Sunday, March 1, 2009
What Our Eyes Are Trained To See
I read to Willa and say the same words over and over in multiple stories: cat, bird, red, black. I am training her eyes to see what she may someday recognize as part of her world. I am inhabiting her vision with the characters who will walk beside her. On future outings down future streets she will see cats in curtained windows, scarlet cardinals sounding out from the willow tree. She will know what they are and this will make her world larger because of it.
There was a time when I had no idea what ginestra was. I passed tables upon which sat their olfactory payload and was robbed by my own ignorance. Then I went to work for my mother-in-law at her flower shop and discovered it. Ginestra is the most shockingly gorgeous smelling flower on the planet. It is completely unassuming, slight even, but will fill your head with visions of a better world.
I have written before about living in these invisible cities. That since having Willa I see all around me now people I had not noticed before. I see so many Downs children, so many kids with cerebral palsy, so many different faces, different limbs, different abilities for walking, talking, eating. I see you because I see myself, my child and am a raw open wound of sensitive to how people see us.
To be invisible to the eyes around you is a cruel fate. A thing worse than anything. Because you live, you breathe, you see.
I tell Willa about cat, bird, red, black. I also tell her Costello, different, not all the same, beautiful, endless beautiful.
I stop at window boxes and smell the ginestra. I take every opportunity. Spring is coming and I will show this to my daughter and show her other flowers too. Because once you know such things you never go back.
My eyes had not been trained. But I learned. All of our eyes are hungry for new information, new sights, new words that will satisfy the person behind them. We forget that we are smarter than we think. We can improve.
It doesn’t make me a better person but it does make my life better, having my eyes see what they were ignorant of. To look at what is in front of me every day, adding color to my world, new visions of what already exists. It rounds out the picture. It fills the frame. Having a daughter with special needs and a medically complex constitution has done nothing but open the blinds for me.
I see you.
Do you see me?