On different types of blindness
I was only five months old when I got my first pair of glasses, and the doctor got it wrong. Because I could follow the pattern of the lights along the rooftop of Trolley Square in Salt Lake City, he thought I must be farsighted. Of course, this was before the nifty machines that can measure your eye and spit out an approximate prescription, so on went the glasses–and I hated them. All of my baby pictures have these enormous blue glasses tied onto my bald head with shoelaces. I’d tear them off whenever I could. As it turns out, I’m shockingly nearsighted–I could see the lights because they were lit up and formed a pattern, not because they were far away.
I remember the first time I got the right prescription. I was three. As the doctor was explaining to my mom that I would have a hard time learning to read because I had a dominant right eye and a dominant left hand (she bit her tongue; I’d already been reading for a year) I looked around the room and could actually see clearly. It was Catharina von Schlegel’s promise from the hymn: “All now mysterious shall be bright at last.”
We left the office and ventured into the sun, and I stood gaping. The tree just outside the door of the medical building had leaves. Individual ones. They grew that way. I had assumed that they formed like water droplets as they fell from the nebulous foliage, but now I could see each leaf quivering in the breeze, fully formed, already completely itself.
It has been a long time since I got the right glasses, but I have never forgotten the clarity of that moment. The reality of leaves had existed without my perceiving it, had always been so, and it was my perception changing that allowed me to see them.
On a family trip one year, my younger sisters decided to play a joke on me: one of them, skinny and constantly in motion, put on a pair of jeans backward. They waited to see how long it would take me to notice. I never did, and they laughed harder and harder before finally letting me in on the secret.
I wonder, often, what other realities my blindness and lack of focus keep me from seeing.