A few weeks ago, I heard the snapping of twigs and looked past the trees now nuthatch- and chickadee-bereft into the yard toward the rear of my in-laws' house. There a deer stood, antlered, grazing.
Then in one blink, the buck lost its antlers and its legs and finally its heft: it was colored crepe paper tied to a gnarled limb, dancing in the slightest breeze.
This is not an uncommon phenomenon for me, although when I received new spectacles a few months ago, I believed I would stop mistaking things for other things: a pile of clothes for a cat, a pool of water for glass. Sometimes people's faces will blur and if I want to see you properly, I look behind or near you, so that finally I am looking at everything at once: the blue sky, the way the clouds morph, three birds on a branch, the grass growing, the buildings that seem to bend over us, the emptiness of a lot-for-lease. Not one focus, but many foci, every shape and color in dazzling concert.
This was how the world was like for me as a child: a bewildering plethora of sensations, on which I unceasingly grazed--the voices of my relatives, the images in books, the structure of a sentence on a cereal box. But instead of offering something in return, something akin to beauty, like stories and conversation, I would silently deconstruct everything to its fundamentals--buzz, pixel, a comma, unnervingly empty space. As I separated a thing into its parts, I would not rest until each part was without companion, until each part was useless, so that the thing itself--the voice, the image, the word--was useless to me.
At 8 or 9 or 10, I possessed no filter, no sieve to separate the dross from the meaningful. I only saw these strange, oft incomprehensible things, which held in them the suggestion of my future, a future surrounded by these things. By stubbornly reducing things to their parts, I believed I would reach the beginning of my future; I would understand everything ... but never really understood anything until much later, when I could see these things as embodied choices, not simply destinies. I could finally choose to see or make the marvelous or meaningful.
Sometimes when I can't focus on the one person, place, or thing before me, I think of that little girl sitting in front of the t.v., killing everything around her, and then I must repress the urge to withdraw into a place where all is dark and cool and humming quietly, the world shut out until tomorrow.