Not by Sight

Holidaying for a couple of nights in the Snowy Mountains my Favourite Wife and I are surrounded by trees, wonderful Australian trees, whose leaves hang down. And on our third alpine pilgrimage for the year we are hoping, once again, that it will snow!

Downward-hanging leaves are superb. I relish the sight of towering snow gums with their striking, variegated trunks and verdant leaves – all hanging down. To me it’s deeply satisfying, but to the English colonists this was deeply unsettling; so alienating, in fact, that their earliest artists sometimes painted gum leaves growing upwards from stem and branch. I wonder if it was merely artistic licence; or was it, perhaps, a subconscious reaction to a strange and fearful world? Did they actually see our leaves at all? Sight can be a most unreliable sense! The world we see, or think we see, is not always the true world at all.

A week has now passed since the neurology appointment that indicated some form of motor neurone disease. (How I hate typing that phrase. I still find it difficult to get my fingers, my mouth, or my head around it). It’s exactly a year since exactly the same thing happened in exactly the same doctor’s rooms; and yet in spite of the months of uncertaincy life is richer than ever. I don’t think I am naive about the future, and I can see all too clearly the physical evidence of my predicament. For example B3 (our second power wheelchair and the third incarnation of good old Bugger) was delivered this week, and she’s surely something to feast your eyes on! But it is not what my eyes see that demands my attention; at least not those eyes. With some other ‘inner eye’ I have seen a clarity of being that I find irresistable.

Perhaps we see this world ‘through a glass dimly’ at best; and yet I have a sense that the glass is clearing a little. With so much that ought to anchor me in the visible world, I often glimpse something new beyond the bounds of normal sight: the sheer delight and pristine calmness of simple existence.

I remember another episode that also included a doctor and a diagnosis. Several years ago I went to a GP for some reason or other, and happened to mention that I had a painful knuckle. The doctor gave my right hand the briefest, cursory glance without even turning round in his chair and immediately pronounced it to be arthritis. I was incensed! At barely 40 how could I possibly have arthritis? I protested volubly, but the doctor said he could prove it was arthritis by a simple test: he would squeeze the knuckle in a certain way, and it would hurt like hell. Which he did, and which it also did. He was an Indian man and a Christian, and in a rather brusque way dismissed my self-pitying protestations. “Tell me, did you think you were going to live forever?” he chided with a stern, sideways shake of his head. Miraculously the ‘arthritis’ lasted just a year or two, but in the trifling annoyance I briefly tasted my own mortality and even saw the distant possibility of resurrection! Perhaps that sounds silly, but truly there was a strange joy in that mild pain.

There is, however, one time of day when blindness can obscure the path. The night watch is by far the hardest and ’round 3am I sometimes lose my way. My inner eyes that in the light of day see past the substance of things, in darkness focus instead on the insubstantial terrors of so-called reality.

For three weeks we have been looking at the alpine weather forecast every day, and right now (at 3am!) it still promises snow for tomorrow. We are holding our breath, barely able to contain our excitement about the future. Will it snow in the morning?

Rejoice!

5 Responses to “Not by Sight”


  1. 1 Ann Ward June 7, 2010 at 3:44 am

    I do hope your snow is falling and covering everything with its pristine coat. The journey you are on promises to strengthen your “dim” gaze more and more as the body’s strength fades. At least, that’s the experience I’m having. And I hope you will receive help for your sleep. 3 a.m. is notoriously difficult. A time when the enemy may seem more powerful than he is. If your time is that of Peter57, your 3 a.m. is my 1:30 p.m., in which case, I will attempt to pray for you then for peace and also for sleep.

    Enjoy the “alps” with your wife! I find it charming that you refer to her as your Favorite Wife.

    God bless you,
    Ann

  2. 2 Karen June 7, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Great read . So proud of you.
    Your Favourite Wife xx

  3. 3 fiona2107 June 9, 2010 at 9:26 pm

    Rod, I remember when I was going through all my brain tumour “stuff”, I found the hours between 11pm and morning really really frightening and the only verse that I was continually led to was Psalm 91: 5-6
    5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
    6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday

    For some reason, the words ‘night’ and ‘darkness’ were somehow scary to me and these verses made it all ok again.
    Fiona 😀

  4. 4 fiona2107 June 9, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Actually, I should have added that the whole chapter about being under the shelter of His wings was what I read but these 2 verses stood out to me above any of the others

  5. 5 roderickmallen June 10, 2010 at 11:14 am

    How true! There is something wonderfully reassuring about dawn, both in reality and in God’s word.

    You’ve learned to be very brave Fiona! It’s evident in the way you write about daily life.

    R.


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