patching the eye

image by ToniVC via flickr

This summer I’ve felt as though parts of me have been tied off like a seeping vein, the others compensating with an increased acuity. My time has been occupied with the most menial of tasks, or the most valuable, depending on how you see it in a cup half full or empty sort of way.

Were I not so grateful for the fact that I am even here, surrounded by those I love, living, breathing, taking in the beauties of the moment, the songs of night insects calling to one another, the sizzle of foam as it dissolves into the wave-darkened sand, I might be melancholy. So often we are frustrated by the fact that we have little control, that the world has, if only for a brief time, gathered us up and wrapped us in its hammock-like strings, rocking us through life in a rhythm we’d perhaps not chosen. But if we can, though, simply yield to it, relax, we will find it rather pleasant and soothing.

It is, after all, what so many dream of, or say they do…

Stopping.

Letting go the anxieties and stresses and worries of every day, of expectations and routine, of being tethered not to others but to things. A house full of people, the presence of hungry (in so many ways) youth has a way of pulling one naturally away from the predictability of time, the reliability of days spent basically doing the same things with minor variation. Instead of long pauses of contemplation spent reading and writing, meditation comes while doing other things, often involving chopping food or splashing water, jumping in cars to follow the crowd’s will, listening to a panoply of voices and ideas.

We are creatures of intellect and our brains can’t help but contemplate, finding inspiration in the simplest of things. Like the piano tuner whose eyes are blinded but whose ears can determine the richest subtleties of tone, we are amazed with patterns ever present but previously unnoticed, in faces and their countless combinations of expressions, in numbers calculated ever so fervently by a little mind, in yarn flipped and tugged with odd stitches here and there that form gussets and holes, in the way words foreign trip us up but free us at the same time, in the layers of flavor in an offered dish so rich that one cannot untangle them, nor does one wish to.

Like a maze-walker, I pad through these last summer days, listening to the crunch of my feet on the ground, smelling the piney bark of the tree-walls which make as though they are keeping me in but which truly offer windows, mirrors, into myself, into others. I don’t have to reach out my hands to blindly seek my path, for I smell it, feel it, hear it, taste it, savor it.

I took a film class in college which involved at one point muting the sound and studying only the visual aspect of the film (black and white French films from the 20′s and 30′s), often slowed to a frame-by-frame pace. Later we were asked to turn our backs to the screen to experience only its sounds. How struck I was that the same film could be seen, experienced in so many ways, how a shadow might take on a different meaning, a pause might carry a thousand words unspoken. Later I took another class whose curriculum involved attending plays and movies each week, usually in languages I neither spoke nor understood. (Yes, I was the fortunate recipient of a liberal arts degree in times when the goal was to experience the world, not to find a job.) I often listen to music from around the world whose lyrics form patterns of sound without words due to my lack of fluency in their language. Even so, they speak to me. I sometimes treat even my own language as a foreign one, possessing as I do an on-off switch to literal meaning which serves me well..

When my daughter was young we were horrified to find out that one of her eyes was shutting down. Had it not been noticed she would have been half blind. The solution was to cover with a patch, not the “bad” eye but the “good” one, to train the brain to work harder with the other eye, to rebuild pathways, to grow stronger. It worked!…It taught her to see.

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