I’ve had cataract surgery recently, and I am amazed at the results. Cataract surgery could be the poster child for Western medicine. It so perfectly exemplifies what we’re good at . . . upgrading the body’s mechanics. There’s not much in an old lady’s operating system that can be improved, but my vision is now better than it has ever been in my life.
It’s been a curious experience. The amber film had grown over my eyes so gradually, so subtly that I never knew it was there. In the past year I came to be aware of a rainbow halo around streetlights and around the moon, too, but the vivid colors were rather enchanting. Nothing to complain of, certainly.
I came, however, to be enormously grateful for electronic readers that allow me to adjust both the light and the size of print. I wouldn’t have minded finding such a device to read street signs. And night driving grew more difficult, especially in rain with lights glaring off the pavement.
So when told it was time, I went in for the surgery gratefully.
The results were startling. First eye, 20/20. Second eye the same. That’s distance vision, but I can, without reading glasses, still read a newspaper with relative ease. I will, as soon as the new eyes have settled enough for another exam to be reliable, go back to my comfortable bifocals with no correction for distance. Keeping track of readers is a nuisance. Besides, it will be a comfort to put glasses on again and leave them in place. My face feels naked without them.
But the most curious result of this fix, more surprising than my suddenly improved vision, is the change in the quality of light. The world is suddenly brighter, whiter. I’ve been in the house I’m in for about six years, and I’ve always turned on daytime lights because wide eaves and big trees make the house dark. Or at least they used to make the house dark.
Suddenly with my new eyes, I need few lights in the daytime.
Most curious, though, is my bedroom wall. A couple of years ago I painted one long wall a rich gold to match the gold in the Vermont quilt I keep on my bed. And I have been utterly satisfied with my color choice, both for quilt and wall. The gold is so warm.
Now I walk into my bedroom and stop. Stop cold. Is that the color I chose? That arresting gold? In quilt and wall, too? The gold is so bright!
Which brings me to the end of a long and very personal meander, no use to anyone unless you happen to be anticipating cataract surgery and are curious about what to expect.
I’m left, though, with one final thought. The gold paint on my bedroom wall. I find myself questioning it again and again and again. And wondering.
Is there anything in the world we don’t see through the fog of our own personal cataract? And yet I have always thought my vision uniquely true.
Perhaps, it occurs to me at this ripe age, my eye isn’t the only test.
If I check the gold of my vision against the gold of yours, I might even find a reality that encompasses both.