i just recently picked up my first pair of prescription glasses. turns out i have pretty terrible vision in one eye, and with the other compensating, i hadn’t ever noticed. the way it was explained to me, in the optometrist’s office, was that my right eye’s cornea is shaped like a football and the left one like a basketball. good vision requires two basketballs, side by side. so as of yesterday, i’ve been put on Team Glasses. which also means i’m finally committing to one varsity sport, even though i haven’t played basketball since the eighth grade and i kind of sucked at it. if only she had described it as soccer balls, i might have more faith in the change.
but i’m getting used to it. i’m watching julius snoop around in the woods behind my house, and besides the fact that he looks like he’s inside an aquarium with a frame around it, i can see him in astonishing detail. most striking is how i can make out individual needles on trees, how the strips of peeling bark seems to pop out from the truck in high definition, and how a gnat just lifted off from a stalk of blackberry, nigh 40 feet away.
i find it remarkable that i never noticed til now that one eye can’t see more than a foot in front of my face. to be honest, i probably would have kept on in oblivion had it not been for a farm conference power-point presentation (why the hell did they make that slide in tiny-ass print? i thought) and an evolving terror of night-time driving (which i thought was normal, because doesn’t everyone feel dangerously blind when they drive at night?). apparently, once this fishbowl effect wears off, i’ll just have crazy detailed vision whenever i choose. i’ll see the speckles on my dog’s paws from a distance (he had speckled paws?). i’ll see my own handwriting when i write in my journal. i’ll even see incredible things like the great blue heron i saw yesterday, who, i kid you not, lifted out of the pond at my friend’s place as i drove by, and literally flew like a technicolor pterodactyl alongside my truck.
it is amazing, and humbling, to realize to what degree that we, as a species, can be blind to what is happening in front of us. what a primo example – my vision’s sudden downslide, of how my own sense of perspective is so limited to, well, my own perspective. a few months ago i was out on a hike with willow and our friend maggie. we spotted a salamander in the path, a big one, maybe 7-8 inches long, and we all gaped at it in wonder. when we got home we looked it up on the computer, eager to identify our sighting. we found a chart displaying images of the different types around california. all three of us picked out a different image. i mean, we were convinced of our choices. i swore it was reddish brown with an orange underside. maggie swore it was more mottled, black and orange. i forgot willow’s take on it, but it was completely different.
so what does that mean? that maisie was half-blind during that hike and we just didn’t know it at the time? sure, if your name is willow or josh you can run that joke into the ground for as long as it takes to not be funny (already not funny). but i think the deeper meaning has to do with remembering to open up our perspective, and our eyes so to speak, when we get stuck thinking that one thing is the right thing, or that what we see is how everyone else should see it too.
wearing glasses for the first time is like being a newborn calf, blinking open those giant lashes and looking out at grass and sun and teat for the first time. these first few glorious days of discovery contain an important reminder: to treat the world like a giant teat. to see life not as a commonplace thing of preordained or limited output, but one that is full of milk, the consistency and flavor of which we could never truly describe or understand, even after years suckling. if i took that analogy too far, i don’t apologize. i was told recently that i have long eye-lashes so the comparison seems apt.
all of this matters, because pretty soon we will all get used to wearing our glasses, those both literal and figurative. and then the sun will fade from its multiplicity of colors to just the orange of story-book drawings, and the grass will be just a green splotch on the ground, and all teats will be forsaken their beautiful nuances.
and we can’t let that happen.
for all i know, there are a thousand gnats lifting off into flight from the blackberry bushes outside my window. i will try to keep that in mind next time i think the flower bed that we’re digging seems to be curving to the left and willow thinks its curving to the right. chances are, given what side you are digging from, it could go either way. so better to say, “yes willow, you are right, i can see how it curves to the right, given your perspective. how about we meet in the middle and look at it together to assess it’s linearity?” and then, in the end, to just accept that a hand dug garden bed is always going to look slightly wonky, no matter how hard you try to make it straight.