Update: My Aging Eyes

I went to see an eye surgeon today, so I can update my earlier post on the problem with my aging eyes.

It turns out that the operation to clean up my retina (a vitrectomy) would do some good, but improve my vision only somewhat. And much as it bugs me, my left eye isn’t really that bad. In fact, if I had only that eye, I would still pass a driving test.

So: some improvement but marginal.

On  the other hand  it’s surgery. As in cutting open the eye, sucking out the fluid, removing the gunk from the retina and putting it all back together. Six months to heal. Cataract within a year, guaranteed.

So: worse, then better (but not completely), then worse, then better (with an artificial lens)  but still not what it was.

At this point I think I will leave well enough alone. Maybe of I develop cataracts later in life I’ll get the vitrectomy at the same time. Maybe there will be a better process by then.

Read more on vitrectomy at Wikipedia

Movements of the Heart

Back in the mid-1970s, when photography was still pretty new to me, a collection of a dozen images came together and crossed paths with an ancient Chinese oracle.

This was shortly after graduating from university with my BSc (Physics), while I was at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Education in Toronto. I was living near High Park, and photographed there pretty often. I created some images of rocks and trees in the Park, and moisture on my apartment windows, and I felt that they were all strongly related in both composition and mood. There were four each of rock, wood and water. Not only did each image have a flow, leading the eye in a particular way, but also a kind of visual energy – a dynamism. The four images in each set (rock, wood, water) held a story arc through conflict, separation, coming together and resolution. It was as if the four sets were telling a repeated story.

I wanted a title for the twelve images, and came up with a working title of Movements of The Heart.

(Continued below image)

Oracle Movements of The Heart
Movements of The Heart

Around the time, someone gave me a copy of Legge’s I Ching, The Book of Changes. It’s an ancient Chinese guide to proper living, based on tossing coins to produce patterns. I have no idea why it was given to me, mysticism being pretty far from anything to do with me. Anyway, I decided to toss the coins, with the question in mind of what the title should be for my set of twelve images. Note that I had already found my working title: Movements of The Heart

The diagram that resulted was Hexagram 52 – Keeping Still, Mountain (http://ichingfortune.com/legge-hexagrams/52.php)

Oracle I_Ching Hexagram 52
Hexagram 52

Here are a couple of excerpts from the interpretation of the hexagram:

The Mountain denotes stopping or resting; resting when it is the time to rest, and acting when it is the time to act.

The heart thinks constantly… but the movements of the heart – that is, a man’s thoughts – should restrict themselves to the immediate situation. All thinking that goes beyond this only makes the heart sore.

So that kind of surprised me – having my working title appear word-for-word in the hexagram I had thrown as a lark. I have always loved coincidences like this, but this one has really stuck with me over the decades – 2/3 of my life at this point.

And I still love the images, and even though I still have some original prints (produced with my enlarger on a folding table perched over my apartment’s toilet, where I had to time my exposures for when the streetcar wasn’t shaking the building) I am happy to be able to scan the negatives and make new prints.

I even found a fourth set.  I had originally hoped for 16 images back then, because there are four chambers in the heart, and 16 images would be four images in each of four sets. If you look at the set “Flow”, you will be among the first ever to see them. I didn’t print them back then, and I still haven’t (Jan 2018).

My eyes are aging

My eyes are aging – it happens to us all – but not gracefully. In 2014, while cycling in Germany, something a bit drastic happened inside my left eye. It quite literally, or at least physically, changed the way I see the world. And not for the better.

Here’s what happened, how I felt at the time, and what I now know, and how I feel about that, too.

First – a coincidence. I love coincidences. In the morning of the day – June 20 – I first noticed that my left eye had a problem. There was a huge floater spanning the entire height of my visual field. I have always had floaters, but this was something else! I was pretty worried, but didn’t think I needed to do anything until we were back home. Now for the coincidence. Have a look at this picture:

See that little blob top-centre? That’s actually a bit of crud that got into my camera and settled onto the sensor. It happend with cameras with interchangable lenses. But it looks like a small version of the floater that had appeared that morning. Wierd, eh?

So anyway – back home in Ontario, I went to see my optometrist right away, and they sent me to a local opthalmologist. That doctor took me to the local hospital for some immediate laser surgery to weld tears in my retina. Seems that back in Germany. One of the roots of the vitreous humour – the goo inside the eye – had ripped through the retuna and torn it.

Not done yet…. After that (i.e. same night), I had to go to St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and get a lot more eye-welding done. Like over 100 laser shots, I think.


Since them there have been no straight lines in my left eye’s vision – everything is a bit jagged and crooked. And a bit blurry, and the huge floater is still there, with lots of little friends. Oh – and double vision, too, can’t forget that… The blurriness and double vision come and goes, though. And the right eye is just fine, and I am very right-eye dominant, so that’s good.

So if we’re talking and you see me start to close my left eye a bit, I’m not nodding off (usually) – I just see more clearly that way sometimes, when my left eye is being bad.

Recently I went to see another opthalmologist for a follow-up examination, and learned some interesting things. First, some scans of my right eye’s retina:

You can see the dent that is the central part of the retina – the most sensitive part – and the network of veins around it. That’s how it should look.

So here’s the left eye:

You can see how the central part has no dent – it has a thick layer over it, in white in the images, hence the blurring etc. Seems that was caused by cells leaking through from behind the retina when the root tore through – they colonized the front of the retina and grew there.

Anyway, it turns out that I could have that surgically removed, and that might even take out the big floater! Huh! What do you think?

Inspirations & Aspirations

Minor White | Edward Weston | Richard Avedon | Margaret Bourke-White | Ansel Adams | Walker Evans | W Eugene Smith | Dorothea Lange | Edward Burtynsky | Diane Arbus | Paul Strand | Lewis Hine | Shin Sugino | Man Ray | Harry Callahan | André Kertész | Group of Seven (+) | Abstract Impressionists | Peggy Stevens | Margaret Atwood | Roo Borson | George Bowering | Susan Musgrave | Christopher Dewdney | A K Dewdney | Heisenberg | Existentialism | Elizabeth May | Bill McKibben | Naomi Klein | Leah Buechley | William Gibson | Beethoven | Douglas Cardinal | China Miéville | Paolo Bacigalupi | Al Gore | Georgia O’Keeffe | Garry Winogrand | Jeff Nye | Jerry Uelsmann | …