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

My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive

mary-oliver-upstream

It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist. […]

It is six A.M., and I am working. I am absentminded, reckless, heedless of social obligations, etc. It is as it must be. The tire goes flat, the tooth falls out, there will be a hundred meals without mustard. The poem gets written. I have wrestled with the angel and I am stained with light and I have no shame. Neither do I have guilt. My responsibility is not to the ordinary, or the timely. It does not include mustard, or teeth. It does not extend to the lost button, or the beans in the pot. My loyalty is to the inner vision, whenever and howsoever it may arrive. If I have a meeting with you at three o’clock, rejoice if I am late. Rejoice even more if I do not arrive at all.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Of Power and Time” in Upstream, Selected Essays (Penguin Press, October 2016)


Notes:

Lightly child, lightly.

feet-hands

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles,
no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey,
a journey of one inch,
very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our feet,
and learn to be at home.

―Wendell Berry, from The Unforeseen Wilderness: Kentucky’s Red River Gorge

 


Notes:

  • Photography (via Mennyfox55)
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Related Wendell Berry Posts? Here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

 

Lightly child, lightly.

breath_by_apalkin

You are
a minute
of quiet

in a loud
shouting
world.

–  Gabriel GadflyFor This


Notes:

  • Poem Source: Thank you Sawsan at Last Tambourine.
  • Photograph: Photo – “Breath” via Deviant Art by Paul Apal’kin Photography (Ukraine)
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly child, lightly.

W-B-Yeats

Sometimes if I stopped writing
and drew one hand over another
my hand smelt of violets or roses,
sometimes the truth I sought
would come to me in a dream,
or I would feel myself stopped when forming some sentence.

W. B. Yeats, A Vision


Notes:

  • Portrait of Yeats: A Poem for Ireland
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

 

 

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…]

But your attention is focused, your vision becomes crystal clear

YoungDeokSeo3-sculpture-face

As soon as the stressful event occurs, it triggers the release of the cascade of hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal hormones — the brain’s stress response. It also triggers the adrenal glands to release epinephrine, or adrenaline, and the sympathetic nerves to squirt out the adrenaline-like chemical norepinephrine all over the body: nerves that wire the heart, and gut, and skin. So, the heart is driven to beat faster, the fine hairs of your skin stand up, you sweat, you may feel nausea or the urge to defecate. But your attention is focused, your vision becomes crystal clear, a surge of power helps you run — these same chemicals released from nerves make blood flow to your muscles, preparing you to sprint.

~ Esther M. Sternberg, The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions

 


Notes:

Damn well need to see

blue eye

One year ago, almost to the day, my post was titled “I Need to Read.”

Six months ago, my post was titled “See.”

The immediate thought was that the cycle was shortening, and the pain was increasing. (What happens at three months? Could this be the reason for the frequency of your posts increasing? Shudder.)

But, we’re not going there.

Rachel (daughter) prodded me to share my story about my visit to the ophthalmologist on Monday.  Love my girl.  She loves to see her big, tough Daddy in vulnerable positions. (Her Dad, meanwhile, wonders what possesses him to reveal “these” stories on social media.) [Read more…]

We are what we do every day. Nothing more.

snowflake, differentiation, unique, inspire, inspiration

“The snowflake moment we idolize, that final and glorious crystalline state which Bentley captured on black velvet time and time again, does provide justification for everything else. It is the end, and so must mean something, must make a bold statement about the substance and quality of our existence. But the snowflake moment is just one of a countless million moments, an isolated still shot of an existence that is predominantly defined by its very motion. We are what we do every day. Nothing more.

~ Scott Schwertly, The Snowflake Moment


Image Credit: Thank you headlikeanorange

%d bloggers like this: