To Look . . . and to Really See

In my own worst seasons, I’ve come back from the colorless world of despair by forcing myself to look hard, for a long time, at a single glorious thing: a flame of red geranium outside my bedroom window. And then another: my daughter in a yellow dress. And another: the perfect outline of a full, dark sphere behind the crescent moon. Until I learned to be in love with my life again. Like a stroke victim retraining new parts of the brain to grasp lost skills, I have taught myself joy, over and over again.”

Barbara Kingsolver


Red Geranium Close-upSight is often taken for granted. It’s relatively rare to recognize how much joy sight brings to our lives. I certainly don’t get up every morning and celebrate the sight I see in the bathroom mirror (though I do smile when the alarm goes off and I see the furry bodies of Team Sheltie pouncing on the bed for a morning cuddle).

I’ve been thinking about sight a lot lately. I’m at the hospital waiting while my mother has the first of two surgeries to remove cataracts from her eyes.  The world is becoming cloudier on a daily basis, she says. She stopped driving at night many months ago, and she admitted last week she shouldn’t be driving during the day now either.

The surgery has an extremely high success rate, so there’s no reason to worry. But sight is a subject fraught with emotion in our family. Growing up, I watched as my grandmother slowly went blind. She had diabetes, and though she went through multiple surgeries, there was nothing the doctors could do to stop the inevitable. She took it in stride, and with amazing grace, though it left her angry and depressed at times. My mother – her daughter – also has diabetes.  Her eyes are showing signs of damage that cataract surgery cannot address. The upside, if there is one, is that while my grandmother spent most of her adult life as a diabetic and her eyes bore much of the damage, my mother was diagnosed much later in life. There is still time for her to see another sunset, watch a grandchild get married,  perhaps even look into the eyes of her first great- grandchild.  With luck, her eyesight will remain reasonably good for a long time.

But there are no guarantees in life. My mother’s surgeries, and memories of my grandmother, have given me a deeper appreciation of what’s around me this spring.  In the back garden, the red tulips with blue and white throats are almost finished. The lovage has shot up in the herb garden; the celery-like stalks are almost five feet high. And beside the house, the lilac bush is heavy with richly-scented purple blooms.  I’ve cut some for my desk.  Every once in a while I stop to admire them. Not only is it important to stop and smell the flowers, it’s just as important to stop and see them too.


One thought on “To Look . . . and to Really See

  1. I couldn’t agree more! Having lived with a sister who was blinded at six, I have a strong awareness of the value of healthy eyes. We have so MUCH to look at that it can, and often does, overwhelm the wonder of what we see. It’s important to focus, when we can, and really look at just one thing in order to appreciate its particular beauty.

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