Thoughts: On Going Blind

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I am, I think, going blind.

The woman I love brought it to my attention last night when she commented that I haven’t painted in a while. Which is true. My studio has been pretty quiet the last month or two. So has my camera.

When something changes, I like to look at it, to try and understand why and so I spent a fair amount of time last night lying in bed and trying to understand why.

For me, art, almost all art, hinges on an ability to see things, to capture the life in a moment or an event or place and take that moment from the ordinary to something that shouts or whispers that life. And I am just not seeing that spark right now. I don’t know why.

Depression? That’s always my go-to answer when I am flat, because it has been my nemesis for a long, long time. But I’m not showing the signs, or feeling the darkness too strongly these days. I don’t have to fight to wake up. I don’t have to struggle terribly hard through my day. I wake up ready to go. I am productive. I enjoy things. Life is good.

Too busy? Nope. I have been busier the last month or two than normal, true. Work’s picked up. It was the holiday season at church and that is always extra busy for us pastor types. I’ve got both of my kids up here in Vermont for a while, and that means I get to spend time with them, more time than normal. But there are still chunks of time to do art and photography. And I have set out to do some of that work more than once. I have even done some of it and the results were shots and work that was technically good, but somehow, flat. Lifeless. No, I don’t think it’s the busyness.

A lack ot turmoil? Maybe. There are some who argue that conflict and turmoil are where much good work comes from. And right now, I am in a rare period of peace. I am not struggling with anything of any consequence. My God and I are at peace. My relationships are stable. Bills are being paid and l like my work more than most people like theirs. I have a wonderful woman in my life. So life is on a very even keel .

I still write. Every day. In my journal. Poetry. Essays. My “blindness” has not affected my writing. Some tell me I am doing some of my best and most intriguing work right now. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know I currently have no trouble writing. It is flowing easily, constantly.

But the same is not true of visual things. It’s just not happening.

And I have no idea why.

So why write about it, particularly if I have no solutions? No lessons to share with others?

Because for me writing is part of how I work through things. There seems to be something in the writing that focuses my mind and thoughts. It is as if by putting it out there, as if admitting there is an issue, a problem, a change and laying it all out there empties me, and leaves room for something new. Writing is how I declutter my mind and emotions. And in the decluttering, there becomes room for new things. Or a return of the old.

I’ve always done that. I didn’t realize it for a long time. I just did it. But all that therapy done a decade ago taught me a lot of things about how I work. And this is one of those things.

I don’t worry about the dry spells anymore. I only worry if I don’t show up to do the work. If I don’t take time to write. If I stop taking pictures. If I stop painting, something is not right. So, I have to admit, something is not right. And that something is, I think, that I am not seeing beyond the obvious right now.

Oh how that used to scare me! Writer’s block terrified me. Not producing gave me the willies. I was sure, absolutely sure, it would never come back. In the first few months of therapy, my therapist told me to begin writing again, after a long hiatus. I struggled with it. I struggled with it for a long time. It was just one more failure to add to my sense of failure that came from my divorce. One more thing lost. One more thing I would never get back. One more wall to beat my head against.

But of course, it did come back. That was my lesson. If something is truly part of who we are, it always comes back. We just have to keep doing the work and opening ourselves to it. It may mean we have to do some bad work (You should see my last couple of paintings. UGH!). If we do persist, if we do stay open to that spark, it comes back to us. Or we come back to it. (I am never sure which it is.), I have seen and experience this in every part of my life – art, faith, love – everything that matters. Act in faith, stay the course, do the work and it will come back. It always does.

So right now, I am a blind man taking pictures. A blind man painting and ruining canvases. That’s Ok. In time, the miracle will happen and the blind will see again.

And it will be glorious.

And maybe that is the other lesson. That at times we have to lose things for a while to understand their real value. It’s a shame, but we do take things for granted. It’s human nature. And when they are suddenly gone, we rediscover their full value. And we hold them even closer to our heart. So I will keep at it, bad work, flat images and all, until it comes back.

And, to repeat myself, it will be glorious.

Be well. Travel wisely,

Tom

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