My husband and I began our Sunday early. We chatted briefly about preparing for our hike and I shared a dream. In the dream, my mom was still alive, my dad had just died and my adult son and I were [somewhat desperately and through tears] looking for my mother. In the dream, it was NOW. Today. My son as a young adult, not the 12 year old he was when my mom died, nor the 14 year old he was when my dad died, exactly 10 years ago today.
Our conversation continued as I commented about how grateful I am for my sight, vision. My dad was legally blind several years before he died, from a combination of macular degeneration [wet and dry] and glaucoma. I don’t have nearly the risk factors he did, but there is a genetic link on his side of the family. I DO have glaucoma, well controlled with drops. I recall my dad, an avid reader, depending on NPR and books on tape the last few years. A dear hospice volunteer visited him every Wednesday morning to read to him, from news magazines, Science Magazine, poetry or whatever he chose that day. Recalling this, I expressed gratitude for my vision.
Preparing for the hike, we popped in our contact lenses, packed the hiking boots, socks, water, lunch, Arnica, bug repellent, tissues, forgetting nothing, we thought…. ready to head to the mountains on Lake George.
Almost to the top of the mountain, sweating profusely, I wiped the sweat from my brow and right eye with the back of my hand. I realized I had shifted my contact lens with the rub and stopped to readjust. I rinsed my hands with fresh, precious drinking water and was glad I’d had the foresight to pop eye drops into my cargo shorts. Win, my husband, stood by as I fished out the errant lens. I placed it in my hand, took a look as I prepared to place eye drops on it, only to discover it was only HALF a lens! We debated going on as I realized that with my right eye closed I had no depth perception. And that with both eyes open I was straining terribly to see the trail. Lesson learned immediately: always pack extra lenses and/or glasses!
We turned around to return an hour or more to the trail head. This was my moment of choice. I realized I could make this experience bloody awful or appreciate my sudden, if unwanted, shift in perspective. I knew I would have to be extremely careful, but also knew that I had an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the forest in a new way, one I hope to never repeat. I had this one chance. When I closed my right eye, my depth perception disappeared, but with that I was acutely aware of the GREEN of the hardwood tree leaves. The sharp edges of the beech tree leaves popped out, little noticed with two eyes. The roots and rocks on the trail seemed eerily dangerous. I reminded myself that I was safe. I took my time and had a traveling companion. I’ve been walking since I was 11 months old, one foot in front of the other, and my eyes have been about 5 feet from the ground since I turned 11 years old. I noticed the sound of the birds and babbling stream even more than on the way up. I was completely in the moment with my new perspective. Because it was a change that was temporary, I could play with it, appreciate it; I could return to my normal “seeing” life soon.
I had choices. I could go ahead or turn around. I could be mad at myself. I could curse the trail. [This one was easy, I’ve never had a really good hike on the Tongue Mountain Range; it’s always been especially challenging in one way or another.] I chose to turn around. I chose to accept this sudden change and appreciate something different. I affirmed my gratitude for my sight and strong body.
Though shifts in perspective may come unwanted and barely announced, I do have a choice about how to respond.