Friday, April 25, 2014

A few random thoughts

Breeze across a pond

Just a few random thoughts before I depart to Santa Fe and the eye surgery which will restore great sight to my right eye. If there has been an upside to this ordeal it is the support of friends. And also the opportunity to share experience, strength and hope with others.

I think we all are on some level afraid of going blind; especially as we age. And of course the medical/insurance complex fosters this and fans the flames. I was frankly shocked that following the insurance reforms with ACA, which put many of the 'Wellness" tests for medicare subjects ahead of the deductible and sans copay, that seeing an eye doctor yearly did not fall into that category. And cataract surgery patients still had the copay. At one time blindness was the leading cause of death in third world countries because that person was useless once glaucoma ruined his vision or cataracts forever clouded his vision.

And certainly when it comes to the cost of supportive care of a visually impaired individual swallowing the copay upfront is a pittance. But I have also been surprised at the number of friends on disability or medicare who did not know cataract surgery was covered at all. While such surgery is done in mass in places like India by charitable organizations here we have to go through the eye surgery mill(40 a day at Eye Associates of New Mexico), pay for expensive medications, use of facility up front, round up friends to drive us, stay overnight at a hotel, etc. In India you get to walk home with no followup instructions and no guide.

Frankly, I have been shocked at the number of forms and instructions I have had to read and fill out and sign again and again. And on colored paper and small font. I guess I should be thrilled they are not in braille. But I have had to have a reader and person to point where I sign as my vision got worse. With the decreased cost of e-readers maybe they should translate to that format so we can adjust font size to make them readable.

I used to teach adaptive skiing which included a whole range of disabilities along with blind skiers. Part of my training for that was to ski blindfolded  with a guide calling the turns. It is an awesome experience. And it allowed me to think outside my narrow box. I had expected more compensation for their visually challenged customers than I have seen as a whole so far. Would care and handling improve of every employee had to run the examination gauntlet with clouded glasses obscuring their vision?

It will be an interesting day. And I will get to do it again very soon. But I am grateful I have been put to the front of the line as it were because of the rapidity of the growth of my cataracts. I advise all my friends o not assume they have years before they have to worry about it. And to be advised it will take four months or more once you begin to worry about it.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Four More Days

Friday is the awaited cataract surgery on the right eye. This rapidly developing late unset cataract has been a daily surprise for me. And I have been looking for ways to explain it to myself and others. Today for instance my computer screen was painful to look at. It was just too white. And too bright. I toyed with putting sunglasses on over my reading glasses.

The illustration above taken from Google Images really came closest to explaining what I have been going through just since January. With most people cataracts grow slow enough that they are almost unaware of them until they are removed and the colors are richer. To me the world seems too bright and everyday too much brighter. Night driving is out. Sunrises and sunsets can be painful. A flash of light blinding. And I understand for some people light even becomes painful.

I have become very picky about light. As an artist I suppose I have always been sensitive to light but that is rather different. My studio has tons of lights on different switches and almost all on dimmers. And lately I find myself working only with a low diffused light. One that does not blast my retina. And I squint a lot to keep light out.

There is also a rapidly growing cataract in my left eye. One which my eye doctor tells me I will really be aware of after Friday's removal of the one in my right eye. So I will probably want to do this again really fast. I want that deer in the headlights feeling to go away.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Here's to Spring Snow

Washing rugs

Spring snows catch you unawares in the midst of activities undertaken to get a jump on summer. They come when you think winter was over, and you had packed away the snow boots and moved the winter coats to the upstairs closet. Stored the all weather Carharts. Gotten out the wheel barrow in preparation for some gardening.

I confess this was not put away for winter

The come gently unlike the storms of winter. They are silent with no howling winds. Wet so they melt quickly into the soil but before they go they balance flake upon flake upon every possible surface and create artistry.

Lamp with Easter Bonnet

Most winters we are tired of snows by April but this was not most winters. We had some snow early December but January, February and much of March were barren. We started dreading the tinder box of dry forests that surround us. So the wet Spring Snows have been welcome even with the puddles of mud to follow.

Snow laden trees

You can almost hear the trees sign as the heavy, wet snow, bends their branches down. This snow was gone by noon the day it fell. And by evening most of the country roads were again dry. If you slept late you would have missed it all.

Patterns of snow

It came, it melted and it went. But the trees, grass, streams and ponds know it was here. And so do us photographers who ventured out at first light to record the beauty we missed out on much of this winter.

Muskrat Crossing

I hope April brings more snows before rain. I am behind in my spring chores and gardening already. I'll wait.

BTW these are not black and white photographs but full color. Before the sun burns through the snow clouds still covering the sky the world is wonderful shades of grey with the help of snow.

Friday, April 11, 2014


Touch Me Not

It's April. More than just taxes or the end of winter tourist season. April is not spring flowers if you live in the mountains. April is suppose to be beautiful but it is not. One day winter and the next spring. And winds through it all.

No place you live can be paradise every day and if it were I am sure it would be boring. The New Mexico mountains suit me most times. I even enjoy winter mostly. And summer is never too hot. But I hate April and November. It is not just the weather or I would conspire like many of my friends to vanish during these two pivotal months. It is maybe that they vanish when so much needs to be done. Or that so much needs to be done I cannot vanish.

Or maybe that I feel there should be nothing to do in April and November. Not the case. There is taxes. And rotation of art in various exhibits. Or getting another painting done for the next show. Or no money left after the taxes, getting prints for the last show, etc.

Diets begin in April and November - let's get rid of that winter weight or not put any on this winter.

In April we realize nothing has changed in spite of the results of the last election and in November we realize our votes meant nothing.

April and November are mud and flood seasons.

This April I have looked out over my property and the surrounding hills and realized there is no snow to melt. And am reminded it has been so long since a flood down my little creek I question its survival.

To this April fate has added the cataracts. I think I would have preferred the slow growing types but I have never done anything normally and nobody gave me a choice.

April seems to be about no choices. Death and Taxes conundrum. For the rest of the world the death rate goes up in February. Here it seems to be April. As if everyone was just going to make it through winter. Mardi Gras did. I remembering looking out on the property in November and wondering if I should did a hole before the ground froze just in case. She is 14 and in ill health. I didn't and now the ground is thawed. I should begin garden prep. But Monday my dentist of twenty plus years had a massive stroke. They are closing the office.

That is the other thing which happens in April (and November). Businesses close and couples file for divorce. Our three mechanic town is now down to two. It was a poor ski season and no doubt many of our business owners on their April escape with taxes are debating whether or not to continue. In a good year they are hiring contractors to make improvements. No doubt summer will mean fewer contractors too.

Yes, we survived the winter. But will be survive April.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

What do you see?

Rain, steam and speed by Turner

Early in my return to painting I was asked frequently why I did not do traditional watercolors but instead used vivid colors. Where they got the idea that watercolors were always pastel in palette I had no idea because I had been exposed in college to Turner among others. But my reply to potential clients was that I painted what I remembered seeing. I would go out and take photographs and come back and upload them to my camera and always be a bit disappointed. I remembered the rocks redder, the sun brighter, the sky more vividly blue.

A recent eye exam has shown that I have rapidly developing cataracts. And that has raised the question of what it is I do see. Did Turner also have cataracts and see the world blurry like I do without my glasses? El Greco, it is believed had a condition that elongated what he saw. So maybe his paintings were what he did see and not some artistic distortion.

The creation of the camera gave rise to impressionism because the artist no longer had to faithfully record what he saw. But to we really know what they did see? Was Whistler colorblind. Or Dali truly mad? Did cataracts make all of Van Gogh's lights blur and glow?

I am pretty comfortable with what I see in my studio and even on my computer with glasses. My distance vision does not seem yet effected though I am told the world will be brighter after surgery. But it seems bright enough because lights are like Van Gogh's Starry. Starry Night. Beethoven wrote the Ninth Symphony when he was almost totally deaf.

But yesterday when I had to register my new pickup I realized how much of the minutia of the legal world I was missing out on. Under florescent lights (which are cool in color and vibrate at 60 megahertz) I seriously could not read a thing on the title glasses or no glasses. I should have brought a seeing eye person because the clerk was absolutely no help whatever.

The invention of the printing press and then movable type was a boon to the dissemination of information. But the computer has made it possible to make print smaller and smaller and smaller.  And fortunately someone invented the e-book so we can change the font back larger - i.e. readable. But our legal system has realized it can make required legal language so small nobody can read it. Like the warnings on drugs, or the ingredients on food labels, or the small print on your cell phone contract.

And I belong to the contact lens generation. We want to look good even as we age. I do not what to have to get out my readers in the grocery aisle, or a magnifying glass at the department of motor vehicles. Nor ask the push clerk at Verison to read the contract to me before I sign.

I swallowed my pride yesterday and asked the clerk where was I suppose to sign and she either pointed to the wrong place or misunderstood the question or I misunderstood her answer. But the title got signed in the wrong place and the pickup did not get registered.  My mistake but the seller has to take the time to file and affidavit as if it were his mistake. Can society come up with more ways to shame its elders?

BTW if that is what Turner saw what a fantastic gift!