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.