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

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

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Relax. Let go. Give your brain permission.

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I’ve been following this VT patient’s progress reports with interest. Today’s post “Stop trying so hard and just SEE” mentions a common hurdle to diverging our eyes, the ability to RELAX those rogue eye turn-in muscles! “Stop LOOKING” my VT would often say. LOOKING to isolate something normally fixates both eyes on an object, or in my case, unconsciously fixates one eye while turning in and suppressing the out-of-alignment image of the other. “Soften your gaze” was another frequent VT exhortation.

1218randotLast week, random dots did the trick of NOT LOOKING for this VT patient, and I think I understand why. The randomness of the thing viewed eliminates the worry about getting a “right” answer, and therefore is less stressful than “Is the elephant or the fly popping out for you?” which can trigger frantic LOOKING.

Randomness is the opposite of representation, therefore the brain lets go of the need to comprehend and interpret an object. As an artist who strives to accurately represent objects, a good dose of randomness may be exactly what my brain needs to stop trying so hard.

This is why, for me, letting go also requires giving myself permission to allow a new way of seeing to emerge, to be visually open-minded.

I’m rejoicing that random dot stereograms are working for this patient to overcome her eye turn-in along with the many awesome mind-opening exercises her Vision Therapist is tailoring to wake up her brain.

By letting go and giving herself permission to see a new way, her world is opening up into the third dimension I long to experience.

 

Eyes Contact Redux (or what happened in the optometrist’s office, part 1)

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0724-2009relating

“The Colors of Relating” 19 x 24″ pastel on Canson paper by Lynda Rimke, 2009 Akron Society of Artists Open Model Night for Akron ArtWalk 

During my vision therapy hiatus, I would from time to time succeed at looking at both my eyes in the mirror in the way most people make eye contact, “the act of looking directly into one another’s eyes.” 1

My felt need for mirror-practice is because “Strabismus … interferes with normal eye contact: a person whose eyes are not aligned usually makes full eye contact with one eye only, while the orientation of the other eye deviates slightly or more.” 2 I wrote more about this in 2010 where I had recently discovered the difference:

“Most people make two-eyed contact, with right eyes gazing into left and left into right. Al enlighted me of this fact only last week. It’s really eyes contact.” 3

While mirror practice is really right to right eye and left to left, softening my gaze to see both eyes at the same time achieves the same purpose. Since starting back on the Brock String in late June, I have been practicing in the mirror more.

When I explained this to my optometrist on Tuesday, he wanted to see if I could pull it off. For a second or so I couldn’t get it, then I tilted my head just slightly to the right. Then it happened: my first full connection with another human being— Real. Full. Eye Contact.

“You tilted your head,” he noted, and then warmly related how sometimes his vision doubles and head tilting is a way to get binocular function back. While I am not happy that this is happening to him, I am comforted in that whatever research he will be doing for me may also be of benefit to him.

I also used the Brock String with him holding the other end. My nervousness and the angle of the string, and difficult overhead office lighting made for less than ideal conditions. I think I got the “magic X” through the yellow center bead only for a millisecond or two at 15” and was not able to converge and diverge between the closer green bead and yellow bead.

But I digress. The actual genuine eye contact was THE huge milestone with psychological and social significance. I fake genuine eye contact pretty well, as my misalignment is now so slight as to be practically imperceptible to others. But I am always missing the connection by half. To have made that full connection, even for clinical purposes, is huge.

I mentioned this at dinner, after taking in a 3D movie with my folks and husband on Saturday. Dad, who claims to have always had a “lazy eye” took immediate interest, and we attempted genuine eye contact. I was surprised when he told me he was alternating, and I (and my husband next to me) could see his eyes doing it! We’ve suspected that my condition runs through his family, but this was an “Aha!” moment to see his alternating esophoria (or tropia) in action. We laughed at our struggle and then lovingly made left “good” eye to left “good” eye contact.

My husband has become the next victim, as I will not let go of my goal to improve my newfound full-eye-contact skills, and he happens to be the most handy human being around. We normally do a lot of talking with occasional face contact. He too, grew up with an impairment to real eye contact: congenital cataracts and coke-bottle glasses. I’m sure this is what made him easy to be around at first, as this made him undemanding in the eye contact arena. I did not mind tunneling down through his glasses with my one good eye. While the pop-bottle lenses are long gone, gaining that full eye connection has been a challenge, because face contact has been nothing less than eye contact in his mind his whole life and all that I felt I could easily accomplish. But he is patiently putting up with me, and why not? Every enduring marriage needs a little magic!

Written by Lynda Rimke

July 24, 2016 at 2:22 pm

Brock Exercise Notes

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June 27 – afternoon. my first time to Brock in a long long time. I was amazed that I could start out at 12 inches. I was also amazed that when looking softly over the yellow center bead I could get the double image of the rear red bead.

June 28 – afternoon. After a tiring day at work. Again I was able to successfully see the yellow bead at 12″with an “X” through it. But not much took place after that.

July 4 – late morning. More rested. I was able right away to nail yellow Bead it 12 inches. Then briefly, I could back it off to about 18 inches. But this only lasted for a millisecond. Then the whole thing deteriorated.
My other observation is that the right string image is always stronger in front of the bead I am converging on and the left string image is completely strong behind it. This confirms what I felt initially after the BRAO that my brain is vertically aligning upper and lower images from both eyes.

0719brocklog July 9 – walked by my Brock string for the umpteenth time and told myself “Look— it will only take three minutes!” This time I decided not place the yellow bead at a specific place but just grab the first 12” mark near the front green bead and look. I was surprised that I could converge at 21”!

July 10 – late morning, right after massage. Right off the bat I got 25”. Then things got a little wobbly. I got interrupted, but I was able to regroup and see the bead at 20”. I would call that an improvement!

Later that day or the day after, I see my fingers for the first time in 3-D. They were interlaced on my lap, with tips popping out toward me, and looking physically SOLID. It was so awesome I unlaced my right hand and just stoked those solid looking fingertips and then re-laced them once or twice. “So this is what REAL fingers look like.”

It was an almost spiritual experience, making this new connection with my own hands, and so I gave thanks for this new vision I didn’t even ask for. Grace …

July 14 – evening, after a long day on the road. Only managed 15″ convergence and that with only half the X: the right eye image of the string in front and left eye image of string in back of the center bead.
I decided after this poor “X” showing to pick blueberries for visual and emotional therapy. “Fast Cars” from U2’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb played in my head. It fit my anxious mood in a happy U2 sort of way. The tomato plants were begging to be tied in the garden behind me, and the piles of laundry and dirty dishes were waiting inside. It all made my head pop.
But, during that forever time picking, I thought “the whole diplopia experience isn’t needed in real life, so maybe a half an X is ok and a whole X is not the ultimate goal with me.” I know my eyes are converging with just that half an X …

July 16– 2:30 in the afternoon seems to be the best time. I once again was able to see the bead at 19” then things got wobbly. I also could not get myself to see the red bead. But after that, a quick second attempt to see the yellow be succeeded at 24 inches. Doing this more frequently definitely has its advantages.

July 19– 8am just before headed out to my landscaping job, I decide a 10-second “goose” before a visually demanding day would be a good thing. I converged and diverged easily between the near green bead at 8″ and the yellow at 15″ — this is a first.

Seven brief sessions in three weeks, not 21 or more. 3x day is my goal …

Even with only those seven brief sessions, a couple of amazing things happened at my optometry appointment this afternoon. But that’s another blog post!

Sightings in 2012

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SIGHTINGS in 2012

Dr. Leonard Press, in his blog Vision Helps states that

“stereopsis is a quale of binocular vision that immeasurably enriches our daily lives.”

Throughout 2012, I recorded my own 3D qualia in scribbles in notebooks and texts to my iPhone and iPad, and on my homesteading album:

120129qualebush

January 29
“I delight over the extruding branches of the two, snow covered honeysuckles in the evening light. I am so entranced I walk around each bush two times.”

February 5th
On my homesteading album, I wrote “I appreciate how I can use the balance board while doing dishes. It combines a core work-out with vision-therapy-enhanced ability to see 3D, as both sides of my brain are working at balance and therefore work more readily at bringing both eyes into play. Yes, I’m still leaving flatland. I never saw the hollow insides of soap bubbles before!

February 8th
Felt my eyes coming together on an apricot as I held it about 8″ from my nose. It was highly defined and inhabiting space. Later, as I rinsed a pan, the front edge appeared to be 3D.”

March 21st
In my homesteading album, I wrote “A very 3D bramble reaches out to me this morning.”

bramble120321

April 4th
I practiced physiological diplopia with the doorstop that is in the middle of the bathroom wall at Hennis, and “while looking at my fully extended finger, I continued to see two doorstops.

“Then, as I was washing my hands, I almost fell into the sink— it was so deep and the faucet so high!”

May 11th in my garden
“I bend to smell dames rocket. Then the onions pop!

September 2nd
“In the Hennis bathroom, I discover I can ‘hold’ the door bumper double image and track my finger with both eyes from 6” to arm’s length at intervals and see the distance between the double doorstop image widen and narrow. Then … I did it smoothly, like a trombone! No big stereo faucet pop after, probably because I was consciously looking for it.”

September 7th with one of our dogs
“Onslo’s nose becomes very long and 3D while we are relaxing on the couch.”

September 28th at Paint Oglebay
“After painting and lunch I tiredly hike up the hill feeling brain-drained and empty-headed, and thought ‘This is how I feel when I see 3D.’ Suddenly all the dead leaves popped out in sculpted beauty and the fronds of undergrowth along the path were moving independently and dancing in their individual spaces as I walked through, very very slowly, like a queen in fairy land.

December 30th
“While in the kitchen pouring, it feels like two eyes see. This is happening more often with space-intensive kitchen tasks.

Later, the folds of the shower curtain fill the space in front of me while I am seated as usual. This is the second or third time the curtain has taken on volume in the semi darkness of the light from an electric candle, just before bedtime.”

December 31st
“In the morning, as I approach the seating area around the wood burner, the angles of the furniture look strange and abnormal. Patrick seems further away and his feet appear larger … Foreshortened more.”

As an artist trained to draw the human figure, foreshortening of arms or legs is rather formulaic for me:closer is drawn bigger and farther away is rendered smaller than the way I see it. However, two or three times this last year, I actually SAW it. When viewed with two eyes, the approaching hand becomes much larger and the receding feet much much smaller.

It’s an apparent exaggeration of what I consider to be reality, from my normal, monocular point of view.

—–

It could be that these sightings are merely “monocular depth perception cues.” I have described many monocular cues here, and even more cues and an excellent post on how they contribute to the “quale” of stereopsis can be discovered at Vision Helps with an awesome link to a computer rendition of kinetic depth cues added to a 2D image here:

However, the fact that these brief glimpses stop me in my tracks and cause me to grope for words to describe what I am seeing is evidence enough that something exceptional is going on, something beyond my normal monocular depth perception cues, something extraordinary, however esoteric it may be.

“… to experience a quale is to know one experiences a quale, and to know all there is to know about that quale.” —wiki

Less than half full

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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.

“Ship’s Log” of Uncertain Seas

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The real voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes -Marcel Proust [1]

Wednesday April 6 Is it really depth perception?
At breakfast, I see my cereal bowl rim with distortion from right eye, both eyes feel anchored on the rim, and then came a strong perception of SPACE … INSIDE the bowl with my spoon resting at THE BOTTOM of it. Later I distorted the rim of my coffee cup with the same “eye teaming.” It looks as if it had been marred on the potter’s wheel. The distortion disappeared when viewed with each eye separately.

That evening, the dishes were all done in what looked like 3D, with the soapy water appearing further away, DEEPER INSIDE the sink … I decide to talk about it while it is happening. “I’m stere-oscoping!” I announce to Patrick in a sing-song voice “… the bowl is so big and NEAR as I wash it … and now I’ve made it small and FAR as I rinse … ” Was I really? Hope springs eternal.

Thursday April 7 OD&VT appointment or “Let’s see what we can see”

A visual field test of right eye reveals no vision in upper right half, save one small area above the dividing line on the nasal side of my central vision.

Visual field test, right eye

April 7th visual field test, right eye

(My Vision Therapy is always with my Developmental Optometrist. I had emailed her about my BRAO last week.)

Condolences are given and my OD/VT attempts to center-occlude my glasses over my right eye, to encouraging use of the left eye to strengthen it. I’m sure the expression on my face and direct protest that I was center occluding the left eye, not right, made her reconsider … “I’m fighting for my half-blind eye,” I explained. I do use my left almost all the time anyway and have no difficulty suppressing the right.

I share how I had restored my ability to “unsuppress” my right eye, and what I saw with the red green glasses when looking at a white wall (Dr. Press had suggested doing this in a comment to my April 1 blog post.) “I see total green on the top half of my vision and total red-orange on the bottom half.

“Could it be ‘left-eye over right-eye’ viewing that my brain has programmed?” I ask. She didn’t have a quick answer. (I’ve illustrated it in the image of my visual field test, above.) My fellow strabbie blogger, “Squinty” Josh, might guess that it’s a mega case of anomalous correspondence!

No 3D tests were done to verify my 3D breakfast bowl story. She made a comment that I was at step 5 before, and jumping to 20-something … she simply wasn’t sure what to do. I’m not surprised, as I never have done sequential anything well. I need to gulp the whole pie in order to understand any part of it. [2]

She took a long look at me on the Brock string, which looked the same way it does at home: both strings come into the bead, however the left eye nose-to-bead image (depicted to right) is weaker. Only one string goes out of the bead, as my blind right eye cannot see above the bead. Four and 10 base down prisms strengthened the left eye image in front of the bead and made it as clear as the right.

How my New Brock String appears

How my New Brock String appears to me

We work on the most basic part of my tranaglyph, which I can see completely if I turn it upside down. Right side up, the green upper right dot completely disappears. I need green on the bottom of my right-red visual field when viewing with red-green glasses.

Homework assignments are given on the tranaglyph and I’m to continue Hart Charts with left eye and new letter circling exercises, as well as eye control and thumb pursuits for the right.

We agree to bi-nasally occlude both right and left eyes as before to continue to strengthen peripheral awareness. She clarifies I am NOT using both eyes when I do this as either suppressed eye still turns to my nose behind the veil. I was hoping I was gaining some sort of peripheral fusion. Apparently not.

We agree to schedule an appointment in 3 months if my right eye vision improves.

Friday-Saturday April 7 & 8
Distraction

I’m pretty discouraged and don’t attempt much of anything, other than distorting cups, plates and bowls under my nose. I’m also majorly distracted because we finally agree with Freddie Mac on a price for the 5-acre foreclosed homestead we had won a bid on … way back in early February!

Sunday April 9 Renewal
I socialize and spend the afternoon at the homestead in left eye mode. My right eye looks turned in at every glance in the mirror. After visiting with my mother-in-law at the nursing home, I manage to still find the will to do my favorite phys-dip exercise in the ladies’ room, using the door stop on the wall. I can still make physiological diplopia both ways, converging and diverging. My creature even tilts his head back at me, just as always!

My inner kid wants Wonderland again!

Phys-dippity-do!

That evening, I walk the old yard and notice the grass at my feet looks grassier … each blade seems more distinct somehow in the evening light. I refuse to pursue the possibility of 3D and get down to the task of pulling bitter cress from the flower bed. It’s a small plant with white flowers that must be pulled before it throws seed everywhere in a couple of weeks.

I enter my usual zen-weeding-woman state, and it seems that both eyes engage, and the flower tops look TALL. I keep breathing and weeding, but my hand is not connecting as easily to the base of each weed. I check for eye teaming by covering and uncovering. Both eyes are fixed on the same small white flower, first one flower, then another. The bittercress continues to fill vertical space in a new way, even when I blink.

Was it really 3D, or simply weeding for the first time with my left eye instead of my right?

Later on, at Hibachi Japan, I fail to catch one piece of shrimp … of course! Perhaps if the chef had tossed it from below

Monday April 11 Surprise!
I find a small piece of shrimp in my purse!

Sue Barry teaches the Brock String (Part 1)

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My new toy has only three beads

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” — Dr. Seuss

I posted a link to a 9 minute youtube video of Sue Barry’s demonstration of the Brock String exercise on my last progress report. But I doubt everyone took advantage of that link.

There are some incredible epiphany moments that Sue shares that are identical to my own. Sue was, and I am, an alternating esotrope for over 40 years. Until she was 48, Sue used to see out of one eye at a time, and the non-seeing eye would turn in. She did this her whole life, until she began to work with the Brock string and teach herself what normal people learn as infants.

Read the transcript below to understand why, after five weeks of vision therapy, I am out-of-my-mind excited about graduating to a new career with the Brock String at age 52. It’s never too late!

+++++++++++

Sue begins by saying her developmental vision therapist, Theresa Ruggerio “taught me how to aim the two eyes at the same place at the same time … what I first did was use a technique called the Brock String, developed by my hero, Frederick W. Brock …

“He was brilliant, an absolute genius. He understood strabismus better than anybody else and he developed techniques for it, and he published a lot in Optometric Weekly in the 1940s, which is why nobody knows of him. But I do have copies of all his papers …”

Sue hands out strings with only one bead to the audience and instructs them to hold the string straight out from the nose, with the bead at the far end, next to the outstretched hand.

“How many beads to you see?” Sue asks.

“One.” The whole audience answers.

“Go-ood!” Sue offers warm positive feedback and the audience chuckles.

“How many strings do you see?” She asks with just a touch of orneriness.

The audience is mostly silent, then you hear ” … two.” … scattered answers from the three braver folks.

“You see two strings!” Sue confirms. “Why? Because you’re fixated on the bead; your two eyes are aiming at the bead. The bead is falling on the same central part of both retinas. But the string, which is in front of the bead, is falling on non-corresponding points of the two retinas … It’s not in the same plane as the bead. It’s in front of the bead, and so you see two images of it.

“The right eye image is the string image on your left and the left eye image is the string image on your right.

“Now take the bead and put it in the middle of the string. … What do you see now?”

(Multiple answers, some saying the strings are crossing)

Susan Barry points to the Brock String "X" made by two eyes fixated on the middle bead.

“So you might see something like this …” (see photo)

“What you’ve got here is the line of sight of both eyes. This is giving you the feedback to know where your two eyes are pointing.

“Now if you’re strabismic like I was, you don’t aim your two eyes at the same point at the same time. For me to learn how to do that (which is an automatic response that most people develop within the first six months of life … I did not) … I need to learn where the two eyes are pointing. How am I going to know where they’re pointing? The Brock String gave me the feedback to know where the two eyes are pointing.

“This to me was (she’s speechless for a second or two) … fantastic. It was just fantastic feedback.

“It wasn’t easy for me to do what you are doing now. What I had to do was start with the bead right about an inch from my nose, where people who are cross-eyed do have a little binocularity … and so I would start at what Brock would call the centration point where I could actually make a normal convergence movement and see one bead and the “X” shape around it.

“And then I would move the bead back a little, and again get the double (string) images and keep moving it back, and back and back, to develop a range where I could make normal movements of my eyes: diverge them for looking further, converge them for looking close. The bead and the string gave me the feedback to know.

“Initially when I moved the [bead] back, the left eye image of the string was going right into the bead, and the right eye image was faint, and somewhere (she waves her right arm) in the wrong place. And now I had the feedback to know how to move my eyes to get them both pointing at the bead. (She brings both hands together and touches her fingers to emphasize the centration point.)

“And then … I didn’t work with just a little short string. Eventually I graduated to an 11 foot string with five beads …

It took me a year to get to the point where I could do five feet, using three different beads. It took me a year to master that, because my whole life had been directed toward turning in one eye and suppressing this. So to get this new way of seeing, it look a long time.”

+++++++++++

Now you know what I’ll be doing every day that I can for the next year, and for 5-10 minutes a day for the rest of my life, along with other vision therapy exercises to widen my gaze and improve all my eye-brain connections.

I’ve been at it two weeks, and can see a bead from 4-7″ with that marvelous “X” … and I am working on using two beads, one at 4 or 5″ and one at 7 or 8″, to converge and diverge.