Wide-eyed Wonder: an artist's musings on three-dimensional vision

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Less than half full

with 4 comments

I lost the moon the other day. When I bent to see it out the passenger car window, the car roof blocked my left eye, but not my right. The moon hid itself in the blind half of my right eye. It was quite a surprise! Thankfully, I don’t normally see things disappear in this way.

It’s been over 3 months since my vision loss from the branch retinal artery occlusion (BRAO) and I am pretty resigned to not regaining my central vision. The blindness in the upper half is a bit more than half, making reading impossible with the affected eye, and eye-teaming by pointing both eyes at the same thing at the same time next to impossible. My tests with the Brock string reveal a partial string in front of the bead that my right eye cannot see without a conscious effort to look above the bead (photo illustration here).

My decision to pursue more vision therapy to gain stereopsis is pretty much settled: if I could read with the right eye and see the Brock bead easily, I would go for it. But alas, I cannot. When it comes to seeing 3D, my glass is less than half full.

I do have one friend who has urged me not to fully resign myself to permanent loss until six months have passed. He also had BRAO and regained more vision in months 4-6. However, the retinologist said the ischemic tissue would resolve in about 3 months, so I’m mostly resigned at this point.

And so I have begun to grieve a bit. When watching the best documentary of Dr. Susan Barry’s (aka “Stereo Sue”) story yet (Imagine: The Man Who Forgot How to Read and Other Stories, Part 3 beginning at minute 11) I felt that I would never be able to see the front end of a Toyota (minute 14:14) with anything close to her jubilation over it’s roundness … I got misty-eyed when the film ended with Oliver Sacks sadness over his stereo loss (Sue’s gain is compaired to Dr. Sack’s loss in part 4). That night the family cat breathed her last, and the next morning the torrents flowed over the dual losses. My husband was relieved to see me cry, finally.

My self-portrait is another step in the grief process. Today, I took advantage of the cracked side of the mirror and left the top of my head in a vignette to illustrate not so much what I see, but how my impairment can feel at times. I’ve felt the need to do this portrait before pursuing my art again. (I still can’t make a nose pop out like it should!)

The good news is that my brain has smoothly pieced together a complete visual field. I actually do see a near-complete picture without wrinkles or cracks, but sadly, this is because my right eye is almost fully suppressed. I am a master suppressor, having suppressed my left eye for no real reason all my life right up to March 26th. I was beginning to overcome this rogue suppression when the BRAO hit. Now, ironically, suppression is helpful.

I only see my blind veil when the left eye is occluded by the bridge of my nose, most often when I turn to look behind my right shoulder to back up the car. At those times, I rely on my recently learned ability to look above what I need to see. Nothing is clear, but movement and large objects can be detected out of the corner of my right eye. Needless to say, I avoid backing up the car as much as possible, and do so very slowly when I absolutely have no choice.

I frightened myself passing a box truck last week. I felt way too close to the truck when I quickly got back into my lane after realizing the oncoming pickup truck was much closer than I had first determined. I felt it was a close call, and I’m sure the other drivers thought I was out of my head!

When not encumbered by driving, my summer hours in the outdoors have been delightful. I attribute this to a ramped-up sense of motion parallax. This week, picking blueberries and pruning are challenging my brain and eyes to orient myself in space. These are visually demanding situations where “where” is more important than “what.” When I make a move, the branches of bushes and trees diverge and converge just like a 2D video game. What fun! I also routinely search for and destroy the random leaves of returning poison ivy with carefully aimed squirts of herbicide, first-person shooter style.

Inside the Northern  Laurel Oak

I really sensed space inside my magnificent Laurel Oak, but alas, a photo doesn't capture volumes of air.

Occasionally, I thrill over my sense of what Susan Barry calls “palpable space” as well as the heightened textures of grass, weeds, and even asphalt. This is probably because I am seeing the world through my “other” eye and the viewpoint and perspective are new. While hanging laundry, I truly sense the space between the moving clothes-lines and pins. Sometimes, I am enchanted by the hollow spaces inside trees, and the “float” of the lily pads on my pond. I can see “under” the wire mesh deck table when I bob up and down in my deck chair in the evening cool. I see the space inside my coffee cup (this I consider to be true stereo). It is all a delight to my inner child.

So much of the world in my new, 5-acre homestead (photos here) is a rediscovery of childhood delights: stars at night and glorious moonshadow; weeds I haven’t seen since childhood blooming in delicate flower at the edges of the pond. We even have bats at sunset, that swoop over the pond in amazing aerobatics as they scoop up their insect meals: another childhood memory from my Nana’s summer cottage in New Jersey. When a cold front comes through, the clouds dance over the house and fields …

I can still be amazed at everything I see. I still SEE, and so my half-empty stereo-vision cup overflows.

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4 Responses

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  1. Linda,

    I’m so sorry for the losses you’ve been experiencing lately. I’ll be keeping you in my prayers. Glad to hear you’re allowing the tears. In my experience, once I let them flow I begin to wonder why I fought them so hard.

    Take care, and keep enjoying your beautiful new home & land!

    Jessica Walters

    July 12, 2011 at 9:40 pm

  2. Lynda, I think I think of you every day. I guess that’s all I have to say. :)

    Sally

    July 31, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    • I, too, think of you often. Was just surfing sovoto.com and this popped out from one of Sue Barry’s comments and made me think of your current struggles with flat fusion vs. my “seeing” differently and more 3D-like every now and then in real life. The latter is actually easier!

      “While many consider stereovision to proceed in three steps ie simultaneous perception, flat fusion, and stereopsis, this does not really fit with the way we see. For example, we never see a lion with one eye and a cage with the other and then conclude that the lion is in the cage! Simultaneous perception is not a natural way of seeing. Dr. Frederick Brock maintained that stereopsis is a more natural and easier process to acquire than flat fusion or simultaneous perception. This is what i discovered.” http://www.sovoto.com/group/adultstrabismicpatientsforum/forum/topics/infantile-esotropia

      Stress and stereo are incompatible. When I am hurried, forget it! I just don’t have the time or desire to see well! When stereo is demanded of me, or I demand it of myself, I just can’t do it. This is the biggest reason why I haven’t been back to the VT office. I am NEVER relaxed there.

      But when I’ve had a glass of wine, or am simply physically tired and pause and take a deep relaxing breath with an empty head, the world often looks amazing. It stops me cold and I just can’t stop looking at what I’m SEEing.

      I really truly saw my nose for the first time about 10 days after posting this and whining about never seeing my nose in 3D. I was dog tired at the end of a day of hard physical labor and flossing when my upper teeth popped out like a horse’s teeth. Then … I saw my nose! Oh it was wonderful! And I was swishing mouthwash and watching my cheeks pop out. Reeeellly OUT. So amazing …

      Lynda Rimke

      August 1, 2011 at 9:17 pm


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