I don't know what could be more important than good vision to a writer, reader, photographer, and rambling outdoorsman who takes great pleasure in those small vignettes nature provides in abundance for anyone willing to observe closely. Not the vision of a dream or trance experience, or vision in the sense of an ability to think and plan for the future. But vision as in sharp, clear eyesight.
For the past few days, I've had anything but good vision, and I can tell you my life has been (and still is!) a wreck.
It all began when I visited an optometrist to be fitted for new contact lenses. I've worn contacts since I was 17 years old—which is to say, decades. My eyes and vision needs are apparently perfect for contacts, with great tear production, ideal lid shape for quick centering, etc. I took to them like a duck to water. I've never experienced any discomfort, and in fact, can't tell you—other than by how well I see—whether they're in or out. I've worn them from waking to sleeping every day, whether it was the usual 17-hour day or a 40-hour stretch. I've swam, snorkled, rodeoed, rode motorcycles, fished, hunted, hiked, boated, camped, and traveled extensively, in every sort of environment and weather conditions imaginable…and never owned a back-up pair of glasses.
Though the lens materials have changed, these were all what's called "single vision" lenses, which means they were corrected to give at least 20-20 distance vision. Rigid plastic or "hard" type lenses; I've never worn the soft disposables.
Sometime in my forties I started having trouble reading fine print in phone books, on legal disclaimers, maps, and restaurant menus—especially in dim light. Naturally, I put off doing anything about this until my curiosity overcame my vanity. Finally, however, I succumbed to the inevitable, saw an eye doc, and was informed that like most other mortals of a certain age, I now needed reading glasses. Bummer.
I ordered a prescription pair of readers (at shocking expense!) from the optometrist, to wear over the contacts. Later on, I bought a second pair of cheapies from the drug store to keep in the glove box…then another inexpensive pair for the basement…and still another for my tackle bag. When Sam's began carrying 3-packs of readers—excellent quality, much better than any I'd found elsewhere, and for under $20—I littered the house, work areas, truck, and a dozen other places with spare pairs. The irony is that these 3-pack readers worked better than my snazzy expensive pair from the eye doc.
In practice, readers-over-contacts turned out to be only a minor inconvenience. For 95 percent of my daily needs, they still weren't necessary. Only for tiny objects or print under low light. I could still read a book by firelight without readers, for example, or tie on a size 16 trout fly to a 2-pound test tippet unless it was close to dusk. For writing, blogging, reading, seeing and taking photos, and most everything else, I never needed readers.
Then I went to the eye doc. I went only because the distance vision in my right eye was not as sharp as that in my left; I knew it was time for a power boost. Besides, the lenses I was wearing were five years old, and while I take very good care of them, I know that with time any lens can develop minute scratches, and at least need a careful polishing. The doctor I saw was insistent that I consider "progressive vision" contacts, which are just a sort of bifocal with the close-up part built into the outer area of the lens. "You can throw away those readers!" he said…again and again and again. "Why saddle yourself with old technology?"
What he didn't say was only about 40–50 percent of those who try them can be successfully fitted. They also cost considerably more—$724 dollars for fitting and lenses, versus $326 for new singe visions. I was perfectly happy to go the readers-over-lenses route, but eventually gave in to the sales pitch and ordered the progressives.
On Wednesday I picked them up. They were simply awful from the get-go. I knew it might take several trials and refittings to get these fancy lenses right—for example adjusted to normal pupil diameter, which, if set wrong, can cause you to see through both the close-up and distance portion of the lens at the same time, which is exactly what I'm doing. I now see three of everything, no matter what distance—and cannot see clearly at close, medium, or distant ranges. I was told this could clear up in time. I doubt it; it has now been four days and the vision is, if anything, worse. The only way I can write is to crank up the Mac's screen to 500 percent, making everything five times larger. I can still barely focus enough to read what I'm writing. Reading a book, watching TV, taking photos, etc. is out. My life is on hold until next Wednesday, when I go back in and have them evaluated and readjusted (of course I'll have to wait for the new lenses to be made and shipped); and I have no doubt they will require at least one more refitting after that.
Or I could just say forget it and order single vision lenses—which means I'll lose about $200. (I'd pay only for the fitting, not the lenses, which get returned.) Not a terribly expensive lesson, I suppose. In the meantime, I don't know how regular or irregular I'll be putting up posts. I may have to resort to the photos I've already taken accompanied by a longish caption.
Now I'm going to stumble out to the deck, stare at out-of-focus birds in out-of-focus trees on the other side of my out-of-focus river…and sulk mightily.