April 23 2013

I observed in our last post how it is the crap as much as the joy, which roots us to a place. This weekend many beautiful friends brought us joy during the 3 potentially crappy days we had to wait for my eye to be examined by a specialist.

Good news: the retinae in both eyes are healthy!

On Friday night, two couples took us out to dinner and the next night, dear Sharon and Paul brought us farm fresh greens and vegetables and kept us good company over dinner in our kitchen. Sunday morning another couple stopped by to see how we were doing, their concern and love once again dispelling the myth of French aloofness…we have found this area to be one of the sweetest and kindest places we’ve ever been. In the afternoon, yet another couple took us on an adventure – about which, more later – and offered to accompany us to the specialist the next day in the event he may not speak English. And so, along with my dear Joel, I let myself be carried through the weekend, distracted by love.

One of the benefits of feeling our way around in foreign lands is that a certain level of unfamiliarity encourages one to venture into other types of unfamiliar territory. An example: Usually, when I am feeling low or have some sort of injury, I lick my wounds in solitude. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but it does tend to keep one focused on the injury; again, not a bad thing if and when such focus is vital to healing. But as a default mode it’s not so healthy. So when these various friends offered their company I observed my default mode; my first impulse being to say no thanks. Instead I said yes. The result being that while, for sure, I had a certain amount of underlying anxiety about the possibility of needing eye surgery, the fear and panic were kept at bay. Further more, being engaged in the adventures and discoveries of shared moments allowed me to connect to the larger reality of knowing I’d be okay no matter what.

I learned a valuable lesson in this regard when I broke my neck. On becoming instantly paralyzed from the neck down I received what I like to think of as a message from the universe, which told me that if I was destined to remain a quadriplegic it was because that was what was necessary to evolve into the next stage of being. Don’t get me wrong; I am really, really grateful that remaining paralyzed turned out not to be a requirement!  Likewise, I am really glad I still have my vision.

But fear is also a natural part of being, and at times fear can save our lives. Therefore, I think it wise, instead of repressing or denying fear, to acknowledge it and name it. In other words, to think it through to the worst imaginable conclusion so that one can “see” that, apart from the conclusion of death, one will adapt.

On Friday night we were taken to dinner by 4 new Belgian friends, all of whom proved to be kindred spirits and one of whom is the owner of this house; a woman who deserves an essay of her own, so rare and special is she.  The restaurant, situated at the foot of the Luberon Crest, way out in the countryside, was excellent; from the warmth of the room to the carefully prepared cuisine.  At one point, I made a trip to the W.C.  By now, I was experiencing light flashes in my eye. Sitting on the toilet I noticed that the lower two thirds of the window were opaque while the upper third revealed the evening sky. It was nothing special; no great sunset or gathering storm, but to me, in that moment, the pale grey clouds were more precious than any sky I’d ever seen and I thought about all the people for whom the world remains opaque.

On Saturday, late afternoon, we were driving back from errand-ing and passed the rape field at the bottom of the village. The sun, at its low angle, seemed to be lighting everything from below and the field and its border of freshly chartreused poplars vibrated with energy, the colors saturating my eyes. That’s when I named my fear: that I might lose my vision. Then I thought it through and realized I would always be able to “see” and that all anyone would have to do would be to describe the surroundings and memory and imagination would conjure up the image.


So, onto Sunday’s adventure. A young couple and one of their 2 teenage sons, took us to a small village some 10 miles from here, to visit a curious garden and its owner. This man is growing everything from flowers, to healing plants to salad greens, vegetables and fruit and 100’s of varieties of chili peppers from all over the world. Did you know Russia has chili peppers? All of it, of course, is organic, but what makes it really special is that everything is grown from seeds that the gardener has been harvesting for decades. The depth of his knowledge is astounding. He is the earth, and he yields. I hope to return there before we leave to take something to Tuscany. As we stood in awed silence, a herd of goats tap-danced along the road, their owner taking them from pasture to milking.


I look up now from the couch where I am writing, overwhelmed by too many thoughts, ideas and hopes to articulate, although I hope one day the words will come. The trees are wafting in the evening breeze and this simple goodness of the earth makes me wonder if perhaps life would have been different for those 2 young brothers who felt the need to maim so many people in Boston. Surely, I can’t but help think, surely they must not have witnessed enough goodness and beauty in their lives.

Yesterday afternoon the call finally came through from the Ophthalmology Clinic in Isle Sur La Sorgue…they had a slot for me…now!

We drove as sensibly as possible, suddenly feeling the tension we’d been living with all weekend. Nobody in the clinic spoke English and our friend wouldn’t be able to make it there in time and the doctor to whom we had been referred was on vacation, all of which did nothing to allay our fear. One of the receptionists dilated my eyes with 3 rounds of drops and took photographs of their interior, then invited us to take a seat. I nearly got a fit of the giggles looking at this arrangement of objects in front of us:


I was amused by what I saw as a visual pun on tropical heat, but not so amused at what appeared to be a blind eyeball in the foreground. We averted our gaze to the nameplate on the door of the doctor’s office and worried about how reputable he might be; Joel, so much so, that he popped outside to see if the doctor was even listed along with the others. He came back grinning: this doctor was the head surgeon of the clinic!

He finally ushered us in and asked me a lot of questions in French and it was as though it was suddenly my native tongue; I understood everything and was able to answer in simple but close-to-perfect French. Where the hell did that come from?

The examination itself was about 8 minutes of torture…I’m very squeamish about eyes; can’t even insert a contact lens it freaks me out so much. Oh, the chin strap and forehead mount and then the insertion of some kind of Clockwork Orange contraption that pried the eyelids wide, but I mean wide open; a sort of vaginal examination of the eyeballs. I haven’t been that grateful for the Lamaze breathing technique since I birthed my daughter 40 years ago!

Et Voila! No torn retina, just a gigantic floater. Evidently a large piece of the vitreous gel detached itself from posterior of the eyeball and is now free floating. It’s called ‘aging’ I believe. This ‘fly’ will accompany me and my eye, possibly forever, and we’ll learn to live together in gratitude.

Outside the clinic Joel and I clung to each other, wept a little, and continued on our way.


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