20/20

tatyana-tolstaya

My grandfather Aleksey Tolstoy, a famous Russian writer…committed himself wholly to literature… I didn’t start out a writer, and had no plans of becoming one. Although I happily swam in imaginary expanses, I had no words to describe them. Then one fine day, when I was thirty-two years old, I decided to correct my myopia by undergoing surgery in the famous eye clinic… This was in 1983, before they used lasers for the procedure, as they do now, but instead made corneal incisions by hand, with a regular razor blade. The incisions took three long months to heal. All this time, while the eyes recuperated, you could see things only poorly, approximately, through tears that constantly streamed like rain on the windowpane…You had to sit in complete darkness… any light caused insufferable eye pain…The agony was so great that no analgesics, no sleeping pills brought any relief…At dusk my eyes were ablaze, and the temporary respite of night was interrupted by accidental glances at the stars, their light burning like fiery needles. Finally it was all I could do to sit at home wearing dark sunglasses, the black drapes closed, living by touch. Not a single word—neither handwritten nor typed—did my eyes take in during that prison sentence; only music, invisible in its essence, saved me from this existential desert. All that was left of the world was music and pain.

Gradually, something unfamiliar began to happen to my mind. The blindness was still near-total. I didn’t yet dare take off my sunglasses to peer outside, but in my mind’s eye I began to see bright visions from my past. They were not simply visions as before, similar to dreams—no, these were words, phrases, pages of text, plotlines; it was as if someone awoke in my head, a second me, one who had been slumbering until now. Visual experiences now came with a narrative; in fact, they were inseparable from it. If the wording wasn’t exact, then the imagery it conjured seemed obscured by dust or fog, and only the right words cleared it away…

My external eyes were still awaiting the sunrise, while my internal ones were looking around, seeking out details. Here is one. Here is another. Here is a whole bunch. As soon as I was able to emerge from my room into the dim light of the table lamp, I typed up my first-ever short story in great haste. I knew just how to do it—what to write, what not to write—and I understood that what remains unwritten possesses a special kind of power, a certain gravity by absence, similar to a magnetic force that can both attract and repel, a force we can’t see but that is nonetheless there.

This heretofore invisible, hidden world was now within my reach. I could enter it at any point, but it had particular doors—with keys of sound, with lock picks of intonation. The doors could be opened with love. Or with tears.

One day, all of a sudden, my sliced-up eyes could see again; my vision returned completely and immediately, 20/20, as promised. And this was bliss! Meanwhile, I found that the second world, having first appeared to me in darkness, was here to stay; it turned out to be a multifaceted underside of so-called reality, a dungeon full of treasure, an aetherial world through the looking glass, a mysterious box with passcodes to all enigmas, an address book with the exact coordinates of those who never existed.

I don’t know its geography, its mountains, or its seas; it’s so vast, it must be limitless. Or perhaps it’s not simply one world—perhaps there are many. They are unpredictable; they can show themselves to you, or not. Some days they may not let you inside: Sorry, the doors are locked, we’re on holiday. But to the patient and the devoted, they will in the end always yield. The doors will open, and you won’t know what you will come across until you enter.

~ Tatyana Tolstaya, excerpts from “20/20” in “Aetherial Worlds: Stories” (Knopf, March 20, 2018)


Photo of Tatyana Tolstaya at LitHub April 6, 2018

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

meerkat


Source: Male Mouse Lemur by Malcolm S. Ramsay (via Cheetah Camp). Found only on the island of Madagascar.

It’s beyond belief to step outside and see so little, just a milky haze

edward-hoagland

Blindness is enveloping. It’s beyond belief to step outside and see so little, just a milky haze. Indoors, a smothering dark. It means that you can’t shed a mood of loneliness with a brisk walk down the street because you might trip, fall and break something. Nor will you see a passing friend, the sight of whom could be as cheery as an actual conversation. Sights, like sounds, randomly evoke a surge of memories ordinarily inaccessible that lighten and brighten the day. “Who are you?” I may already have asked 10 people who have spoken to me. Their body language as well as their smiles are lost to me. Human nature is striped with ambiguities, and you need to see them, but like a prisoner, I am hooded.

I lost my sight once before, to cataracts, a quarter-century ago, but it was restored miraculously by surgery. It then went seriously bad again, until, reaching 80, I needed a cane. Tap, tap. Ambulatory vision is the technical term.

Everything becomes impromptu, hour by hour improvised. Pouring coffee so it doesn’t spill, feeling for the john so you won’t pee on the floor, calling information for a phone number because you can’t read the computer, or the book. Eating takes considerable time since you can’t see your food. Feeling for the scrambled eggs with your fingers, you fret about whether you appear disgusting. Shopping for necessities requires help. So does traveling on a bus. […]

How many of us have watched a possum “play possum” or a goshawk swoop after a blue jay? We feed pigeons and hummingbirds, then have done with it. Nature has become a suburb. Of course I can’t see the cardinal at the feeder out the window, though tidal forces still operate. The leaves natter even if you can’t see them. Your ears report their bustle, ceaseless until dormant for a span of moments. The pulse in your throat signals that in your torso all is well; it will beat till it quits. That concordance of organs lives within us like sea creatures throbbing on a coral reef, strung there as on our skeleton as long as conditions allow.

Novelty is the spice of life and salts our daily round even when we lose our sight. Your eyes don’t steer you as you saunter, yet your lungs, legs, arms feel as fit as ever. For simple exercise, I hoist myself out of each chair, or bicycle in bed, though then unfortunately may pick up two completely different shoes and try to squeeze them on. My socks don’t match either. But why am I not crankier? a friend asks. I’m helpless; I can’t be cranky. Blindness is enforced passivity. I have become a second-class citizen, an object of concern. Crankiness won’t persuade people to treat me thoughtfully. Disabled, that dry term once applied to so many others over my lifetime, now applies to me. As best I can, I’ll make my peace with it.

~ Edward Hoagland, excerpts from Feeling My Way Into Blindness (NY Times, 11/20/2016)


Notes:

Miracle. All of it.

eye-sleep-face-skin

Each hair on your head is replaced every 2 to 7 years
A hundred hairs fall out every day and new ones grow back in their place

And look at your fingernails – they’re completely new every six months or so

The lining of your stomach and intestines
gets pretty beat up — it’s constantly exposed to acid and bile
and so those cells get replaced every few days

Every few weeks, your outer layer of skin is completely renewed

Every four months you have a fresh army of red blood cells
A hundred million new cells are born every minute and a hundred million old cells are destroyed
It’s actually the breakdown products of these red blood cells that turn your bruises and urine yellow

Every 10 years, you’ve got a new skeleton
a special team of cells breaks down old bone
and another builds new bone

Every 15 years your muscles are refreshed
You might think you gain and lose fat cells when you gain and lose weight
but the actually just get bigger and smaller
Over the course of 25 years though, most of them turn over

But there are a few things that stick around for your entire life

About half of your heart stays with you from birth to death because those cells
are replaced very slowly

Certain parts of your brain add a few new neurons over the course of your life
but the vast majority of your neurons developed before you were born
It’s the connections between those neurons — the circuits that store memories —
that are constantly changing

And there’s one more part of you that lasts your whole life (your eyes)
Months before you were born,
little cluster of cells stretched and filled themselves with transparent protein
As you grew, even after birth, more and more fibers were added, but that center endured
This is your lens the window through which you are watching this video right now
and its core has remained the same since the moment you first opened your eyes

~ Adam Cole and Ryan Kellman, excerpts from Your Body’s Real Age


Notes:

  • Photo:  Bang Sang Hyeok #305 (via Precious Things)
  • Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
  • Related Posts: Miracle. All of it.

 

I want to stick around till I can’t see straight


…spending many hours — sometimes all day…while sitting in front of the screen, she told me, “I developed burning in my eyes that made it very difficult to work.” After resting her eyes for a while, the discomfort abates, but it quickly returns when she goes back to the computer. “…I’d turn off the computer, but I need it to work the frustrated professor…has a condition called computer vision syndrome. She is hardly alone. It can affect anyone who spends three or more hours a day in front of computer monitors, and the population at risk is potentially huge. Worldwide, up to 70 million workers are at risk…and those numbers are only likely to grow. In a report about the condition the authors detail an expanding list of professionals at risk … all of whom “cannot work without the help of computer.”…Studies have indicated 70 percent to 90 percent of people who use computers extensively…have one or more symptoms…The effects of prolonged computer use are not just vision-related. Complaints include neurological symptoms like chronic headaches and musculoskeletal problems like neck and back pain…the use of a computer for even three hours a day is likely to result in eye symptoms, low back pain, tension headache and psychosocial stress.  Still, the most common computer-related complaint involves the eyes, which can develop blurred or double vision as well as burning, itching, dryness and redness, all of which can interfere with work performance.

~ Jane E. Brody, Computer Vision Syndrome Affects Millions


Notes: Portrait: Nadia (via Newthom). Post title taken from Foreigner’s Double Vision lyrics:

Tonight’s the night, I’m gonna push it to the limit
I live all of my years in a single minute
Fill my eyes with that double vision, no disguise for that double vision
Ooh, when it gets through to me, it’s always new to me
My double vision always seems to get the best of me, the best of me, yeah


Perspective (noun): An Anvil Dropped On Your Head.

painting,art,

It was 11:30 am this morning.
A bruising day and still on the wrong side of noon.
A meeting. A call. Another call. Another Call. A meeting. Another meeting.
And triple tasking, banging out emails during calls and reorganizing tomorrow’s calendar.
Then, a break in the storm.
Get off your a**.  Now!  Take a walk. Sitting is killing you. And if not that, the urine backup may get you first.

I grab my smartphone and scan the subject headings of my personal emails.
Half way down my in-box, my eye catches text in the subject line: “live and learn suggestion.
All in lower case.
The antennae clicks up a notch.  High probability of spam soliciting SEO help or telling me my blog sucks and I need professional help.

My thumb slides up to the DELETE key. [Read more…]

Opia


opia – n. the ambiguous intensity of looking someone in the eye, which can feel simultaneously invasive and vulnerable–their pupils glittering, bottomless and opaque–as if you were peering through a hole in the door of a house, able to tell that there’s someone standing there, but unable to tell if you’re looking in or looking out.


Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

kitten-cute-eyes-funny-adorable


Source: Madamescherzo

What are you now? Air? Mist? Dust? Light? What? Give me something.

photo-child-eyes-soot


Image Source: Danielle Landry. Title: Dorianne Laux.

“Which do you pick?”

green-paint-brush-color

And so I ask Helen my favorite question: “If you could have one sense back, which would it be?” Her fingers go round and round in circles, and I can feel the girl actually thinking in my palm.

“Which do you pick?” she asks.

Though I have been deprived of all senses save touch since the age of two, while she is only deaf and blind, for me the choice is simple. “Sight,” I tell her, all the glorious colors God has painted on lands and faces. Green is the color I remember with the most pleasure: green from the grass outside our house in New Hampshire. Blue still spills from that square of sky visible over the bed where I lay ill for almost a year, and Mama says my eyes were bright blue before they shrunk behind my lids. Red I have a strong and disagreeable sense of, from when they bled me with leeches. And black, black I know the longest and best because it is my constant companion. These are the only colors I can recall or imagine with any clarity.

~ Kimberly Elkins, What Is Visible, A Novel


This is an excerpt is from a novel about Laura Bridgman (1829-1889). Laura Bridgman’s family was struck with scarlet fever when Laura was two years old. The illness killed her two older sisters and left her deaf, blind, and without a sense of smell or taste. She is known as the first deaf-blind American to gain a significant education in the English language, fifty years before the more famous Helen Keller.


Photography: Media.photobucket via Your Eyes Blaze Out

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