I got new glasses….
And in getting new glasses I discovered a few things. I am not that young anymore. Yes, I finally had to break down and get Progressives. Or those pesky “bifocals” as we used to call them. Ok, I am almost 52 years old, so I guess I did pretty good at holding them off. But my vision is not what it was.
Then a weird thing happened. I went home the first day after I got them and I looked at a current painting on my easel. Hmmmm… passages that I thought were pretty “smooth” were not!
Wow! I can SEE!!!!
So unbeknownst to me, some of my latest paintings are a bit harsher than they used to be. Go figure. It was my vision. I am happy that I feel like I have control over my images again. And that I don’t have to keep taking my glasses off to look at my work up close.
But the glasses have not fixed everything. I went back and forth as to whether or not I should bring this up… but it may be something that many people may be able to relate to and I have been putting off talking about it for a long time. But since it is now a bigger part of my life I thought I needed to address it.
I have macular degeneration.
My grandmother had it. Apparently it is hereditary. But my issues may be different. When I was about six years old I fell down an entire flight of stairs and went blind for a few hours. I don’t remember the fall, but I clearly remember losing my vision. I could only see a slight curve of light in my peripheral vision. It was scary and terrifying and one of the clearest memories I have from childhood. Doctors asking me over and over what I could see… and I couldn’t see anything. I can’t imagine how scary it must have been for my parents. I don’t really remember my vision coming back, only that I was in the hospital and I could see again. The concussion swelled my brain and apparently affected my optic nerves. I still have a dent on my noggin… (yes, George Schill, that is why I have so many issues…) Six months after that my vision started to change. I needed new glasses about every 6 months until l was about the age of 16. The fall apparently caused damage to the back of my right eye on the macula. Once thought of as dormant damage, it is now changing for some reason.
I noticed my central vision starting to act weird about 12 years ago. I noticed that when I read a book at night the lines on the page were getting “curvy” in my right eye. Not something an artist wants to think about. It is a big fear. I do the “doctor” things, etc… get checked by a specialist every 2 years… etc… but there is nothing that can be done. Or so they say. I eat well, take supplements, have learned about lutein… anyway, hoping it will stave off the progression.
In the image above I tried to re-create what I see now on a white page. They look like raindrops and it seems like the rain is starting to fall faster.
Edgar Degas had macular degeneration. Here is a quote from a friend of his:
“he should sometimes have spoken of the torment that it was to draw, when he could only see around the spot at which he was looking, and never the spot itself.”
So in the end his artwork changed, not from anything more noble than he couldn’t see quite right anymore.
Will that happen to me? I am not sure. I try not to think about not being able to paint successfully in a few years. Especially now that I am on my own and my art needs to support me. So maybe that is why my “drive” is back again. We only have so much time for anything. Does it affect me now in my painting or daily life? Not really. It is not that bad yet. I am aware of it on snowy, well- lit days and when I read a book. When I think a room is dark I worry when I find myself saying “I can’t see well because it is kind of dark in here” and my son says, “no, it is pretty bright in here”… hmmmmm.
Don’t feel sorry for me. It is just life. And life, I have learned, is hard. I believe I have a long time before this will truly affect me. Until then I take saffron, clove, lemon oil, wolf berry juice, frankincense and vitamin E… blah, blah blah… etc… etc… etc. I just hope I can keep it from getting worse. So if you have any good remedies, doctor suggestions or just want to commiserate in your battle with fears of vision loss please reach out to me.
Together maybe we can see a bit better.