have sound. I have a mild form of autism, a high IQ and my thinking is almost exclusively in pictures.

It is no surprise I went on to study art and fell in love with typography, the art and science of letters. I discovered an entire realm that cherished letters too.

To this day, the letters still dance. I can turn an ordinary printed page into living art, rich with shapes, textures and colors. It is my continuing joy.