If I had begun to write this meditation yesterday afternoon, I would not have been able to see the candle beside me clearly. The screen of my iPad would have been cloudy too. Yesterday morning I went to the eye clinic at Kingston Hospital for an examination and consultation. The examination was very thorough and involved two different liquids being squirted into my eyes by a nurse so that photographs could be taken of each eye. I was told that the liquid would make my vision blurred for up to five hours afterwards. In addition to that, the final examination involved an extremely bright light being shone in each eye. So when I came out of the clinic into the hospital car park and bright daylight, I felt a little disorientated, almost as if the ground was going from under my feet. It was a momentary sensation making me tread slowly and carefully. The blurring in my eyes went on for some time.
However, this temporary change of vision did not stop me for getting on a bus and going into Kingston for a walk along the river Thames with a take-way coffee. I needed fresh air and a wider view after being in the clinic. To my eyes, the swans serenely skimming through the water had a white sheen around them as if they were photographed in soft focus. Indeed, everything I looked at had a softer edge to it. I had to avoid looking into the sunlight, however, as the glare, welcome though it is in these days of early Spring, made my eyes smart. I also had to really focus on my coffee in its paper cup in case I spilt it all over myself.
I moved over to the barrier and rested my cup on it while trying to focus on the traffic on the river. Several canoes and a rowing boat with eight rowers at the oars scudded past along with the swans, geese, seagulls and little terns bobbing about. They were all enhanced with that soft edge because of my slightly impaired vision. I began to think that as we are coming into Spring and the lockdown will be slowly opening up, our lives are beginning to take on that softer edge and maybe a brighter future is coming into focus.
When I got home, I did not feel like writing as the hospital examination left me a little exhausted. Medical tests and examinations, even though they may be straightforward, always upset our personal equilibrium, don’t they? They are invasive even though they are for our own benefit. The personal equilibrium of all of us has been severely upset this last year. We have been truly shaken up. The relentless restrictions have been a major intrusion to our everyday lives and plans and like medical tests, they have been invasive too though also ultimately for our own benefit. Perhaps we can consider ourselves fortunate, as I am able to do, that the virus itself has not been a major intrusion in our lives. As I sat in the clinic yesterda, waiting for my appointment, I was reminded of how very precious our eyesight is and I thought how difficult this last year must have been for those who are blind or whose sight is severely or even partially impaired. I have been very fortunate.
Now, this evening, as I sit here by my customary candle and write this, my eyesight is clear again. But I keep thing back to yesterday and that experience of walking around Kingston with slightly impaired vision. It reminds me of my childhood and youth, when I lived in Redcar, in Cleveland by the North Sea. Sometimes if the weather was cold and turning to rain, a very light, delicate drizzle would come in from the sea. It made the horizon indistinct, with a soft blur, almost like an Impressionist painting or one by J.M.W. Turner. Perhaps that delicate drizzle, which was like looking through an intricate veil, is what inspired his blurred seascapes. We used to call this opaque mist, ‘sea fret’. It was as if the sky was anxious and fretting before pouring out its tears of cold rain. Although it could be cooling and even refreshing, the arrival of sea fret was always the signal to leave the shore and go back into the High Street or home as rain was on its way.
At times, we have all been fretting in the last year and our anxieties may have blurred our vision too, making us get things out of proportion. Fretting was at the root of all that panic-buying in the supermarkets this time last year: all the trauma over toilet rolls and the intrepid pursuit of paracetamol. It all seems senseless now but was the result of that first shock of lockdown, which sharpened our instinct for survival. Just like myself in the hospital car park yesterday, we have felt disorientated at times. as if the ground were going from under our feet. It is as we have all been in a sea fret ourselves unable to see the horizon clearly, with the future just an indistinct blur.
Of course, the future is always an indistinct blur, despite all our plans for going here and going there. We do not know what the future holds and we are certainly not masters or mistresses of the future, though, with all our plans and projects we may think that we are in control. I seem to recall I made this comment in one of my meditations last Spring. I have come to see that perhaps I over-planned the early months of my retirement, with several trips abroad and various theatre visits with dear friends. As those early months coincided with the early months of lockdown, those plans have come to nothing or are hopefully being put on hold. I have been left with copious travel and theatre ticket vouchers to use when lockdown is over. But I shall be pacing myself and the travelling and performances will no doubt seem so much more precious to me, having been deprived of them for a little while.
But not as precious as my eyesight.
Ave atque Vale – Hail and Farewell – until the next blog!
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A selection of previous meditations is also available in audio form as ‘Meditations of Neilus Aurelius’ ASMR on YouTube.