On Seeing and Not Seeing

Rabbit in Grass




Last year I had surgery on my “long blind” left eye and I now can see “at” or around, sometimes above, sometimes below the level of legal blindness. Three weeks ago I had my right eye operated on, (the same procedure, a delicate cataract removal–made more complicated by my damaged retinas from premature birth) and while the right eye can’t see as well as the left, I’m able to walk around and take note of things.

When one says “things” one means items both sublime and ridiculous. This morning in the early Iowa heat my guide dog Nira and I saw a rabbit in the uncut grass and it was standing like Pythagoras, all stately, probably scenting love. Damned if I knew. That rabbit was the color of a very dirty brownstone in Greenwich Village. It reminded me that my sister’s apartment is just half a block from Eleanor Roosevelt’s 11th St. flat. I decided to name the rabbit Eleanor. This further reminded me that Eleanor Roosevelt once observed that “England has 7 green vegetables–six of them are Brussels sprouts.”

Of course properly speaking, the sight of a rabbit, even a Pythagorean rabbit is hardly sublime. “The sublime” as Longinus told us long ago has to do with the sense of eternity and the human apprehension of all that is beyond our understanding. I’ll venture that human beings understand the rabbit. We do not of course understand the night sky or the chance music of a winter storm and so those things are still sublime.

Sometimes the commonplace–the “rabbit factor” becomes sublime through a marriage of happenstance and human incomprehension. This is when seeing is quite interesting. Take this morning’s walk. NIra and I were crossing a footbridge over the tributary of a small pond. Because I see things “up close” I noticed three stones on the hand rail of the bridge, three stones artfully arranged as if we were in a Jewish cemetery–surely these were the stones of remembrance. “How tender it is, to see that someone has arranged these stones,” I said to myself. And then I surmised that they were not stones at all, but rather, extraordinary deposits of goose shit.

The balloon of the mind expands only so far…



0 thoughts on “On Seeing and Not Seeing

  1. Good doctors are my heroes. I have two doctors on a short list of “My Personal Gods”. The retinal specialist who repaired a detached retina a couple of years ago, and the Ob-Gyn who performed a hysterectomy way back when.
    If not treated, the detachment would have progressed to total blindness in that eye, and subsequent inflammation could have cause sympathetic ophthalmia in the other eye, i.e., total blindness. My doctor was appalled that I threatened my eyesight by putting off calling him for almost one full week, “and then you FINALLY decide to call me at 8pm on a Friday night?!?!” He operated the following Saturday morning, and I am seeing okey-dokey ever since (knock on my thick, wooden skull) as a result.
    The neighbor’s cat says I shouldn’t be so impressed by my hysterectomy, the even a halfway competent vet can pull this one off. But even still, I am in awe of people who can open something living up, and tinker inside to correct life-threatening problems.
    It would be nice if more people had access to medical care. Cataracts, which for most people in the USA can be “cured” with a routine visit to their eye doctor’s office, are still one of the leading causes of blindness in developing countries.


  2. This is wonderful news. I am so happy that your eyesight has improved again through another operation. You teach those of us with full vision so much about taking note of and appreciating what we are able to see!


  3. I’m a long-time reader of your blog, Steve, and love your books, Planet of the Blind and Only Bread, Only Light. Your descriptions of what you were able to see before your recent surgeries, of a “kaleidoscope” world full of constantly changing shapes and colors, have held me breathless, the imagery you evoked in your writing vivid and incredibly beautiful. And so now I wonder, as you write about seeing that rabbit, if the creature you see matches the creature you saw and imagined before your surgeries? Has the world lived up to your imagination?
    Wishing you the best, as always, and looking forward to reading your next book, whenever it happens…


  4. Don’t feel bad–I am not visually impaired but once discovered I had held in my hand for quite a while not my wallet but a large women’s unmentionable in a colorful wrapper. At least you were not in the dining hall at work.


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