Nature and the Soul, Explored Through Photography

My Sister’s Eyes

When my sister Theresa was a pre-teen, a ravaging disease stole her eyes.  Eighty-five percent of her vision was lost before she had a chance to look out on much of the intricate diversity and insane beauty of this planet.  She’s “legally blind,” and yet in ways an optometrist hasn’t the tools to measure, she’s one of the most “sighted souls” I’ve ever met… living always “in the moment,” fully present and acutely aware.  She accomplishes more in a day than I do in a week, and does so with verve.

I empathize with Theresa regarding her visual limitations, which is not to say that I feel sorry for her.  In fact, I aspire to “see” as well as my sister sees, to have those eyes — the ones that assemble a clear mental picture of any creature based not only upon limited visual information,  but upon intangibles:  insight, intuition, keen awareness of tone, inflection, body language (she can see basic shape and posture) and myriad other clues lost to those of us who operate from only a fraction of the resources available to us.

Why am I telling you all this?

Because when I come home from the woods or fields lugging my camera bag full of maxed-out S.D. cards, feeling like I should be looking over my shoulder for thieves, so weighty is the value of my “treasure,” I can guarantee I’ve had Theresa on my mind.

My hyper-awareness in nature is due in large part to the fact that since my sister lost her sight, I can no longer take one fascinating detail – not an ant’s fuzzy thorax or the alien eyes of a fly or the powdery curve of a butterfly’s wings — for granted, not one breath-stealing scene can fly by me without praise.  I can see!  I CAN see!  I can SEE!

And so I will.  I choose to pay attention.  So if I go missing, find me — I’ll likely be sitting, blissed out beside an ant hill or beneath a cedar on my back in order to see what a waxwing looks like from the underside.  You might have to pull my head by my hair out of the creek where I’ve plunged to get an eyeful of what a crayfish looks like in his own world, but wherever I am, you can bet your last dollar I’m looking, and looking hard….with mine and my sister’s eyes.


8 responses

  1. Awesome post!

    August 2, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    • Thank you, my kind and talented friend! That means a lot to me.
      – Sydnee

      August 2, 2010 at 3:57 pm

  2. Due to macular degeneration, my mom hasn’t been able to recognize faces for 20 years. She recognizes voices. I, too, live for her, and I try to develop other senses and build skills I can use without being able to see, hedging against a future I may, but hope I never have to, face.

    August 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    • I understand, Julie, and do the same. When my sister’s disease, a rare one, was finally diagnosed by a specialist in St. Louis, it was determined to be hereditary in females, and uncorrectable with surgery. But new medical advances are made weekly in that area, and we continue to pray for a remedy. I SINCERELY hope your mother’s malady isn’t something you ever have to deal with personally…but know that the gifts you give to us all thro’ the shared knowledge of our world and the incomparable joy with which you share it, would continue with or without perfect vision. You “see” with all five senses, and your words paint pictures nearly as lovely as those painted by your hands. You could no more stop being an artist than you could stop breathing.

      August 2, 2010 at 5:13 pm

  3. Dot Fielder

    Sydnee, dear heart, this touched me even more than your first entry, and I didn’t think that was possible. I’ve FELT how you see the world–in all its detail and glory–and wished I noticed what is around me HALF as well as you do.

    The friend I lost last year SAW like you do, and I kept asking her, “How do you do that?” She answered, “Just pay attention.” But I still fall very short.

    Thank you for the beautiful blog you’ve finally graced us with.

    Love you lots,

    August 2, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    • Dot, my dear friend, you DO “see” like that… yours is a perception that clearly focuses on the internal, rather than external, world, and brings us insights we couldn’t have imagined. Both are beneficial.

      I used to pray, at the start of any walk/hike, “God/Universe….Show me Your glory!” I was selfishly petitioning the Divine to make me privy to some special manifestation of the natural world…and then one day I “got” it… EVERYTHING is His/Her “glory,” and the Divine is in ALL things…I didn’t need God to “bring” it to me, I just needed to open my eyes to what is already, and always, there. Sometimes it comes in less dramatic ways than I anticipated… instead of a bald eagle soaring over the ice-crusted lake, it’s a tiny, singular red leaf trembling among a treeful of green ones, making its own small, but significant statement. If I’m not unconsciously rejecting the smaller beauties in favor of the grand, I’ll see it. And sometimes, when I get my camera home and look long and hard at what I found, I recognize that those small miracles speak much louder to me than the grandiose. I’m learning. Slowly, but I’m learning 🙂 Love you too, dear friend.

      August 2, 2010 at 5:30 pm

  4. Mickey

    I found this so touching. Like YOU are. Thank you so much for all you lead us to notice! … and all you remind us to be grateful for.

    August 3, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    • Mickey….likewise. I have wonderful friends who inspire me, you among them.

      August 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm

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