Most people assume Nature exists somewhere between arm's length and the horizon. Isn't that where we're accustomed to pointing our curiosity, to finding beauty and wonder?
But that assumption's not necessarily true; I have to keep reminding myself that Nature’s never any farther away than my own skin. For there, on me and in me, resides a whole other world of small wonders, just waiting to be discovered.
One of these little, inner wonders in particular has always fascinated me. Not for
its size or speed or any elegant design, but because to find it you have to close
It fascinates me, not for its size or speed or any elegant design, but because to find it you have to close your eyes.
OUT, DAMNED SPOT!
Just the other day I was out sitting on the deck, enjoying the very early spring that's sprung here in Minnesota. I was facing right into the sun, and even though my eyes were shut I was struck by how much there was to see.
My field of vision was flooded in bright, fiery red-orange, the result of that powerful light penetrating my translucent, blood-laced eyelids. Every so often a cloud would drift across the sun, muting the glow to a sumptuous deep burgundy.
Against this dramatic backdrop, one of the human body’s most arcane little quirks stood out like bugs on a TV screen: floaters. Floaters are actually shadows cast on the retina (the eye’s light receptor) by tiny clumps of cells or of the gel inside the vitreous, the clear jelly-like substance that fills the eye.
Nature’s never any farther away than our own skin.
Floaters look like tiny organic shapes dangled here and there in front of your eyes (if your eyes were open, that is). Mine look like little bits of thread or lint. They’re there all the time, whether your eyes are open or shut. When they're open, though, your vista's usually so filled with a busy pattern of other stuff that you don’t notice them.
FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY
Once I notice my floaters, a little game ensues. I pick out the biggest, most complex one and try to look right at it. Trouble is, it’s located a few degrees off of center, just to the left of where I’m looking.
Try as I might to look right at it, the moment my eye moves so does the floater, staying always slightly peripheral. Like a young Mohammed Ali, it glides back and forth at will, just beyond the reach of its hapless opponent's best jab.
This is made all the more maddening by the slight lag time between when I move my gaze and when the shape follows! I imagine it being on an elastic leash. When I tug, at first it doesn’t move; it only stretches the leash. Then, a fraction of a second later, the energy transfers to the object, which then slides greasily—alas, not to where I want it, but again just to the left.
How ironic that the only way you can stop looking at something is by opening your eyes!
I always tire of this losing game after a few minutes. I open my eyes and try ignoring the floaters. This is easier said than done. What would happen, I imagine, if I couldn't stop seeing them? I'm thinking this could drive a person nuts! Fortunately, it never takes me long to tune them out.
Still, how ironic—some might say demonic—that the only way you can stop looking at something is by opening your eyes!
HERE'S LOOKIN' AT YOU
Do you have floaters? Let the rest of us know what that's like for you. Do you rue the day you first noticed them, or have you found ways to make peace with them—perhaps even celebrate them?
We'd love to hear from you!