Some days — days when I know I will be home, days when I will not be driving — I don't wear my contact lenses.
This makes absolutely no difference when I am reading a book or making soup or folding laundry. It does, however, make a difference — a rather large difference — when, at some point, I decide that indoors is not where I want to be.
Once I walked all the way from Sandhill to the paved road — a distance of two miles — with my eyes closed. I don't recall exactly what it was that possessed me to embark upon that particular adventure, but I do remember it was a warm and pleasant day and, with memory, instinct and the occasional brief peek out of the corner of my eye, I made it to the pavement without once stumbling into the ditch or over a rock, a limb or an animal.
But that was only once. Generally, I keep my eyes open when I walk. And when I walk not wearing my contact lenses, it becomes a different kind of adventure. Sort of like “Alice Through the Looking Glass” or a virtual reality video game. Somewhere between slightly disconcerting and downright frightening.
The trees in the distance look like a 3-year-old’s green and gold finger painting. Unharvested cotton looks like an endless billboard of white polka dots. And what I know is a field of dried and naked peanut vines looks like an unwound bolt of black seersucker. When I am walking without the benefit of my contacts, depth perception vanishes at about 50 yards and the world beyond that point is absolutely flat.
Except, of course, that I know it’s not. And as I keep walking into that knowledge, I experience the truth of it. I keep walking and eventually I get close enough to the trees and the cotton and the peanut field to make out their edges. I keep walking and eventually my eyes focus so that I can detect not just height and width, but depth. I keep walking and I am reassured that what I have always known about trees and cotton and peanut fields has not changed just because my vision is bad.
It occurred to me today — after I got back home and was thinking that, really, it wouldn’t have been all that much trouble to have at least put on my glasses before I started out — that life is a lot like walking without your contact lenses. What you see isn’t always what is. And what is won’t be changed by your inability to see it.
Some days my emotional vision is bad, as near-sighted as my physical vision. It’s generally when I’ve not taken care of myself, not kept up the practices that feed my soul, not been brave enough to say no when I needed to. On those days, things up close — the laundry to be dropped off, the groceries to be bought, the call to be made — are clear, but things in the distance, in that uncertain and scary place called the future, look anything but.
On those days, it’s important to remember that what might look like a finger painting could well be a tree, and the only way to find out is to keep walking.