2020

“…in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort….” (From The Republic, Plato)

It’s hard to avoid the irony—the titular year of perfect vision, the unraveling of once reliable norms, political structures, checks and balances, civility in all arenas, the losses of loved ones and heroes to injustice and disease.

And it’s equally hard to avoid the comparison—between that titular year of sudden perfect vision, and the years of blurring and distortion, loss of sight preceding it.

That loss creeps up on us slowly. Colors lose their intensity, fading from brilliant to dull, letters spread into each other across pages and screens as poetry and prose and road signs seem layered with petroleum jelly. For a while, it’s easy to grow accustomed to, and comfortable with changes, a world smearing out of focus, and accommodate them with sharper lenses and adjusted habits. It’s easy to say we can deal with things as they are. We’re not missing anything truly important. We can still make out the big picture.

But then, one day, those street lights that come on at dusk glare at and confuse us, make us misread road signs. Or, the newspaper goes untouched because it’s too taxing to decipher small print. That’s when we realize how much of the big picture we’re not seeing.

I’m getting to that stage with my own vision, which has been on a steady decline for years. And I’ve been through enough cataract surgeries with friends and family to understand how startling sudden clarity can be.

More than one friend has related how shocked she was by her first look at herself after surgery. “I walked by the mirror, not intending to stop, then did a double-take after I caught sight of a strange image moving across the glass. I couldn’t believe the woman’s wrinkled up face was mine.”

For many of us, the severely clouded lenses that enabled our old lives and habits and beliefs have been stripped away, and we aren’t quite sure how to process and respond to the stark and painful clarity of new vision, or function with it. No matter which way we turn, no matter how well we think we’re adjusting, there’s always another flaw, another act of cruelty, corruption, injustice, bigotry, stupidity, selfishness, and there’s always another loss—of a loved one, or hero….

I wish I had words to ease the pain, fury, and helplessness over being assailed with such clarity, the harsh reality it exposes. But all I have is an increasing sense of urgency to more actively care for those I love, impress upon them the necessity of taking care of themselves and their loved ones, paying attention to persistent symptoms, scheduling life-saving tests, looking both ways when crossing the street, wearing a mask…wearing a mask….

That, at least, is a start.

Stay safe. Be well.

©2020 All Rights Reserved

Hats

I wear them when it’s cold and when it’s blazing hot. Winter hats cover my ears and brow, and summer hats shield my eyes and keep my cheeks and nose from frying and blistering.

A fedora of my husband’s was made of a straw-like mesh. He thought it would keep his head cool and wore it to a picnic. When it left a uniform pattern of pinprick burns on his face, it went into the back of the closet for a while, then disappeared.

Some hats will protect you, and others will not.

But this is what I know…

There are those who don’t like hats, and won’t wear them.

Sometimes it’s because they find hats uncomfortable, painful, even, and sometimes it’s because they don’t want their hair messed up.

What I also know is…

Hats can make statements about the people wearing them—regarding taste, for instance, or religious traditions. However, there are those who insist on imbuing deeper meanings and motives to hats. They are often the same folks who are apt to see imaginary hats on people who aren’t wearing them.

…which is to say there is way too much assuming going on about berets and bowlers and cloches and caps, and an absence of the same.

It’s enough to give a person a headache.

(With apologies to René Magritte.)

©2020 All Rights Reserved

Holes in the Theory

His rhythmic strikes,
and dawn’s harsh glare
arrive at once,
a shrill alarm.

Relentlessly,
he hammers,
plumbs,
exposing crumbs
of wood and grubs.

His point is clear:

how sharp of him
to make it so precisely,

at facade’s expense.

©2020 All Rights Reserved