Saturday, August 08, 2009

The dust for the trees

My mother has long resisted the wearing of glasses. Throughout my childhood her call down the hallway ‘where did I put my glasses?’ was a constant. These days she might wear them on a chain around her neck, a chain or a cord, whatever tickles her fancy, but she will not wear them on her face.

My sister suggests that it is out of vanity that my mother will not wear her glasses except when she reads. My sister has taken to wearing her glasses all of the time. On her original business website as a celebrant, my sister had photos taken in which she wore no glasses until one or two people complained after they had met her that in her web photo she did not wear glasses. So my sister arranged for another photograph to be taken showing her glasses.

I still fluctuate in the wearing of glasses, between those I need for reading and those for distance. I do not want to wear the sort of glasses where the lens slips from one state of magnitude to another. They tell me it’s easy. You get used to it, looking down close to your nose for reading, looking up across the top and over your nose for distance vision. The thought of it makes my head spin, makes me nauseous. No I will stick with the shift from one pair to the other, with prescription sunglasses in between.

My mother does neither of these. I have never seen her wear glasses for distance.
My sister cannot abide this. She likes her vision to be sharp and clear. I’m more like my mother in this one, except when it comes to reading, where I want perfect vision, I do not object to the blurry edges of my vision. I do not object to seeing the world through a haze. It softens everything. I can still see shadows of disapproval cross people’s faces. I can still see the flicker of sadness when their eyes well with tears. I can still see a brow furrowed in anger or a trembling lip. The emotions do not deceive me through the fuzzy haze of my failing distance vision, my aging eyes, but the rough edges have been taken away. I do not see blemishes so clearly, nor do I see mess and dirt.

It is this latter impediment to my vision that I prefer most of all. That I can no longer see so clearly means I am less tormented by the state of the kitchen sink, the faded whiteness of the walls, and the condition of the carpet. I do not agonise over the cat fur that spreads throughout the house and lands on anything material, particularly anything black. Life is easier with less than perfect vision. I am less tortured by its imperfections. My older sister complains about the state of untidiness in my mother’s small unit, where my mother lives alone.
‘She can’t see the dust because she refuses to wear her glasses’
I’m with my mother on this one, too. I can’t see the dust for the trees and I’m not so sure I want to start. Dust is merciless, relentless. Even when we think we have wiped it away it lands again. We can see it through the shafts of sunlight that flash across the room, those golden motes float through the air, stirred by the breeze of our movements. The sunlight acts like a magnifying glass. It captures the billions of particles that weave their way through our atmosphere and nothing we can do can clear the room of them. They come back like armies on the march. They will not leave us. We can never conquer them.

In my view therefore we do best to live beside them. When they multiply too much, sure we can shift them aside, a dust here and there, once a week or so, but the daily grind of trying to remove them endlessly is pointless. Like the man who rakes the leaves from his garden onto the nature strip in the hope that the rain might come and carry those leaves through the drain and out to sea. He is deluded. Before nightfall the wind will spring up and carry the leaves back onto his garden and his nature strip back into his life and like Sisyphus he must return next day to deal with them again, endlessly repeating a pointless task while the rest of his life slides by.

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