What Can You See?: Everyday Magic, Day 989

“Has your sight come back?” people ask me. I try to find a normal way to answer an increasingly complex question because my sight in my right eye is in flux and over the cusp of legally blind. As many readers know, I’ve been on an ocular melanoma road trip through radiation, surgeries, and surprising bouts of, well, surprise. 

The medical answer is “kind of and not really” at once. As the radiation, removed from where it was inserted in my eye, continues its work, the tiny tumor behind my iris melts away. I envision it as an ice burg sloughing off its bulk over time. But what kills the tumor also can diminish my vision. Add in surgery-induced inflammation (hopefully mostly retreated now) and the new formation of a very faint cataract (something I had a 100% of getting after the treatment), and I don’t know how to explain my vision’s return or departure. My right eye has improved, going from 20/1500 to 20/200, but those numbers don’t mean much to me.

What do I see? With just my right eye, I can see the bedroom windows, the curtains pulled to the side, the sheen in the window glass made by the ceiling light’s reflection against the night sky. I can see the cat curled up in a ball on my bed, or is that my brown and white winter hat? I can see color and shapes, depth and layers, the difference between floors and walls, and the way the sky lays itself out in pink swirls on an almost-winter night. I also can see light spilling out from its normal containment in lamps or windshields, bigger and messier than light is to my left eye.

What I can’t see are distinct edges that strictly hold the purple and green quilt as one entity and the off-white wall as another. The dog morphs into the couch. My wedding ring and left hand seem to have always been one vibrant being even if the hand gets more wrinkled and the ring more shiny over time. When the day ends, the water of the pond begins, the fur of the kitty extends, the page of the book bends are just more enmeshed on a seemingly cellular level with the air that composes the space between things.

There’s a Rainer Maria-Rilke passage somewhere about how we teach our children and ourselves to look for the specifics within the open field — the tree, the rabbit, the flower — rather than looking into the open space itself. The mind has a hunger to name and categorize things, to know what’s what and who’s who. Rilke also speaks to how sight changes over time:

“I am learning to see. I don’t know why it is, but everything enters me more deeply and doesn’t stop where it once used to. I have an interior that I never knew of.” ~ Rainer Maria-Rilke

This comes home to me most when I’m moved by something, like last week the moment the Indigo Girls  performed my favorite song (“Prince of Darkness”) in concert, and my right eye started crying in joy and homecoming. My left eye rolled its eyebrow, wondering what was up with the right eye, but the right eye was too busy pouring its heart out. That’s what I see, my mostly blind eye opening my heart more deeply to the world.

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I Love Driving in the County: Everyday Magic, Day 952

This week I drove 100 miles  west and back on Tuesday, then two and a half hours southeast on Thursday, mostly through rural weaves of prairie and brome field where cattle grazed or dozed while storms paraded across the vistas. Earlier in the week, it was to give the first of three Osher classes on the Holocaust  in Manhattan, Kansas, and just recently, to visit a fiction-writing class and give a reading at Pittsburg State University in the state. Taking off and going fast, or a bit slower as the rain blurred the edges of cars and trucks ahead, I reconnected with the thrill of the open road and realized how much I love driving in the country.

Cities can be intriguing, particularly driving through  fabled neighborhoods or vibrant downtowns, and driving in the ‘burbs usually just confuses me or keeps me fixated on not missing a exit,. But there’s something head-clearing and soul-cleansing about zooming through spaces largely devoid of humans and human enterprise. Not to say that the fields and woodlands aren’t impacted profusely by humans, but being in places where few people and many cows, wild turkey, and hawks live just tends to clean the slate for me. Without much but barns, occasional houses or windmills, and billboards dotting the edges of my vision, I can more easily see the panoramic turnings of the weather from crazed storms in one corner to searing blue skies in another, both outside and in the tumble of my thoughts.

Such drives help me uncouple mismatched thoughts, suspicions, and worries over the miles, and unearth clearer senses of where I’m being led, even if it’s just to the next gas station to fuel up, and get some potato chips and iced tea. The hills or flatter stretches unfurl across my line of vision, showing me how much more is happening all the time than I can glimpse. Even when I arrive home a little road-weary, lugging a suitcase, computer, and empty coffee mug, I’m also usually road-happy, satiated and ready to roam closer to home for a while.

Swirling Distractions of Winter Birds: Everyday Magic, Day 926

A dizzy of starlngs

The starlings grabbed my attention while I was pacing the living room on a phone call. They poured diagonally down to the lawn, fanning out to bop and dip on the winter grass, then swooshed around to thread through the branches of Cottonwood Mel on their way to the bare mulberry branches. Meanwhile, a dozen or so fluffed-out-to-maximum-roundness robins rock on the branches of the cedar tree outside the kitchen window. When I return to the bedroom, it’s chickadees and junos all the way on our deck railing because of the bird seed I just poured there after filling up the feeder, emptied in record time this morning.

One well-fed flicker

There’s nothing like winter birds around here — the dizzying numbers of them emerging when the temperature drops and the wind pauses or picks up again, scattering them high into the trees or across the horizon until they return again. Everyone is fluffed out to perfection, whether the flicker wedded to the side of the cottonwood or the singular sparrow perched on the clothesline. Some days the blue jays rush in, bullying away the regular residents of our backyard, and usually by mid-February, the bluebirds return, dazzling me beyond measure. The cardinals float like candles in the tall stand of cedars, and the red-winged blackbirds flash fire as they go. One barred owl sways on top of a bare tree each late afternoon

Barred Owl

Working at home, I have the advantage of being in a ready-made blind, hidden from them by edges of window frames enough at times that they get close. I also have a bird alarm system through the cats although they get worn out by so many hours of high-definition Cat TV that they fall asleep just a few feet away from all that landing and tweeting. At the same time, it’s hard to work when so many flocks power past with the promise of returning on the other side of their swirl. But the older I get, the more I realize there’s little more important in this computer screen than what’s taking off and coming back into view in the world up close and personal, one window at a time.

January Newsletter: The Writing Life

Hello out there! Here is a link to see “The Writing Life,” where I share cool stuff, including a featured writing — Kansas Poet Laureate Kevin Rabas this month, a writing prompt (this month focused on saying hello and goodbye to what we welcome and release with the year), and a writing tip (“Read like a maniac” this month, and always always). There are also updates to what I’m up to, including upcoming in-person (in Emporia, Kansas) and video-conferenced cialis best price canada workshops on “Blogging for Your Soul and Audience,” a perfect workshop if you have a blog or are considering starting one as a way to build your audience and/or build your writing practice.

Kevin Rabas, This Month’s Featured Writer

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Maybe We'll Know What We Meant When We're Dead: Everyday Magic, Day 231

Yesterday was extraordinarily charged in a quirky, painful and tender way. Within several hours, I stumbled into an unexpected heartbreak, punctuated by a media interview for Poet Laureati, a bevy of criss-crossed and tangled emails about an event months away, payment processing for the event, and deep talks with two friends while bumbling around downtown Lawrence. By the time I landed home with the kids, I was feeling particularly baffled about what I’m doing in life.

But the universe seems to not just fill all voids but overwhelm bafflement with wonder. A friend called to let me know that someone who took a writing workshop with me years ago remembered that class as vital to her eventually finding her way out of severe poverty and cycles of self-destruction. She’s now in med school.

I often tell Ken that I don’t believe we can tell the value of what we’re doing and how we’re living until after we’re dead, and believe me, from the other side of this life, I hope to have a long look at what it all meant. One of the sweetnesses of life is that we can’t see the whole view while standing in the center of it. In the meantime, I’m grateful for the angels who bring us glimpses that sometimes the pebbles we drop in the water make a difference to the shore.