I am writing tonight from a place of tears and joy and still contained within a wild, hundred yard complexity of symbolic and personal ironies. Today I received a pair of glasses which, in accord with the artificial lens that was implanted in my left eye on May 22, 2009 allows me to see better than 20-75 which means that I am no longer legally blind. Oh Admirable MIranda! To behold a world wherein such creatures may reside. Here I am, today, at 54 and after a lifetime of profound visual disability, "seeing" if not as others see who drive their autos and play championship tennis, well, I'm seeing enough to navigate and appreciate what's before me and in ways that promise joys upon joys. I never and I mean never thought this would happen to me.
I disclose this because I believe that blindness may be conquerable in our lifetimes and because my own story, small though it might be, betokens a new generation of ophthalmology–one that champions low vision as an achievement, and in turn conceives of useful vision as a triumph. This sensibility is not yet universal but it's the ars poetica if you will here at the University of Iowa's excellent Ophthalmology Clinic.
In the world of poetry we know that song clarifies writing so long as they stick together. I'd add to this that something like seeing clarifies the brain's desire to see. This is a complex neurological utterance but what I mean to say is that in my own case and having known legal blindness as a teenager the restoration of vision and a significant improvement upon what I once knew as vision has left me feeling a wild, uncomprehending, unasked for, nay, even unanticipated music of neurology. I am pouring image upon image, seen far better and hourly better into a brain that never knew these things. And Lo! My experience is a thirst. Not a bafflement of atrophies. A thirst. I want to run into the street like a surrealist poet and shout a verse of green horses and of transcontinental virgin births. Try doing that in your ordinary suburb. But happy I am.
I will doubtless have more to say upon this subject. And yes I'm mindful of the civil rights struggles of people with disabilities and my spirit and politics will always be leavened by a sense, yes, sometimes a strickened awareness of the injustices and the battles of people with disabilities. I too will remain a person with low vision and with no vision in one eye and whose entire corpus of works and days resides in the fight for disability rights. That's as it should be. This isn't up for grabs as they say in the vernacular.
But today I saw things I've never seen. I saw half way across Iowa City from a tall building. I had no idea you could do that. I had no idea at all.
And so, having been legally blind I'm now just above that line. I'll have to explain myself on the other side of an abstract line. I'm not ready to give up my beloved guide dog. In fact the ophthalmology people tell me that's a really bad idea. My dog agrees. But I saw some things today. Cars glittering in a parking lot and a far steeple. I'm half in the world of seeing and I am fair amazed.