“Hope” is the thing with feathers, That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops ... at all - Emily Dickenson

Thursday, April 21, 2016


This week I spent a couple of days at the ophthalmology department at the Mayo Clinic. There were about 50 people sitting in the outside waiting room. There were people from all over, women in saris, women in burkas, pink wrinkled old men with Scandinavian accents, people quietly mumbling to each other in various languages. The only thing the majority of us had in common was that we were old human beings that could not see well. Sitting there it struck me that eyes are very complicated high tech devices that given enough time, tend to fail. A generation or two ago we would all be blind or well on our way.

Over two days there was a lot of sitting in waiting rooms. I didn't actually eavesdrop, but out of boredom I listened in to a lot of conversations. I happen to overheard a exchange between three apparent strangers that seemed to be involve a question of bird identification. Birds? I quietly sidled over, sat down beside them, and whipped out my shiny new cell phone, all loaded up with iBird Pro. After settling the bird I.D. issue we introduced ourselves - a gentleman from southeast Minnesota, and a mother/daughter team from Faribault, and me. The daughter, a lass of maybe 50 years, said her mother could identify all the birds in North America. That sounded almost like a challenge so I scrolled through a few Flicker photos on the cell. Ah, the Gray-crowned Yellowthroat photo I took at Estero Llano last year! - an ABA code 4 wanderer from Mexico, a certain winner. "I'll give you a hundred bucks if you can identify this one." She leaned forward and peered at the image on the cellphone for a long time. Then, "That's a Gray-crowned Yellowthroat isn't it?" I was stunned, damned gob-smacked. "Ah, ah, I guess I owe you a hundred dollars". She burst out laughing, "The photo has a label at the bottom!" 

Gray-crowned Yellowthroat
It went on and on - scans, people injecting dyes into me, more scans, point-blank blinding lights in my eyes, "Look up, now up and left, now left,..." etc. Different techs, different doctors; different tests. Again and again and again. The evidence was starting to mount up, it wasn't looking good, but no one was talking. "When Dr. Bakri has analyzed the results of all the tests she will talk to you." Dr. Bakri is the head of ophthalmology and we have a bit of a history. She lased (lasered?) 14 retinal tears for me six years ago, setting a bit of a record. Through that we had time to talk and get to know each other a little. 

As it turned out my eye issue didn't work out too well. A have a tear ("a break") across my macula which causes a warp in my vision ... and because of my previously compromised retina, it is not operable. By the time she had dropped that news on me I was pretty much expecting it.

After our formal discussions she asked me if I was still birding. I replied that I was. "One eyed birdwatchers, that's what spotting scopes are for." Today I ordered a new spotting scope. 

Enjoy your sunsets while you are able - Gunnar


Coline said...

Born with only one good eye... I was shuddering from the first line.

It would have been nice to have a spare but one does the job if you look after it. A real shame that eyes start to fail at an age when we start to have more time to relax and look.

Gunnar Berg said...

I have discovered I am strongly right-eyed. Forcing myself to shoot with the left eye is difficult - camera up, look through the eye-piece, shift camera over - bird is gone. If I cannot adjust, the worst case scenario would be an eye patch when I am using a camera. Naaaa.

Mark Stonich said...

Bummer! Hope you can adapt. Jane's vision is much worse than mine, but somehow she's much better at spotting critters than I am. Hope you have some of that on your side.