Sunday, July 3, 2011

A New Way of Looking at Life

Last evening, while on a walk with Buddy, as we approached the meadow just down the road, I saw what appeared to be some kind of animal standing near the edge of it. I couldn't quite make out what it was, but I knew it wasn't a bear. It wasn't dark enough for one. At first I thought it was a deer, as I had seen a pair of very young fawns prancing around on the road the day before. As we got closer, Buddy discovered two feathers lying on the side of the road. While I'm fishing one out of his mouth, a very large wild turkey made a beeline for the woods. Deer, wild turkey, I know. Not even close. But, from a distance.... We both continued to watch, hoping it would reappear.  After a couple of minutes, with evening waning, we turned and headed for home, feathers in hand. One for Buddy and one for me.

Okay, so my eyesight isn't what it once might have been, but the changes wrought have brought about some rather interesting encounters.  Earlier in the day, I had reread a poem by Lisel Mueller that I liked very much when introduced to it a few years ago. It's about the painter, Claude Monet, and how he saw the world around him. I was, at the time, enamored of these lines and wrote about them in a very early post:

"I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent."

Now, despite my eyesight, I see so much more. It's interesting to revisit a poem or a piece of prose and realize how my viewpoints on life have changed. Sometimes these changes are miniscule, other times it's clear I've moved into an entirely new way of looking at life. In this poem the changes are not profound, but I'm enjoying how different words carry weight now and other phrases have caught my attention. Anyway, you will see what you see. That's the beauty of the written word.

"Monet Refuses the Operation"

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen Cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolves
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes,
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

~Lisel Mueller

Cletis L. Stump, at  has what he refers to as Creative Sunday on his blog. He has generously featured two of my posts on previous Sundays and now one today. I'm very grateful to him for his encouragement and support. We meet some pretty cool people out here in Bloggerville, don't we?

No, that's not Cletis in the picture above. That's Claude. The image at the top is one of his water lily paintings.


  1. Well how wonderful to think of failing eyesight as a blessing, I may just have to think of this when I am trying to see certain things and be glad I can see what I see, see, but see differently and thank goodness for failing eyesight of painters like Monet, how the paintings would have been so much different if the eyesight was youthful.

  2. Hej Teresa!
    Well, yes, the eyesight does not get better! I've got a loose tiny flap inside my right eye, which gives like a little lightning in the corner of my eye, especially at night and when I'm out in the rain. In the beginning I was scared. What was happening? but I have been accustomed to it, and in some days it's almost gone.
    When I once heard about Monet's trouble with his eyes I felt such pity for him, being a painter with the need to see things, but it seems that he was also an "artist of life", who understood how to adjust. I have found it difficult to adjust lately, but maybe I can learn something from his ways.
    It was great to read your Dandelion post on book of cletis. In the fifties I read some books of Ray Bradbury, of course Fahrenheit 451 and then his Dandelion Wine. He is a great writer of Science fiction. I would like to re-read it too.
    Yes, Teresa, it is so fascinating here in blogville. So many things happen, and it is difficult to "catch" it all. I really get lost in this universe sometimes but I'm glad that I once found you, so I can read your lovely posts!
    Grethe `)

    A joy to see that lovely water lily painting by Claude!

  3. Just a little P.S: I found my paper back Bradbury's Dandelion Wine among my books! With the same lovely front page with the boy. I thought I had given it away , but it was there. So there's no excuse for not reading it. (And The Illustrated Man. My memory is so bad)!

  4. What a wonderful and magical post! I also love to take off my glasses and soften the edges of the world. I think Monet's paintings would not be nearly as beautiful if his eyesight had been "corrected." What a beautiful thing to think returning to a universe where all objects know each other. Thank you for this, Teresa. You are truly a treasure.

  5. Teresa, I have bad eyesight (from diabetes) so I cherish what I can see...Poems seem to change with the passage of time ...Perhaps it's because I am changing as well...:-)

  6. I have always loved the Impressionists like Monet. The Honolulu Academy of Art has a large painting of water lilies by him. It is one of my favorite pieces. Funny, I wrote a post about art, too, in my blog today... Cheers, Teresa!

  7. Linda, Sometimes, it's those things that might appear to be an impediment to others that make for greatness. Happy Fourth to you!

    Grethe, "Lightning in the corner of my eye," is a lovely phrase, although it must have been a bit frightening, at first. I experience something similar, but not very often and hardly notice it any more. I'm so glad ou found the Bradbury book. I need to get to a bookstore and find another copy soon. it will be interesting to reread it.

    I, too, get lost in this blogging universe sometimes. I'm so glad I found You!

    DJan, It is a world that needs softening sometimes, and I cannot imagine seeing any other way. Thank you for your comments. I hope you're having a good weekend.

    Paul, I can understand how valuable our eyesight is and always to be cherished. Yes, changes in me bring new perspectives, for which I'm most grateful. :)

    gigi, I love your post. Art fills our life so beautifully. I cannot imagine a world, or a home, without it!

  8. Congratulations on the honors you receive on your writing. The post Cletis posted today is poignant and heart-warming. You deserve much applause.

  9. I am enriched and enlightened every time I visit your pages here, T.E.

  10. What a lovely poem! I was an English major but must admit poetry was never a strong interest for me. When you select them, though, they make sense and are beautiful. Thank you for this one, especially, about haloes around the street lights. I'll appreciate them now, until my cataracts get "bad" enough for the surgery.

  11. Manzanita, Thank you so much. That's very sweet of you. I always appreciate your encouragement.

    R W Rawles, I'm glad for your visit. I am enjoying your blog, as well. Stumbling upon other writers such as yourself is always a real treat.

    Linda, Thank you. I'm glad the poems that speak to me, do to you, also. I've actually looked at street lamps in a whole new light, so to speak, since reading this and he's right! There are halos around them and sometimes broken lines forming a halo, as van Gogh often depicted. It's interesting to see things in a new way, with "new eyes."

  12. So lovely, your post and the poem you have shared. I have always admired Monet and actually used his water lilies in a post some time ago after I had my first cataract surgery. Ah, the halos and broken lines, the beauty Money beheld.

    I see much more these days, as well, Teresa (though not because of the surgery). A cabbage moth flitting or a deer nursing her fawn can transfix me for long stolen moments. I think that with age I have learned to appreciate the little things more.

  13. Penny, Exactly so. I am taking the time and appreciating even more those small moments that make life feel so good. There is so much to see in the world around us. I enjoy seeing what you've seen and posted, as well.

    Adrian, Thank you. It's nice to hear from you.

  14. Your posts always make me think Teresa. Hoping you had a terrific weekend and best wishes for a happy week!
    xo Catherine

  15. Thank you, Catherine. I hope you have a good week, as well.

  16. I had never heard of Liesel Mueller. How sad for me.

    I like her vision - and yours - hard edges do not make for beauty.

    However, I have never been able to see hard edges, perhaps that allows me to look more kindly on this world. On the other hand, it might cause a burn, a stumble, even a mistaken identity.

    Oh, if only we could choose to see what we want to see when we want to see it.

  17. Hi Friko, Perhaps everyone chooses to see what they want to see, more so than we realize, even those who believe they're viewing the hard edged "reality." These are the questions that intrigue me.

  18. Love this poem...especially the line " how heaven pulls earth into its arms". You have woven the beautiful Monet painting and the poetry so nicely here.
    This brings to mind the Wayne Dyer quote, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change".
    Have a wonderful week : )

  19. LadyCat, That line stood out to me on a subsequent read, as well. I like that Dyer quote, and am a firm believer in the veracity of it.

    And a wonderful week to you.

  20. We owe so much to the Greeks BUT they are the ones who began separating this from that and that from this until we forgot the Tapestry is more than the sum total of the individual threads. E=MC squared is not the whole story.

  21. Hi Cletis, re: "the Tapestry is more than the sum total of the individual threads." What I love about Monet's vision is that he saw the whole, how all things blend together in one seamless whole. And, yes, I do think it speaks to there being oh so much more. There are so many lines in this poem that speak of the illusory nature of "reality." That, most of all, is what appealed to me.

  22. Oh my... "how infinitely the heart expands to claim this world, blue vapor without end." Sight, such a complex yet simple word. Inner and outer aspects. Mueller's "Monet Refuses the Operation" has filled our little cabin with moist eyed dwellers of the hazy vision version. We both agree, bear/deer/turkey, plan for a bear and be happy for a turkey. Like the lily below the water line, a good deal of the bear can be behind the bush. Another wonderful post.

  23. Chris, Yes, "inner and outer aspects." I appreciate your thoughts on the bear, as last night, while on a walk around our place, Buddy discovered bear scat in the tall meadow grass behind the house. Now, I will certainly need to be alert and not make any assumptions.
    A big thanks!