Thursday, August 11, 2011

LOOKING GOOD


I spent an hour or so yesterday morning making butterfly pictures at a prairie site just up the road from the cottage. Later, because I had a midday appointment to keep at the optometrist's, I adjourned to a small pond closer to his office, where I stalked dragonflies, damselflies, and several small butterflies along the cattail-fringed edge until time to head for the eye doc's.

The morning was pleasantly cool. Puffy white clouds sailed across an azure sky. The only minor drawback, from a photographic standpoint, was the rather stiff breeze, which blew almost constantly—bending and swaying the prairie's big bluestem and purple coneflowers, and the little pond's cattail and willows, turning the colorful insects I was trying to photograph into erratically moving targets.

That is definitely not a complaint. After enduring several sweltering weeks of 90˚F-plus weather, a bit of a photographic challenge is a small price to pay for such welcome comfort. I'll take 75˚F and a refreshing breeze over 97˚F and smothering calm every time!

My optometrist visit went well. I began wearing glasses as a child, and switched to contact lenses in my early teens. (Back then, hard contacts were made from plexiglass—the same material used for windowpanes in doors.) Of all the optometrists I've had over the years, the fellow I see now is far and away the most thorough in his examinations…and I also believe, the most competent. Yesterday's examination took nearly three hours—partly because of the doc's meticulous and exhaustive care, but also because of a family history of glaucoma, the fact that my eye health indicates that I may be heading in that direction, plus an incident which occurred a few days ago (again, I was out taking photos) that might be an early warning sign of a torn retina. What I appreciate the most about this guy is that he's not only conscientious and comprehensive, but straight-talking and firm in his opinions. As a hard-headed Irishman, who, believe me, is no easy patient, I find such behavior refreshing. 


By the time I got out of there—relieved if somewhat frayed from the assiduous nature of the exam, my eyes dilated to those resembling a great horned owl, vision a temporary mess—I needed at least a brief ramble outdoors to even my kilter. A small natural area on the way home offered the perfect panacea. 

A few minutes later I parked in the graveled lot and ambled along a narrow path across an old meadow white with Queen Anne's Lace. Patches of purple Ironweed hosted Tiger Swallowtail butterflies. A handful of goldfinches flitted atop the thistle heads. The breeze was still blowing and the whole field seemed to be alive, dancing a slow waltz beneath a sparking afternoon sky. And I thought—not for the first time—how I was so very grateful to be able to see this—thankful for the eyes and vision to take in the wonder of such a place, such a day. What would I do without sight? How would I read or write, make photos, prepare meals, look deep into the eyes of Myladylove and know she loves me back? Surely the gift of sight is among God's greatest blessings to mankind. 

Call this a public service announcement, Riverdaze style. If you're due for an eye exam, make the appointment and keep it. Find yourself a good optometrist. Take care of your eyes, your vision, your sight. What a wonderful, lovely world we have—a world where beauty surrounds us, if only we take the time to look…and have the ability to see. 

———————

17 comments:

Bonnie said...

Inspiring photographs - as always Grizz. You must derive tremendous satisfaction from your talent using a camera - capturing so much natural beauty.

Funny, my DH reminded me this morning to stop procrastinating making a long overdue appointment with our optometrist. Thanks for the little extra push. I'll attend to it right now!

I am so thankful for all the senses, but with so much beauty in this world eyesight is - well, beyond measure.

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ - Oh how I love ambling along with you as you note all of natures bounty with detail and joy and precision and respect. Your natural world is large, yet simple. Your pictures took my breath away, again as their beauty was magnified through the gratitude you shared of sight. I so appreciate vidsion, epecially since I had optic-neuritis at the onset of MS - the world was a blur of 'saran wrap and snow flakes'. As it cleared my gratitude overwhelmed me in the best of ways. I will 'see' ever more gratefully today because of your shared appreciation of sight.
Love to you
Gail
peace......

Grizz………… said...

Bonnie…

I'm not a great technical photographer, nor do I have anything like the latest, greatest equipment. What I do have, I think, is a good eye—the ability to pre-visualize, to recognize the image within the scene, to crop and edit, find the angle, fiddle around with the contrast, textures, and spatial relationships…and now and then be patient, skillful, and lucky enough to make it happen.

And yes, I do get some satisfaction from the process—from finding and making the photo, to seeing it afterwards…and really and truly, from sharing it. Which isn't about ego, but in the great pleasure and joy I derive when someone sees the same thing in my picture which compelled me to stop and record it in the first place. I frankly don't know whether I'd make pictures if I couldn't share them.

I'm pleased no end if this post gave you that extra nudge to get you in for an eye exam. Chances are everything will be fine, with maybe at most a bit of correction needed. Time takes its toll, you know, which I can say to you with a degree of impunity since you can't handily give me an affronted whack for such impertinence. I know that whenever I have a new pair of contact lenses made, even though they're typically just sharpening my vision a tad—I notice the difference, the improvement, the moment I put them in…and while I'm delighted to be seeing better, I sorta wonder what I missed not seeing with the old lenses.

Too, I'm the kind of guy who usually doesn't address a lot of things until they actually become a problem. This is NOT the way to care for your eyes…here, you want to head off potential trouble long before it becomes a full-blown problem. The earlier the better. As you say, "with so much beauty in this world eyesight is - well, beyond measure."

Gail said...

p.s. Bernie says a big Hello" and sends her love and hugs. She is unable to access certain blogs, yours and mine are amongst them :-(.

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

I am truly blessed to have you as faithful reader and friend, and always appreciate your comments—not only because of your enthusiasm, but because in some ways we've traveled similar roads to a common understanding of so many things.

I did not know of your bout of optic-neuritis, though maybe you've mentioned it before and I've simply forgotten. I do know the overwhelming gratitude of which you speak in regaining some vital portion of overall health you feared lost forever. I have been there, too…and come to know the wisdom in that old lesson about not knowing the real value of something until it's gone. Temporary loss is sometimes the greatest teacher.

Thank you, as always, for your words and honesty, and the positive and kind heart which gives them life. Take care, and enjoy the cooler weather.

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

Tell Bernie "hello" back. I just wonder if she's trying to reach these problematic blogs from a reader, and whether actually putting in the blog site's address in the browser's address bar might not do the trick? Or to go to them from a search page?

Arija said...

Your heart-felt feelings of gratitude for sight I too carry in my heart. Yesterday I had the joy of a couple of hours in the garden pruning roses and at one point I just stood there in the wealth of blossoming almond and plum and thanked God for spring. For the sight and the scent and the green although it is still supposedly winter here, spring has certainly sprung! The only thing about spring this early I did not appreciate, was my Macadamia tree having wakened so early from it's winter sleep had put our new shoots which were all burned black from frost.

PS All too many people have 20/20 vision and go through the world as blind as bats.

Grizz………… said...

Arija…

I love that line—"All too many people have 20/20 vision and go through the world as blind as bats." It is so true! And I know exactly what you're saying when you "just stood there in the wealth of blossoming almond and plum and thanked God for spring." Every so often I find myself simply overwhelmed by the wonder of the life all around, the trees and flowers and birds, the sky overhead, the fragrance of the season in the air, the textures of the bark on the trees and the way the sunlight plays off the rippling surface of a nearby pond or stream…and I'm so filled with the complexity and joy of it all that I can do nothing more than give thanks for one more opportunity, one more day—one more moment!—to be surrounded by such beauty.

Life is such a gift—and yet we're sometimes so oblivious, taking for granted that we've seen it all and need look elsewhere for inspiration. Our days are finite, our time limited. If I've come to know anything at all about myself, it's that I don't want to waste a single moment of this marvelous journey.

Scott said...

I've got a large (planted) meadow of native wildflowers adjacent to my driveway. It's in full late summer lushness right now. Sometimes, when I go out to close the driveway gate after dark, if there's a slight breeze, I stand and watch the meadow. There's no color, but the slightly swaying and rustling plants are mesmerizing in the dark. If it's particularly dark (it never gets REALLY dark--I'm too close to the city for that), it's sometimes difficult to discern if the plants are moving or not, almost like I'm a bit drunk or partially hypnotized. I love to enjoy that special experience, and your remark, "...bending and swaying the prairie's big bluestem and purple cornflowers, and the little pond's cattail and willows..." brought the sensation back to me. Thank you.

Penny said...

Beautiful photos. I cant agree more about looking after your eyes,as I only have partial vision in one so worry as I get older about the one that is still ok ( although developing a cataract!)

Robin said...

Wonderful post.

You probably know this, but I just learned of it....

Goldfinches nest in mid-summer, not spring. When all the other birds are pretty much done or starting their second brood, the Goldfinch is just getting started. The 'why' fascinates me.

It's because of the thistles. They wait for the thistles to grow in the fields and then make their nests from them. Then, after the eggs have hatched they feed their babies the seeds from the thistle nest.

Nature is an awe inspiring thing.

Grizz………… said...

Scott…

Not too far from here there's a large grassfield with a high hill overlooking the slope and meadow and a small creek beyond. Not bluestem or one of the other prairies grasses, just an old pasture. Come late summer it is lush and tall. On top of the hill are several huge glacial erratics, ranging from the size of a big desk to a small Volkswagen, very close together, almost as if they'd been placed there for seating at some forgotten Druid ceremony. It is one of my special pleasures to go sit there when the wind is blowing as it did here yesterday, snuggled against one of those ancient rocks, watching the waves and ripples in the grass—and I've done so a few times by star light, when night is close and vision limited, and you can only hear the rhythmic rustle and sense the swaying grass. And it is…magical.

So, my friend, thank you for reminding me of THAT place.

Grizz………… said...

Penny…

Should it come to it, moden cataract surgery is a very good procedure—so I wouldn't worry about that. Life is best lived each and every day, enjoyed while it is yours. Tomorrow can wait.

Grizz………… said...

Robin…

The wonder of life is often in the details—those bits of minutiae that upon a closer look are sometimes complex and surprisingly interlocking. The more you learn, the deeper you realize those relationships go. In this case, it's the goldfinch and the thistle seed, and unexpected secret that ties them together.

Nature is an awe inspiring thing, indeed!

Arija said...

Grizz, I feel exactly that. when I was younger I did not like spring because there was so much beauty around that I found it overwhelming. I felt there was so much that I did not know what to do with it all. Now I know and just render up thanks for all the beauty and wonder that surround me. As I came in, frozen and stiff from pruning roses that had been utterly neglected in the last three years, I felt I needed to make a list of everything that is flowering, just as birdwatchers make lists of sightings. Bulbs, ground-covers like violets and sweet alyssum, shrubs and trees and many beautiful 'weeds'.
I had my camera out there with me since the blue wrens were in evidence but whenever I lifted my camera, they would slip deep into the bushes. While I pruned or pushed the wheelbarrow they just about flew around my head. They knew exactly what they were doing, the little rascals.

Grizz………… said...

Arija…

Spring is my favorite of all the season, because I like watching the reawakening—the resurrection—of the earth…birds, blooms, everything. But that return is not as slow and deliberate as it once was—nowadays it seems like the whole cycle has sped up; spring simply explodes—all the birds reappear, the ephemerals all come at once. Spring lasts a couple of weeks between winter and summer. And I do understand—and dislike—how it is all jammed together and overwhelming.

I've just looked online at your blue wrens—and I sure hope you get a photo. They are stunning.

Your frustration at getting the shot, how they show themselves when you're doing something and disappear when you have the camera in hand is part of the Worldwide Bird Behavior Agreement which all birds must follow whenever a photographer appears. Birds everywhere practice this prescribed rule of conduct.

You can try disguising your camera as a garden spade or bag of fertilizer, but I rely on spastic confusion…whereby I sit in the rocker on the deck and place my camera, a book, a glass of tea, and a plate of cookies on a nearby table. Naturally, when everything has been so placed and is now out of my hands, the birds show themselves. So I grab, say, a glass of iced tea from the table, quickly put the glass back down and pick up a book, hold the book in one hand and grab the glass of tea again, set the book down and snatch up a cookie which I put in my mouth…I chew the cookie, sip from the tea, place the tea down, snatch another cookie, hold said cookie in my mouth and, if I'm feeling lucky, grab the camera and fire off a quick shot before the birds realize they've been tricked. It's a birdy version of the old shells-and-pea shuffle—and if the birds aren't paying too much attention, it occasionally works.

Of course, once the birds wise up, you have to make the whole business more complicated. Let me know when you need instructions.

Arija said...

Thanks for those great bird snaring tips, unfortunately I don'y have a rocker or a deck so I'll just have to rely on the bag of fertiliser!