Monday, January 5, 2015

Sight, Light, my Mother and Me

So I'm going to a retinologist with great regularity these days because I have some sort of inflammation in my left eye which happily causes me no symptoms but apparently is something in which retinologists take immoderate interest. I'm now on four eyedrops, which evidently I shall have to drop into that eye for a couple more months, but which seem to be doing whatever he wants them to do, despite my being, because he still doesn't know the cause of this, what he called an "odd case." (Like that's news.) 

So that's nice. But not what's interesting. What's interesting is whenever his assistant dilates my eyes, done every time I visit the office, it does two things to me:

First, it makes me feel (as I put it to another doctor in the office when I questioned her about whether this was a known side effect of the drops; she said it was not) "jazzed up." Not zapped out of my gourd in the manner of amphetamines - more like the mental equivalent of the brightness going up on my iPhone screen. My mind sort of enlivens, wakes up a couple more notches, just becomes more THERE.

Second, my vision (out there in the daylight as I make my way home) achieves a kind of great wash of near phantasmagoric receptivity to color and light. I wear sunglasses (which I have to or I literally wouldn't be able to cross a street in direct sunlight, of which there was a quantity today), but they merely tart up the color - increase the contrast between dark & light - make it almost luridly deliciously sexy. (Buildings & trees can be sexy.) I do not understand, especially while I'm in this state, how anybody can walk down the street & not be slain by the enormous beauty of everything. (Actually I can't understand that in any state.)

Now I know I've been unwittingly cultivating this kind of receptivity every day with my compulsive visual iPhone love letters to NYC, but after visiting my retinologist it almost reaches a mystical pitch.

Abrupt shift: I've always thought I was more my father's child than my mother's. My father drew great strange bulbous creatures that lumbered out of his imagination, mostly in charcoal on white paper. My mother painted serenely beautiful subtly colored seascapes & skies. I've always looked at my mother's work in admiration, but it rarely stirred me in the groin. My father's stuff stirred me all over.

But now - in the wake of today's dilation, & just now, as I take a look again at my favorite paintings of my mother's -- I'm awakening to her work as never before. Particularly the watercolor studies she'd left unframed & unsigned when she died, which were surely meant as grapples with technique, not as finished work (except the one with the sailboat which bears traces of pencil, in prep to be cut down & framed as a smaller piece) -- all of which I've however had framed. (They're in the first pic.) And the two separate framed ones (pics 2 & 3) - one wonderful haunting horizontal view of what I think is a body of water in Ireland with the subtlest strange grays and greens and other colors I can't name that change as they reflect changing daylight; and the second one with a little outcrop of gorgeous redbrown rock in water which, because she knew I loved it, she gave me for the one birthday I shared with her in the last year and a half of her life when I lived with her in Amityville. I cried when she gave me that - the involuntary spill kind of crying when you can't believe you 'own' something so beautiful. That startled and moved her. It was a pretty great moment.

It's taken all my life to develop anything like the sight I know she also had. She was always looking at LIGHT and the wonder of its shadows & colors: took endless photographs of it, just like I now do. Always. I never understood why back then, really. But I do very deeply understand today.

[last pic, my mom & me in Bantry, Ireland, 1990. I love that she's pointing something out to me. Since I feel like she's doing that now too.]


No comments: