Dreams and Sight*

When I was younger, I used to have a reoccurring dream in which I was light enough so that if I took a deep enough breath and jumped from a high enough height, the air in my lungs would keep me aloft. It wasn’t flight, exactly, more a kind of floating. Like the kind of floating I would do in a pool on my back, the movement from the bodies elsewhere in the pool causing the water to gently move me about. In the dream, I would hang suspended in the air, floating face down, watching things on the ground below me as I let the air currents move me about of their own accord like the water had. No one saw me, not because I was invisible, but because no one was looking. It was this part of the dream that always made it feel sad somehow, not the part of the dream where the buoyancy of my limbs would slowly fade away and I would drift softly to the ground. I didn’t want to miss anything because, like those dream people, I was too busy to keep looking.

I had poor vision as a child, saw vivid sight as a gift I was afraid to someday lose. Considered legally blind, without the aid of glasses or contacts I could not cross a street. I couldn’t see the walk signs; the colors on the traffic light bled into one another so that I couldn’t tell if it was green or red; it was just black instead. Whole objects would entirely disappear on broader backgrounds, wall clocks, framed pictures, light switches, as my brain made the expanses of walls become a continuous swath of same color, with no distinguishing characteristics visible. And perhaps it is because my sight was poor as a child that I became so concerned with looking, observing, noting the details I saw in journals or poems, even stories.

When I had surgery to repair my eyes as an adult, it was the color green I noticed first. I hadn’t known so many shades of green existed. So many fine shades, all available to me now. For years I had walked around the world believing I understood what green was, only to learn after surgery that I had been profoundly mistaken. Yet there are still so many shades these human eyes simply cannot grasp. Though I see better than a pit viper (or at least differently), I am not a butterfly or bee, able to see colors in the ultraviolet range. Better still to be a mantis shrimp, with up to 16 photo-receptors to put my paltry human 3 to shame. Still, I am saturated with sight, drunk on details. I never intend to stop looking.

I thought of this dream again as I sat a few days ago with my son sobbing himself to sleep on my lap as the pain from the teeth he had coming in was too much for even the Tylenol to tame.  As he lay there, head nestled on my chest, I felt anything but light, 23 pounds of toddler, sweaty, snotty, and tear stained holding me down, rooting me to earth instead of sky. And I thought of how in the dream those people walking about missed all that was magic because they were too busy to be looking, and so, though I had work still to do, I instead watched my son fall sleep, watched his chest rise and fall smoothly, watched his tiny hands unfist, watched his limbs relax into my body, his lips pink against his skin. I watched all the brown strands of his fine dark hair as some of them caught the light, glinting. I watched all those brilliant shades of brown frame his face, a face which holds two brown eyes that, when he woke, would look up. What would he see? Just my face. Just the light casting shadows on the ceiling. Maybe someday, instead, something buoyant, aloft in the sky.

*(note to readers–sorry for the delay in between posts. a near month of child illness in between working five jobs made finding time for writing a challenge)

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