The Metaphor of New Glasses

Photo by Grover Landscape and Design

Photo by Grover Landscape and Design

Getting accustomed to progressive lens glasses, that correct for both up close and distant vision, isn’t easy.  If your eyes have been used to no correction, or just reading glasses, it takes a bit for the eye-brain coordination to come back into sync once you change what you’re looking through.  Which is why I’ve been putting off getting progressive lens for years, making do with reading glasses, even though my mid-distance vision has been deteriorating, and it’s meant taking my reading glasses off and on constantly.  Which has meant spending a good part of every day walking around the house, looking for my glasses.  I lost them for an entire day two weeks ago, finally finding them when they tumbled out of my pajama tee-shirt when I put it back on to go to bed that night.

I made the leap to new glasses last week, and I’m still adjusting.  The young man who helped me pick out frames at the optical shop, and who talked to me about managing the transition, told me, “You really have to look at what you want to see.”  Meaning, in order to bring something into focus through the right part of the lens, you need to point your face right at the object and look.

What a metaphor.  Looking to see.

David and I have been negotiating yet another unexpected left turn in our lives.  We’d been talking about how nice it was to go for months and months without one of those phone calls that turns everything upside down.  Then last weekend, another one of those phone calls came.  Navigating a tough week with new glasses has been both disorienting and good timing.  Disorienting because the world has literally looked different; good timing because I’ve had to pay attention to how I’m looking at things.

So this morning as I was running I was thinking about how I’ve been looking at things figuratively, reminding myself to remember all that is right in my life.  I was also really looking at the seasonal shifts in the landscape, particularly noticing the winterberry bushes so full of red this time of year, when most of the color in the landscape has dropped away.

I’ve been reading through essays I wrote a few years ago, looking for pieces that seem worth editing.  Paying attention to winterberries, seeing these flashes of brilliance in a dull season, is something I’ve been doing for years.  Two years ago I did a blog post about these red berries, and included a poem that features them from The Truth About Death. And here is what I had to say about noticing winterberries six years ago, again in the context of struggling to stay focused on what endures in life, what continues despite difficulty and loss.

I give up trying to keep track.  So much happens every day, and at first when Eric got sick and died so quickly I felt compelled to write down all that was happening, so he could catch up when he got back.  So I could catch up.  But it got to be much too much. There were all the details of death, the event, the paperwork, the telling people over and over, Eric is dead.  There were red berries on a bush along a river with sun on them, lit inside and out.  The unrelenting urgency of life just wouldn’t go away, all of creation and destruction churning along in its usual pattern, water moving downhill over and over.

Life is as urgent as ever, and if I remember to look directly at it, it comes into focus.

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About Grace Mattern

Grace Mattern is a poet, writer, mother, grandmother, partner, friend, family member, gardener, triathlete, hiker and for 30 years was the Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence. She resigned her position at the Coalition on June 15, 2011 in order to concentrate on her writing, while continuing to engage in the movement to end violence against women as a consultant and advisor. Her chapbook Fever of Unknown Origin was published in 2001 and her full-length poetry book The Truth About Death was published in 2012.
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