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Our Eyes

DECEMBER 13, 2007
How do we see?  The age-old question of wondering whether green and red (my favorite two colors) look the same to you as they do to me, has been in my mind lately because of two recent but separate events.

The cosmic forces of irony were working overtime when Alina and I found out that both of our two sons, Andres and julian (6 and almost 5 years old) have been diagnosed as being color blind.  In the world we live in, which stretches the boundaries of the word "tragedy", I understand that this is a minor wrinkle.  And it was in that context that I initially took the stoic outlook, being thankful for their ten fingers and toes all where they should be.  But over the next few days I felt a small space of sadness open-up.  It struck me that with color being such an important part of my work, there would always be this distance between our different ways of seeing.  How will they ever know my true mind, and I theirs?

I stayed in this space for a couple of days until I got one of those perfectly timed surprise visits from the boys out in the studio.  I had just finished a book review piece for Susan Levin at The Boston Globe about transcendentalism and nature.  They both took a good long look at the image and then Andrés asked, What's this one about Daddy?"  With that single question he closed that distance by defining our connection as one based in the appreciation of ideas.  It's proof to me that although we all see with different eyes, if there is a desire to share our visions, we find a way.

Just about the time I figured all this settled down, I got an unexpected call from my father.  He had woke that morning with a massive blind-spot in his left eye.  An emergency visit to an optometrist revealed that a huge swath of his retina had detached from the lining of eye.  If left untreated for more than a day or two, he would likely lose the use of that eye.

So after a 4 hour drive from the remote norther CA town of Arcata where my dad was living an independent nomadic life, he had what now appears to be a totally successful (and quite bizarre) procedure to re-attach the retina to the eye wall.  The procedure inflated a bubble of air in side his eye, forcing the retina back into place.  The bubble naturally dissipates over a few days restoring the normal vision.

So what's the cosmos telling me?  That we all see differently?  That sight is fragile? I'm not totally sure. But the bittersweet take-away for me is that I think I'm seeing things that I hadn't before.  And for that, I'm thankful.

For more info on color blindness (did you know that 7-10 percent of the male U.S. population has some form of it?) check out this site.

And this site allows you to upload sample images to simulate the various forms of color blindness.
Original art as created for Boston Globe book review on transcendentalism and nature
A simulation of how the illustration would appear to someone with red/green color blindness.
A recent piece about China's hunger for Africa's natural rescources
The red/green color blind simulation
Topical: Recent Work