My Mind’s Wandering Eye
Let’s just say I’ve got an active inner life and leave it at that.
At some point last night, I couldn’t remember where I’d put my glasses. I had them on all day, and would take them off ever so often to rub the bridge of my nose, or place them in my shirt pocket while I tackled the multiflora rose that snaked it’s way up the tree next to the wood pile to the north of the sweat lodge. For that particular job, I’d set them down on the arm of a trash-picked glider bench that fits perfectly in the grassy and pine-shaded area of the lodge circle, making more than one mental note to retrieve them once it was time to head back to the house.
Which I thought I’d done, but wandering from room to room through the house as dusk grew thicker outside, I couldn’t remember putting them back on my face, or having them on when I came up the path to the mudroom door. I walked back out to the lodge twice before resigning their location to the darkness outside, or worse, the darkening edges of my memory. I won’t lie—it unsettled me more than I wanted to admit last night, my late father’s final dementia-wrapped years still fresh and occasionally raw in my mind. At what point did he start to notice a few missed details to a familiar story? How often had he retraced his steps looking for his own glasses?
At the end of a physically taxing day, all I wanted was a good long soak in the tub with a couple of Mary Jane’s Farm magazines from 2016 and the scent of eucalyptus and spearmint bath salts surrounding me in a gentle steam. But without my specs, I’d just be sitting there looking at blurry photos an arms length away from my face. I had an old pair, a three-year old prescription with scratched lenses and really kicky frames (I mourned the passing of these as my daily pair—I felt so Eileen Fisher model-like in them, and now used them as jazzy safety glasses for dangerously fun tasks involving power tools and flying wood chips); they’d do in a pinch for candlelit bath-time reading, but I couldn’t wear them all day without getting a headache. I put them on and hoped the current pair would turn up before work on Monday.
Just having a second pair through which I could still make out the finer details of a photo and the caption below it puts me on the “rich” end of the socioeconomic continuum. With the devastation from hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas still hours old, it was natural to take another at look at my circumstances and know in an instant that I’m damn lucky. I realized this before the sun went down. Scratched as they were, this back-up set would have gotten me through the workday and back to the eyeglass store where I’d have ordered a replacement pair that would arrive in 7-10 business days. For such convenience, I’d push through a mild “wrong prescription” headache because I’d know it was temporary.
And even as troubling as it was to not recall the exact moment or location where I’d put my glasses down and then became fully present to something entirely different, I knew in my gut that I wasn’t at Alzheimer’s doorstep quite yet; by the time the sun disappears below the tree line to the west and I’ve gathered my tools and dumped the last load of branches for the day, I’m tired enough to make fifty-some years of English my second language. I’m not thirty anymore. I’m just grateful that my limbs still know the dance of hard work and my mind knows when to call it a day. It’s an inner signal I’m learning to obey, and willingly. I buffed the scratched lenses of the back-up pair with a soft cloth, read a few more recipes toward the end of the July-August issue and fell asleep. Rich indeed.
In the morning, when the sun had cleared the tall stalks of goldenrod, I put on my yellow chicken boots and made a third trip out to the sweat lodge, all the way down the path asking the Creator to have pity on my not-thirty-year-old eyes and help me remember where I’d put my glasses. Near the trash-picked glider was a pile of mouse-chewed blue and black utility blankets, the kind you can buy from the U-Haul when you’re renting a box truck to move your stuff. Patrick said he’d shaken them out gently last night—maybe my glasses had fallen from the armrest and landed somewhere among the quilted folds. But he found nothing, and that was that. But I hadn’t checked there and maybe he missed something in the gathering darkness. I pulled the first one carefully from the top of the pile and out tumbled my glasses, the lenses dotted with drops of dew, but not a scratch on them. Huh. A grateful smile spread across my face, and, head down, I sent my thanks upward and across the field.
So my only pair of glasses had a little adventure last night—so what? Did the raccoons in the old pasture take turns putting them on and mimicking the way I called the chickens to roost for the night or squinted into a patch of clover looking for the elusive four-leaf ones? Were the Spirits teaching me a lesson about possessions and carelessness? Or was I just tired from the day’s work, my mind turning off the computer and lights and clocking out until morning? Magical thinking, all of it, I know. But I enjoyed writing the ending of this tiny chapter in my life at the same time I was living it.
I’m rich enough to own two functioning pairs of glasses, sharp enough to know where I’ve put them, and humble enough to take neither of these for granted.