18 May 2009


one fine day, when my son was three, he and i were wrestling and tickling on the bed. there came a moment when his arm swept past my face, and one of his fingernails happened to slash across the cornea of my left eye. INSTANT blinding pain. for several hours i was in denial, during which time it felt like there was red-hot sand beneath my eyelid. [i should mention that my left eye is the one with the best corrected vision -- i'm nearsighted in it, and farsighted in my right eye.] at last, we decided to get me to an ophthamologist, 30 miles away over rocky, rutted country roads, every bump a stab of searing pain.

it turned out that the cornea was lacerated. i had to keep it medicated with a thick, gooey ointment, and keep both eyes covered for a month, to immobilize them as much as possible. so i spent that time functionally blind.

it was, metaphorically, an eye-opening experience. i learned to navigate around the house and the yard by feel and sound and even smell. it is true that one's other senses become sharpened to compensate for the impairment. over time, i was able to feel the subtle changes in air currents across my skin, when i slowly drew close to a wall. i noticed distant bird calls, the movement of small animals through the grass, the breathing of the wind. listening to classical music, i heard the interweaving of orchestral voices with a complexity and fullness i'd missed before.

mealtime was an adventure. it's tricky figuring out where the food is, without feeling for it with your fingers, much less getting bite-size portions into your mouth.

on the day the pads and blindfold came off, once my eyes learned to focus again, i marvelled at the wash of colors and visual textures in our world, things we take for granted.

once i was a blind man. and while blind, i learned to see.

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