Helen Keller was interviewed in her home in Forest Hills, Queens by Hazel Gertrude Kinscella in 1930 for Better Homes and Gardens. The article, entitled "Helen Keller Sees Flowers and Hears Music" is excerpted here; it appeared in their May issue. Read on and enjoy!
"...You wish to know what home and garden mean to me,” she said, at once. "
"My garden is my greatest joy. I feel that I am in the seventh heaven when among my plants. I feel the little heads pop up to look at me — my poppies, pansies, and pinks. We had a fine time in our garden last night with the hose. We have just set out a little Siberian elm tree, and not knowing that it was going to rain in the night we watered it well. It took two of us to drag the hose around, and I got so dirty…
"There in my garden I have my ‘green circle’ where I walk for at least an hour every day or evening. It is very narrow, but it reaches to the stars! On one side of this narrow walk is a privet hedge — on the other, small evergreen trees to guide me in my walk.
We have as many things as we can. Our clematis is just planted. It is always a miracle to see young trees grow. I take unusual joy in the dogwood and the wisteria, of which there has been a profusion. And here is syringa earlier than usual," she concluded, indicating with her right hand an exquisite cluster of syringa and white peonies which stood in a quaint blue bowl on a low table in the hallway."
"Are all these flowers from your garden? " I asked, for the room was fragrant with the odor of the blossoms which were everywhere so tastefully arranged.
"Yes, indeed," was the reply, but you must not think we have a big garden because we seem to have so many flowers. We will show you what we have before you go. At its best it is not much, " she concluded modestly…
…At one end of the divan upon which we sat was a low table and on this was another bowl full of white peonies.
"I adore the peonies, " said Miss Keller. "Since my childhood I have adored them and have been glad each spring when the miracle of their bloom has been wrought again. "
Beside me, at the other end of the divan was a higher table and on it, a tall bouquet of violet and cream iris. On the library table near the fireplace was another bouquet, this one of fragrant red roses and white peonies.
I mentioned their fragrance.
"I really like no flowers without fragrance, as fragrance is their soul, to me, ‘said Miss Keller’. As color is to the eye, so is fragrance to me my way of recognizing them. Also I feel them, their form, shape, stem, even their pistils. "
Aside from the beauty which is immediately visible in the large parlor — or living room in the way of rare ivories and art pieces, delicate Japanese prints framed and hung, an exquisite Japanese screen before the fireplace… comfort and entertainment are provided for all. There is a sweet-toned piano at one end of the room, the music of which Miss Keller feels through its vibrations. The other end of the room is filled with book-shelves.
Hans — the beautiful big Dane was sent Miss Keller just a year ago in June by her German publisher in Stuttgart — was meanwhile interestedly watching every movement in the room and when his mistress rose and started to take me through the house before going out into the garden, he rose and followed closely behind her.
…Miss Keller really works very steadily, with her continual studying, lecturing and writing. But for her pastimes — "I play solitaire, sew and embroider, I walk, we play checkers, and I read most of all. But how I love my radio, I listen to it each night. Here is my little radio room, " and she ushered me in.
" [My radio] enables me to feel the beautiful music every night. I like the Goldman band concerts; the quaint old melodies some entertainers sing; comic opera, Gilbert and Sullivan; and Wagner. It is so tantalizing when one feels the announcers (sic.) voice. I can distinguish the various instruments, the human voices and the applause. This age of invention is so astonishing! What is my favorite music? One of my favorites is the Wagner "Fire Music. "
…With a skillful twist of the hand, Miss Keller turned the radio going, touched it lightly, adjusted it again, then with one hand barely touching the frame, and head slightly tipped, she ‘listened’ while instantly her free hand indicated the rhythmic pulsations she was feeling.
A thrill went through me as I recognized the music which the radio pianist was playing for the coincidence was so startling! In a moment Miss Keller turned her face slightly toward me. "It is the" Moonlight" Sonata, which Beethoven — the deaf pianist — played for the blind-girl. "
…Then we went downstairs to go out into the garden, Miss Keller leading the way…
Next to the house was a spot where the tulips and daffodils had just finished blooming – now the later flowers were coming into blossom, and all along the house, inside the front hedge and along the wall-hedge at the side of the lawn were representatives of almost every lovely flower that grows…Near the fence was a showy bunch of gaudily colored oriental poppies. When Miss Keller slipped her fingers under the cup of one of those flowers to show it to me, the petals, already ripe, fell off into her hand.
"A pool of crimson beauty in my hand, " she said, then tossed the petals aside.
"My impressions of color are emotional, symbolical. I am interested in the theory that there is a correspondence between all the colors in the visible world and the soul within."
…as I said good-bye and took my departure — after being given a fragrant little rose by Miss Keller to complete my bouquet – I carried with me a mental picture which will not fade, of a Home-Keeping Heart, of a joyous and valiant traveler on the Path of Happiness.
Image: Helen Keller with two unidentified children in the garden of her Forest Hills home, circa 1930s