Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Occular Transformation



When I was seven years old, I had my first eye exam. After I explained to the doctor that I was having trouble making out the big E at the top of the chart, he shook his head, turned to my mother and said, "She's blind as a bat." Oh yeah.

Glasses in those days were not dainty. The lenses were a half inch thick at the edges, the proverbial coke bottle bottoms, even in tiny, pearly little girl glasses such as the ones a seven year old would wear. They were heavy and awkward, and left dents in the sides of my nose. I hated wearing them because even though allegedly I could see through them, the whole world was rendered distant and tiny, and the frames cut out any possibility of peripheral vision. It was like watching the world through a very tiny TV. I preferred walking around blind, feeling my way through an impressionistic world, to the small, hard world of glasses. It was disorienting, alienating, and dangerous. Nevertheless I only put on my glasses when absolutely necessary. And I wonder why my childhood was so challenging!

The summer after my freshman year in high school, I stuffed envelopes all summer for the VFW in order to earn enough money to buy contact lenses.

After eye exams and what seemed like a terribly long wait for the lenses to come back from the lab, finally, at last, the eye doctor placed the tiny lenses on my eyes. After the blinking and tearing had subsided a little bit, I walked over to the window and gazed out at the world. I could see individual blades of grass, the texture in the concrete sidewalks. I could see the pattern of individual leaves on the trees, details in the clouds, birds sitting on branches. Nothing was remote and tiny or blurry. The world was huge, full spectrum, and sharply defined.

I passed out cold.

When I came to, the eye doctor and receptionist were peering down at me. I guess they had dragged me over to the reception room couch. They looked terribly concerned. It was the only time in my life I have ever fainted. It was definitely a transformational moment!

After that I threw away all my pairs of glasses and wore contact lenses for about thirty years. I used to dream that my lenses were as big as frisbies, that I couldn't remember how I fit them onto my eyes. One time I cleared out a medicine cabinet and made a contact lens museum. I glued old pairs of lenses, in their plastic cases, onto the back of the cabinet, affixed the stories of those lenses next to them. The contact lens museum always surprised house guests who were looking for a Q-tip or a bandaid. It was pretty fun.

These days I wear super extra-thin polarized non reflective tri-focal glasses. The lenses are complicated and high tech, and unbelievably expensive. And though I can't see at a distance as I could through my contacts, I can see pretty darn well.

That's my story of transformation. Fun to think about and fun to write. Thanks for the great meme, Steven!


A leaf suspended in a spider web. Cool, eh?

38 comments:

glnroz said...

With or without the big "E",, you have a "great eye". Even I see more than before. thanx

ellen abbott said...

Great story Reya. And I love the leaf.

Delwyn said...

Reya

I am glad that you see what you see...

Happy days

willow said...

I'm blind as a bat, too. I still wear my contacts and have about a dozen various strengths of reading glasses scattered thoughout the manor. I remember thinking I'd died and went to heaven when I could actually see individual leaves on trees.

Your suspended leaf reminds me of the Forrest Gump feather!

Celestite said...

The leaf is very cool, so was the story.

Golden West said...

I enjoyed your writing and your photographs as well.

Mary said...

your story is wonderful ( as is the leaf) but also a surprise ...you have such an amazing eye and see the world through your camera with such unworldly sight - would never have thought you to be "blind as a bat"
maybe "unworldly"is the key

Barbara Martin said...

I was 9 when I got my first glasses, and now have tri-lenses. The glasses tend to slide down my nose a bit so I am able to glance up over the tops to look at whatever has distracted me, before resuming whatever task I'm doing.

Your own story was wonderful to share, Reya.

Mrsupole said...

I think that you experience with your glasses is what helps you to "see" so well now. If your eyes had not been through this then you would just see like the rest of us. I always think that God works in mysterious way and that he has a plan for us. I think we are so blessed to be recipients of this. No one does pictures exactly like yours and see what you see. That is the amazement of your pictures. I would never have seen it the way you do.

Oh and I wanted to say thank you for liking that poem, it is your poem, written for you. I was not sure if I conveyed everything the way that you were wanting, but I hope so. Then I wasn't sure if I gave you the giggles or put you in a state of almost rapture, I figured either one would be good, cause as long as you felt something then that was good. I think poets want the readers to feel something. And I am glad you were thinkng of me when you wrote the post. I am hoping that meant that you were hoping I would write a poem for you. You gave me a lot to work with and trust me I have been given one word by others and no direction and no idea. My "Hugs" poem you liked, I was given the word hugs. I liked that one and so did the person who wanted it written. I am always happy if one person enjoys it. That is all one can ask. And if you do want any more just let me know. I think I am going to go on wikipedia and see if I can print info about all the styles. John Hayes knows a lot. I feel like a kindergarten child next to his poems and there are about 10 more. Kat's are awesome too. But be brave and try some. You really do have it in you and it is because of you that I try and maybe someday I will succeed. My cheeky ant farm one and then I moved on to more and with each one I learn and so would you. Oh I would so love to see a poem from you. Oh yes please try. They would be so beautiful. Look at willow now. She writes awesome ones and yours would be awesome too. Oh okay I am begging you to try. Ronda has my e-mail and she can give you mine and then you can run some by me, but I know they will be great and there are others who could help, we could all build up your confidence. You built up mine. You truly did. I am not even sure that you knew you were doing it but you did.

Okay, I am going to stop, I am writing a book here, anyway please get my e-mail address from Ronda, I would like to ask you some technical bloggy questions too. I need some help. Thank you.

God bless.

NanU said...

It's a special blessing to really see clearly for the first time relatively late in your life. You have an appreciation for the visual that most people don't, and it shows in your wonderful photographs.

Linda said...

You always visit Willow, Steven and the Weaver of Grass. Hello. I am getting around to read all the interesting memes. Yours about vision, hit home because on a recent visit to the eye doctor, he noticed I have a cataract starting in my left eye. I have been wearing glasses for about ten years now. I have allergies and I do not wear jewelry, so I purchased Gucci eyeglasses on my recent eye doctor visit. The reason I am mentioning it is because they are big and thick and not so comfortable. The glasses are denting around my nose and ears. They are also, I suppose, very stylish. What goes around, comes around. They were the pair that looked the best on my face. Children usually have their parents choose the syle, so the power over choice is diminished. I am so glad you have worked out your own comfort zone with your vision challenges. Thanks for posting this interesting story.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

Reya, great story of your ocular transformation. I am amazed that you fainted (from the excitement, I presume). That really is a great transformation story. I think all this has some important bearing on your ingenious use of the camera. It has made you highly aware of your surroundings.

(A total aside, but my word verification is "thinhate". Wow!)

Deborah said...

such similar experiences with vision--except i was too scared to do contacts so bought huge glasses which people told me made me look like a bug--but the frames hardly ever interfered with my vision

and now look at you
you not only see in a way which transformed your life
you see in a way which transforms
all of our lives
and the beauty you bring
is stunning
vital
wonderous
amazing
can't imagine my life without your vision
philosophically and photographic

i thank my lucky stars
that you see

all my love

Elizabeth said...

Well, one way and another you do
SEE PERFECTLY

I loved the story of you passing out when it was all
TOO MUCH

I can quite understand........

Barry said...

First of all, I love the leaf! What an amazing shot!

My brother, like all the siblings in my family, was very tall and was always put at the back of the class, where he did very poorly academically. The teachers suspected his eyesight but when they asked if he could see the blackboard, he always replied that he could.

Trouble was, he couldn't see anything written ON the blackboard.

Getting glasses was a transformational experience for him as well.

Reya Mellicker said...

Barry - ha!

Janet said...

I enjoyed this post.
The leaf photo is stunning - would have believed it was perfect timing if you hadn'nt mentioned the spiderweb!!

tam said...

wow, you've just reminded me of the cotnact lens dreams I used to have! I had laser surgery on my astigmatic eyes 9 years ago. Truly a transformational moment for me too. Your pics really are amazing tho, and that brick lightbeam one is exceptional. Thanks for your all yr sweet comments to me lately. It really helps. Word veri is 'scarstoc'. Yip, we all have a stock of scars!

Ronda Laveen said...

The older eye get, the harder it is for me to see. I still only wear my glasses when I have a need. They are very thin lenses with light weight frames but, boy, they still hurt. I can't imagine how it felt to wear those heavy, old style. Great transformational story.

Kay said...

Great story, great leaf photo..thanks for sharing it.

Nancy said...

Very cool picture.

My husband had similar experiences with glasses, contacts, and now laser surgery. Glad your glasses work so well. I have to wear reading glasses and they drive me crazy!

steven said...

hi reya - sight. do you wonder if you'd had perfect vision, had not been given the big thick glasses, hadn't had the eye-opening experience of seeing everything that you would see half as much as you do. not just with your eyes but with your mind, your heart, your soul. you see beyond so much that is immediately in front of you. i'm so grateful for that. thanks for this posting reya. thanks also for your supportive and sustaining comments. peaceful days. steven

Sid Smith said...

Eyes wide open indeed. That's a great story. My mother was "as blind as a bat" most of her life. In her middle 60s she had keyhole surgery and it transformed everything for her. I loved reading your sense of joy in being able to see and it reminded me of Doreen's (my mother) own moment as she gazed out exclaiming at being able to read registration plates on cars, seeing clouds, blades of grass.
It make you realise how we take things for granted, how precious these things really are. Thanks for sharing this.

Eryl Shields said...

To think that you were a born visual artist but without the gift of sight! One wonders, of course, if it was your lack of sight that honed your skill, who knows? Love that you fainted when you first got to see properly. Also love the leaf.

PurestGreen said...

The story goes so well with the shot of the falling leaf, which I adore.

Tom said...

yours is a great story...having worn glasses all my life(contacts because of allergies were way too irritating) when i turned 40 i broke down and had my eyes fixed--scary, and not perfect; but life without glasses? Priceless! And i see you see better than most: the images you find and capture would allude most of us!

lakeviewer said...

If we didn't have that meme that's making its rounds, we wouldn't know about your many views.

Kathryn Magendie said...

"I used to dream that my lenses were as big as frisbies, that I couldn't remember how I fit them onto my eyes"

I dream this too! How funny is this! I dream I'll try to put these huge lenses in my eyes when there is no way - they are thick and huge and mis-shapened


I didn't wear my glasses much as a child - you are right, they were ugly....and now, I hate glasses because of the thickness of the lense -heavy! THank gawd for contacts - yes!

Loved this :)

Reya Mellicker said...

Yes, Tom - you do!

Titus said...

Reya, brilliant story, so well told (I am particularly fascinated by the contact lens museum "suprising" house guests) and funny too. The opening papragraph is brilliant - so deadpan. But I can't see the leaf! All I've got is a little box with a red square inside it. Is this blog interactive? Do I have to get polarised lenses?
Really enjoyed your moment. Thanks.

Amy said...

My gosh! I had the almost exact experience when I was about six years old. My teachers and parents thought I was learning disabled until they realized that I couldn't see. I remember riding in the back seat of my parents car on the way home from getting my first pair of glasses. I pointed out the window and asked breathlessly, "What are THOSE?!" My mother couldn't figure it out. "What? What are you looking at?" "Those green things!" I was looking at individual leaves on the trees we were passing. For the first time in my life, I saw leaves instead of green fuzz. Transformation indeed.

karen said...

Wonderful story, and that leaf photo is just superb!

Your last post made me sad... i had to say goodbye to one of our cats yesterday, heartbreaking stuff...

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

All I can say is WOW - what a moment. I had put myself in your place as your story progressed - and I was not expecting to pass out!

Imagine to pass out - it must have been beyond your body/mind's abilitiy to absorb the beauty and the miracle of such a gift.

Thank you so much for sharing this incredible moment.

Rachel Fox said...

A really interesting take on this meme thing.
x

Tessa said...

I think it was the artist in you that caused you to pass out cold, Reya. There it all was in its shining glory for you to see clearly. At last. And that is what you do - you see SO clearly. Both physically and mentally. Yes, you do! You see the world in a singular way and I, for one, love seeing it through your eyes. I rather suspect that a huge number of people do too. Oh, oh, look at that leaf....precisely what I mean. The majority of people would pass by that little miracle without seeing a thing.

Phoenix said...

The leaf is super cool!
Enjoyed the story of your first date with lenses :)

Linda Sue said...

As a child i was always in preparation mode having read Helen Keller's story...I had 20-20 vision but still...you never know...now i am blind as a bat and i wonder "did i make that happen because i thought it, because I prepared for it, feeling the cushion of air about objects before realizing the solidity?" Love your story- love your beautiful blog - glad I found you through Elizabeth and Buster.

Steve said...

Great story, Reya. I love the "contact lens museum" -- LOL!

I once went to an eye doctor for a checkup and she convinced me to a buy a very mild pair of glasses, but they bothered my eyes so much that I stopped wearing them. I really didn't need them at all. I'm basically 20-20, and I'm grateful.