Musings and Amusings

The Vision Thing

(Coincidentally, I wrote this post last week BEFORE  ‘what color is the dress’ set the world a-twitter!)

We see, look, view, observe, peer, watch, stare, examine, gaze …

How we characterize vision is unique to each of us – a combination of visual acuity, our level of awareness, and emotional reaction to what we are seeing.

I was reminded just how unique when I read Dan’s recent post about his color-blindness. Now I wonder if any of us see ‘true’ colors, or discern the same subtleties of hues, pastels and palettes when we look at something. How do we know? I haven’t a clue what colors you see and vice versa.

butterfly Tangle

Hint: There’s no lavender, Dan.

I’ve worn glasses or contacts since the tenth grade. Once I saw the world in high definition 20/20 rather than blurry 20/400, I never let those glasses out of my sight (no pun intended).

In hotels, I refuse to take the side of the bed without a nightstand because my glasses will be out of reach. I insisted that the nurse let me hold my glasses, through the night in the hospital, because I’d need them if I had to rush to a fire exit. I sit out fun times in the lake because I’m too scared not to be able to see the shore.

Despite my disappointment when my eye doctor told me recently my vision can no longer be corrected to 20/20, I remind myself that I’m seeing better than ever. Yes my visual acuity is deteriorating, but I am paying far more attention to what is around me – seeing light, shadows, patterns, colors, movement in ways I used to ignore.

Having to accept and adjust to changes in visual acuity reminds me of an episode when I first moved to Boulder in 1977 – a heady time for a Midwestern farm girl to be transported to a culture mix of Rocky Mountain outdoor living and Boulder earth muffin hippies. After devouring the menu of classes offered at the Community Free School, I registered for Vision Quest.

The first lecture was about how Westerners (non-Asia) interpret vision as visual acuity and strive to provide everyone with the same 20/20 corrected vision. Easterners, we were told, accept eyesight as it exists without correction, and interpret vision as what the mind and soul perceive.

Our first assignment was to take a walk and ignore visual acuity using our other senses and soul to guide us. We didn’t have to go as far as closing our eyes, but the instructor encouraged us to leave our glasses at home.

I lived north of downtown, and several miles separated me from my favorite Chautauqua Park up a steep hill at the south edge of Boulder. On a sunny, warm September afternoon, I set out on my ‘vision quest’ to walk without seeing to see what I could see. (Or something New-Age-y like that).

Although I was scared crossing streets, and somewhat intimidated that someone might be staring at me, I gained confidence with each block. The sun was warm – too hot almost – and I huffed and puffed my way up the long hill, not yet acclimated to Boulder’s altitude.

Breathless and triumphant, I reached the park entrance and headed up a familiar trail a short way before deciding to sit awhile and ‘invite vision into my soul’. I stepped off the trail, crossed my feet, bent my knees to lower myself to the ground, and sat squarely on top of a small prickly pear cactus.

So … yeah … The Vision Thing?

I find it a giant pain in the ass.

Comments on: "The Vision Thing" (41)

  1. A very interesting topic. I was always fascinated by the “Carpentered World” hypothesis. See

    • Thanks for the reference!! I find optical illusions fascinating and have never heard the term ‘caroentered world’. It gives me several new ways to think about what impacts the way we ‘see’. Fascinating stuff!

  2. I like that little twist at the end. I’ve had glasses since 7th or 8th grade but I probably needed them way before that. The only eye exams I was having were the ones at school, the ones where, as I stood in line, I memorized the chart so I could get out faster. I’m not sure what colors are in your tangle (is that a tangle?) but it’s beautiful. I love lines and i love repeating shapes that are alternately colored and patterns that emerge from blurs to detailed. All the elements are there for anyone to see. Some might like the colors, some the patterns and some might just admire your talent. I’ll take what vision I have and try not to take it for granted. Thanks for the mention and the valuable lesson.

    • Thanks, Dan. I should have had glasses much earlier, too, but Mom didn’t believe my claims about not seeing the blackboard. I’m sure cost of glasses factored into her attempts to ignore me.

      I call ’em tangles, but not Zentangles since I don’t follow ‘the official rules’. My nephew emailed me recently that he is enjoying my ‘fractals’ and I had to look that up.

      You are right – no matter what we are looking at, we all focus on something specific to our vision – colors, patterns, shapes, movement, imbalance. It’s a rich world, made even moreso by art.

  3. cardamone5 said:

    Ha, ha, ha from no lavender aimed at Dan to all of your play on words. Love it! I’ll take my glasses over vision enhanced by other senses any day of the week.


  4. haha… love the ending!
    The OH and I were talking about this the other day as to whether we see the same colours as each other and how would we know? As you have said, I think I am more aware of what I do see nowadays and that has a lot to do with my interest in photography. I am no expert but I have slowed down to study a scene before I press that shutter button and I am more open to shade and light, shape and pattern than ever before. (Like your pattern BTW)
    Jude xx

    • I think I’ve always been more aware than the ‘average Joe’ thanks to a curious and observant Dad. And I’ve always cherished eyesight because I love reading so much.

      You sound much the same – enhancing what was already conscious noticing by moving into the rich visual world of photography.

  5. Oh my word! I’ve never taken my eyesight for granted, as all my life, my mother has been legally blind without her glasses! Without them, we are all voices in a patchy blur!
    You know the Dalai Lama wears glasses…and I’m pretty sure he’s as Eastern as one can get!
    When I first saw the dress I saw gold and white. Then a little bit later, I saw the same exact picture and it was black and blue, so I got scared and closed my laptop.

    • Ooh sorry for your Mom. Mine now has macular degeneration and I fear it’s in my future but try not to dwell on that.

      As for the dress – I only see white and gold. Even after reading all the technical stuff about it being blue, I still see white and gold. Quite a woo woo phenomena, and best you keep the lid on it 😈

      • I get by with readers thus far, and am quite happy about it 🙂
        I’m not familiar with macular degeneration, but it sounds like something that would skip you entirely 😉

      • I love looking at all the readers at the grocery store with their colorful fancy frames. Alas they don’t work fir astigmatism, etc.

        Thanks for your good thoughts on my vision future 😋

  6. What a coincidence to read this post just after I drafted a post for next month’s A-Z Challenge about my less-than-perfect eyes 🙂

    I’ve worn glasses since I was 11 and I knew I wasn’t seeing colours the same way as the men in my family but I assumed they were all colour blind …. until I took a course in interior decorating. It turns out I was offside to everyone else :/

    The last sentence in your story made me laugh out loud. I was thinking how very brave you were to venture out without your glasses … the punchline was as great play on words 🙂

    • Timing is everything 😋 I’m glad you’re doing A to Z. I’m not writing but look forward to reading !

      Those prickly pear needles are slender, tiny, and hook a barb under your skin. It took my former hub a couple hours to ‘tweeze’ ’em all out. Humiliating and painful for me, but writers do pretty much anything for a story, eh?

      Now I wonder what colors you see. And how we would ever grasp each other’s vision. It’s so fascinating to think of all the whys and wherefors of how we perceive the world.

      • Yikes – if I ever encounter a prickly pear, I’ll know to give it a wide berth 🙂

        I’ve discovered the issue appears to be an underlying hue that I perceive differently from others.

  7. Haha, great ending.

    Kudos to you for trying this. I would be too scared to venture out without my contacts or glasses. Like you, they’re the first thing I reach for.

  8. How serendipitous, as I sit here waiting for my vision to clear after cataract surgery…so far I am unimpressed with the results, but that is another matter (and probably another blog post). At this point I’m glad I can see the dress at all.

    • Oh, you’re a few years ahead of me on that procedure. I do hope you’ll see better results soon! Most I know say it has worked well, so I hope you’re in that category!

      Much ado about a dress. Who even wears dresses? 😆

  9. You do make me smile, Sammy 🙂 I haven’t caught the Zentangle bug yet, or anything remotely creative, but am quite happy to admire your purple ones! On a more serious note, loss of eyesight is a bit of a worry. My husband’s seems to have deteriorated quite rapidly and he’s always grappling with his specs. 😦

    • Oh, Jo – sorry to hear about your husband’s eye issues. I really don’t fear aging because so many of us share this journey, but I do often wonder whether society in general can prepare in time for the aging onslaught. Everything from grocery shelves too high (as we shrink in stature) to street signs that aren’t lettered big or brightly enough to airport restrooms not being close enough to deplaning passengers. I don’t mean to be pessimistic or alarmist, but our generation doesn’t go quietly into ‘inconvenience’ so demands for accomodation will be on the rise.

      Perhaps the coming robot era will schlep us to and fro and we won’t have to worry about such things – just whether we can see the Bingo cards !

      Thanks for stopping by ⭐️

  10. Ouch! I’m much the same as you in terms of vision, and would have a very hard time functioning without either my glasses or contact lenses. I certainly couldn’t drive, and it would be very unsafe for me to walk outside. Bad idea all around, for me!

    • Laurel – I’m now surprised at how many I’ve heard from with poor eyesight. Once again, we find we’re not alone – in misery or uniquness ⛄️☀️❄️

  11. Thanks Sammy for the laugh! I wear readers and have for ages – I’ve had the odd pair of script specs but I’ve never looked after them properly. Fortunately I don’t need glasses for driving – or walking but certainly do for reading writing shopping (to check labels etc)

    • You get to wear the fun readers with the fancy frames that you can absentmindedly set down all over the house 😊

      When I wore contacts, I once bought a pair of ‘costume’ glasses – bright purple frames with plain lens that were my ‘fun’ glasses. When I’d wear them, Hub would joke that I was his ‘other woman’.

      I’m glad you don’t have serious vision problems. I hope that carries with you 💕

  12. I love that you end a post with such depth by using humor.
    My vision is deteriorating now, from so much computer usage, and I find myself nostalgically remembering those good old days when I could see the detail on a leaf or some other small object. But, yeah, vision is different in our mind’s eye, same as music sounds differently to various people. My husband, after having played in a band for so long, hears sounds differently from me — in part from having been exposed to loud music, but then, just when I think he’s half deaf, he surprises me and hears certain soft undertones in music I would never hear on my own.

    • Silvia – that is interesting about your husband and hearing differences. We never really do stop to think how unique all our senses are, let alone how ‘paying attention’ matters.

      You mention computer usage – that’s one reason I’m not doing A to Z this year. It was just too much concentrated computer time to sit at the keyboard working my own drafts, reading SO MANY other compelling posts each day and answering so many comments. I loved doing it, but it caused too much eye strain.

      I’ll enjoy reading this year, but won’t feel quite so obligated on a daily basis. Healthier for my eyes!

  13. Hee, hee. The cactus seat made me laugh. I love your drawings. They’re fascinating. You have to look at them for quite a while to see all the facets.

  14. Great tension building, right down to the last poke!

  15. Hee! Hee! Your last line made me laugh! 🙂

    I’ve thought about vision quite a bit because of my son’s autism. He watches and observes in such a way that I wonder if he is seeing the same thing I’m seeing. Maybe he sees the world in almost an HD way compared to the vision of a typical person, more vibrant and colorful and detailed. I love the Eastern philosophy of vision you described. That’s how I imagine my son seeing the world – with his mind and his soul. It’s so poetic and beautiful…as long as someone warns you about the cactus before you sit!!

    • Jen, I think it must be difficult because I doubt your son is able to give you much insight yet into how he views his world. Hopefully over time we will develop more effective tools to communicate at the same time that he continues to mature and open up to your love and attention.

      I can’t help but wonder about a high correlation between so many of us living with sensory challenges during the same era when high tech and expanding populations give us more sights, sounds and stimulation than the generation behind us had to cope with. It can’t be a coincidence that our rate of sensory issues is increasing, and I don’t think it can all be attributed to genetics.

      • Good point! My son seems the most content and calm when he is outside in nature. I feel that way when I go on long hikes in the woods. Maybe our senses haven’t had a chance to adapt to being constantly “plugged in”. I heard recently of a theory that the more “bored” we allow ourselves to be by not listening to music or playing games on the iPhone every spare moment during the day, the more creative our minds are. I totally agree with that. The less chatter, the more we can hear ourselves think. We need to give our “mind and soul” a chance to see once in awhile.

      • I’m glad your son finds some solace in nature. We have definitely ‘mechanized’ ourselves into an engine/motor world.

        Have a great week, Jen 💥💞

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