The sky shimmers with a life-affirming blue that penetrates my soul to the core. I cannot stop looking at it with a mix of disbelief and awe. Who put that there, I ask the expanse, fully expecting it to answer. However, it says nothing. It simply watches me. An entity of endless patience and relentless stillness, neither moved nor unmoved by my discovery of its presence. I wonder how long it’s been standing there.
Hello, I want to shout at it. Hello up there, can you see me? Here I am, and there you are, isn’t this amazing? I want to jump up and touch it to make sure it’s real, but my jumping and reaching doesn’t seem to get me any closer to its big, blue belly. I climb up on the outdoor table in a bid to hold it in my hands, but the blue eludes me.
How is it that I can see it but cannot drag it down like a belt of silk off a high shelf to run it through my fingers? Surely there must be a way, I think as I glance around for something higher to climb, in the hope that if I just get to the top of that tree, the top of that hill or the top of that wall, and stretch up just enough, I might be able to grasp its edge and pull it down on top of me like a freshly laundered bed sheet.
I’m confused at the discord between how I traditionally experience the environment with my body, and this absolute inability to touch it, hear it, taste it or smell it. I physically tilt my head upward as if to drink it all in, but it’s not possible. It goes forever and I can’t absorb it quickly enough. I want to look away but it captivates me with its brightness. It’s as if the colour itself commands me to stop and fully absorb its majesty.
I wonder if it has always been like this. This blue, I mean. This actually actually bright bright bright blue blue. I try to think back to the last time I saw it, yet I cannot remember a time when it didn’t have a grey tinge to it. I never noticed it as such, but now the greyness is gone, I don’t quite know what to do with myself. Where do I fit, where do I sit and where do I consign this kind of colour? I simply don’t have a previous point of reference to compare to.
Let me explain. I have a congenital eye condition that not only has me well within the bounds of legal blindness, but has been considered inoperable for as long as I can remember. Over the years, my vision quietly deteriorated into darkness without my permission or comprehension, leaving a trail of questions, confusion and chaos in its wake. However, three weeks ago, I had surgery in a bid to bring some of it back.
The grey has always been a part of me, although until right this very second, I’ve not known it. It’s as if the blue sky has come down from where ever it lives, tapped my eyeball on the shoulder and said hey, look up here, look at me and look at what I can do!
The more I try to process what’s happening and match it to a moment from somewhere within my distant history, the further the grey reaches through my memory. It pervades everything with its lusty greed, ever creeping, creeping, sneaking and blurring the edges of things, dulling down the colours and embezzling the details like a cowardly thief, stripping my carcass until there’s nothing but my bright white bones scattered on a dry barren ground.
However, in my ignorance, I could never read between the lines to recognise the grey. I thought that was how everyone saw colour. Nothing particularly special. Nothing with any kind of dimension. But this, this blue has depth, dazzle and daring.
As someone with a congenital disability, of course I knew I was missing out. Good God, I have a lifetime of discrimination, exclusion and isolation that revels in telling me so at every opportunity. But given I’ve never known anything else other than my inarticulate deficit, I never quite understood just how much natural creativity is expressed through the visual medium.
I never understood why people with sight always raved on about it, yet failed to notice or put the same stock into other sensory inputs. However, I think I’m quietly beginning to comprehend what kind of distractions they have to deal with in this regard. I imagine that just as my grey was my normal, this comparative crispness and vibrancy I’m now experiencing is theirs.
So it occurs to me that maybe I haven’t been missing out at all, but rather it is they. If they only see the flowers, rather than smelling them, how can they really embody and internalise the natural environment in quite the same way? Seeing somehow seems more separate from hearing, touching and tasting, I think as I look, look, look.
Maybe I’m just not used to it, but it feels like there’s a line between it and me. When I hear the birds, smell freshly brewed coffee or taste my husband’s kiss, it seems to be a part of me, whereas this seems to be a part of something else. It’s something far bigger than my body but far flatter than my inner realm.
To my mind, and let’s face it, my very, very limited understanding of this particular sensory experience, the art of sight appears to encourage and almost infer a me and another scenario. This might explain why people with sight like to divide things into simple segments, be it blindness or any kind of difference between them and their collective sameness and the other, whatever the other may be.
It absolutely makes sense. If sight, being the most dominant medium in life, creates a form of separation, then isn’t that going to permeate every part of a person’s psyche? This then leaves me wondering how I’m going to integrate this into my historically insular universe of low vision/no vision.
But has the sky really always been like this? I continue to question it over and over again as I try to get a handle on this brand new reality. How is that even possible? This blue – this bewitchingly beautiful, brazen blue. How do people who are sighted not wander around openly celebrating this kind of blue every day? I mean, if they were too busy ogling the sky to watch where they were going, it would make sense. Well, now it would make sense.
A week ago however, the reason for someone bumping into me wouldn’t have mattered. I wouldn’t have cared that the sky was a beautiful blue. I would not have understood. I would not have wanted to understand because wanting it would have hurt. Wanting it would have been a risk. Wanting it would have meant I had to admit just how invested in the outcome of my recent surgery I actually am. But this, this is amazing!
I soak up the mid-afternoon autumn sunshine from my back step, wishing the grey gum tree would get out of the way. Doesn’t it know I’m trying to look at the sky? Move big tree, move! You’re blocking my view, I say. I try to nudge it with my will but it just stands there stoically, oblivious to my thoughts and words.
I don’t know what I’m expecting. Oh, okay Megs, sorry about that, the tree will say. I’ll just shimmy a little to the left. I’m so enchanted by how nature is unfolding quite literally in front of my eyes that yes, a part of me is hoping the tree will actually do it. I mean, it wouldn’t surprise me. Surely if the sky is this blue, then magic really does happen. Oh my God, imagine if trees did really talk, I giggle to myself.
The sky is so blue, I excitedly declare to my husband. He laughs politely in response, as though it’s a normal, everyday occurrence. But there is no way this can be an everyday occurrence, I decide as I continue to marvel at the blueness of it all. It’s a blue that just goes and goes and goes, drawing me up like a magnet until I’m overwhelmed. I want to look away, but I cannot look away, but I want to look away. It is too much. Just too, too much for me to understand.
It wasn’t like this yesterday, I think, or the day before, the day before that, or the day before that. In fact, the more I think about it, the surer I am that there has never been a lovelier, bluer sky in the whole world. The universe painted this one just for me, and it must have been hung this morning, I tell myself as I twist my neck to examine it from another angle, as if that might shed some sense on the situation. Who knows what was there previously, but my mind is trying to tell me it wasn’t this. It couldn’t have been this.
Seriously, that’s the only way my brain can piece it together, so it’s the story I’m running with, because anything else is just too big and hard to believe. Even though, of course, I’m running a simultaneous train of thought that tells me my brain is full of shit, and this is ridiculous. Just because I couldn’t see it, doesn’t make it any less valid, viable or voluminous.
However, the same can be said in reverse, because seeing isn’t everything, and it certainly isn’t believing. In fact, sight is one of the least reliable forms of truth, yet we put so much emphasis, significance and energy into it, framing our entire world around its function and form, as though it is indestructible, and the entirety of our fountain of all knowledge, know-how and necessity is born and bred from its narrative.
The problem is that for many of us, most of the time, we don’t question it. Most of the time we actually believe what we tell ourselves is real, whether we can see it or not. But what if it isn’t? What if there’s a whole other wisdom we are not listening to? What if the realness doesn’t come from our inner narrator’s tongue, but from the quiet spaces in between? Should we be acknowledging and acting upon what is in between the tick tick tock of the seconds, and not the seconds themselves?
But surely, if that big, blue, bold base colour were there before now, I would have known. How could I have not intuited such beauty if it had always been just there above me? Seriously, has it always been like this? I can’t get my head around it. It seems so close, yet so far away. I keep reaching out hoping to grasp even just a single tiny fibre from its ginormous blue span, as though that’ll help me make sense of the sight, because touching things has always helped me understand and interpret the world around me.
So all I can do is look at it, but looking doesn’t seem enough. I want to stretch up and wrap myself in its glory like an acrobat, rolling, whirling and twirling through the air, as if somehow that will envelop and ingratiate me into its blueness, and then maybe I’ll understand. Maybe then I’ll have an inkling of what this actually means and how I’m supposed to integrate it into my perception.
But how does a girl internalise something without her traditional primary senses to tell her what to do? The sky cannot be sipped like a glass of wine, heard like a pretty song, smelt like the baker’s loaf or touched like a lover’s cheek. It cannot be wrapped in words like a feeling or thought. The sky is poetry printed on a page I cannot read.
What do I do with the colour that is simultaneously soaking my parched eyes and pricking my intellect with its unfamiliar language? How will I ever learn to speak colour fluently, I wonder as still I stand beneath this newly found backdrop of my life.
Blue! The colour blue. How do you explain the colour blue? How do you explain it to someone who does not know colour? I have no answer for this question. I have no answer for anything at this point. All I can do is look.
I always thought the sky was more of a light grey blue, like a baby blanket. This is a brilliant blue that dominates the landscape and demands obedience from everything it surrounds. Surely there cannot be a bluer blue, I think as I scan the sky, still trying to understand what I’m seeing.
This is my first proper colour since the operation. Colour, colour, colour! It’s more than what we dared to hope for, yet here it is in all its glory. Is it safe to have this? Is it safe to want this? Is it safe to need this? Is it safe to receive this, and most, most, most importantly, is it safe to celebrate?
I am wary, because what if this is an aberration? It isn’t so much about the sky, but the colour, or rather my relationship with colour. It’s about how I use it in my everyday life. It’s about how I navigate, orientate and express myself with it. It is how I justify, vilify and explain myself to others. In other words, it’s one of the few blocks I have to build a bridge between me and the world. It’s a highly prized tool I employ to relate to people and have them relate to me. This is one of the reasons why I felt so lost and isolated when I no longer had it at my disposal. I felt as though one of my prized possessions had been taken without my permission, and I’d been given nothing in return.
Still, I’m afraid this might not be real. I am afraid that if I tell the world of my good fortune, it will run away. But what I’m most afraid of is being caught between two worlds again, not knowing where I stand. Will I gain enough vision to pretend I am sighted and actually get away with it, or will what I gain not be enough to find my way?
I practically shout it from the rooftops. Blue sky, blue sky, blue sky! I tell anyone who’ll listen, and anyone who won’t. I am aching to share this newfound beauty with the world, but still I don’t know how to squeeze it into words on the page. Still I worry about what people think and where I will now fit therein. It’s as if I’ve been given a complete makeover on the inside, and I don’t know how to wear it. Does this new space really belong to me, I keep asking myself with almost every step.
How do I explain to people that it’s going to take time for me to adjust, and that often I’m overwhelmed and exhausted? How do I explain this is nothing like what they imagine? It does not fit into a linear progression, or sit neatly in a series of black and white boxes that can be specifically labelled and compartmentalised like files in a storage cabinet.
People who are sighted are always doing that when it comes to vision. And I get it, because of course they would. They don’t know. Quite naturally, when I answer their curiosity regarding what I can see, they assume it’s exactly how they would see it. The same colour hue, the same level of detail and the same comprehension. However, it is not. It’s far from that. Where they see pattern, I see a block of colour. Where they see a smile, I see nothing. Where they see text, I have no idea. And on it goes. I will never be able to read an eye chart, see someone wave from across the street, read a standard paperback or drive a car. But what I do get is some sort of functional vision, and although one person’s function may be another person’s failure, I am taking it.