January 17, 2014

Ice, Eyeglasses and a Djembe Drum

The trip to the northeast was in many respects a sojourn into a very different world. A temporary hold was put on life as we know it in Orangeburg, South Carolina. I put my Etsy shop on vacation. I decided not to try to write blog posts for two weeks as I could not upload illustrations. Before our departure, the house was cleaned more thoroughly than usual ( no one likes returning tired and hungry to a messy abode). Bills were paid up and a hold put on the mail Arrangements were made for plant watering and house checking.

Art making had to be readjusted as well. Although I was in painter mode, I did not want the bother and inconvenience of packing paints. So I packed folios of drawings and illustrations to complete on my trip. I did make two small oil paintings in the days close to our departure, however, so that they could dry and be set into frames upon my return. Packing and preparations for a two week trip almost made me too weak to travel but I did it. Fortunately my role as passenger helped me rest and restore some strength while my husband navigated our way up north.

The purpose of our trip officially was for my January appointment at Johns Hopkins Hospital. But my health was stable enough this time to add on visits with friend and relatives and a few museum tours as well. Everything was exceptional, memorable, was more than we had anticipated in both beautiful and unusual ways.

As usual we got a late start but managed to sight see in North Carolina. But by the time we got to Virginia we got stuck in a snowstorm. At first the snow was beautiful and it was nice to see icicles on buildings and white dusted snow in fields and on trees. But it soon became dangerous. We literally got stuck in the snow in someone’s driveway and had to spend an extra night in Virginia. But we ended up in the quaint historic town of Winchester, where I used to stop on my way back from my summer teaching job at McDaniel College in Maryland. Winchester has a truly delightful pedestrian zone full of shops and excellent restaurants. My favorite was the Thai Restaurant because of the large art prints of paintings from the Emerald Buddha Temple on each table top. Food and art - the best combination that a traveler can hope for.

The picture that I have taken for this post, however, has nothing to do with the visits to museums and with old friends and relatives. It is a picture of my eyeglasses leaning against one of my pit-fired vases. These are my distance glasses that I am having to constantly switch out with my close up reading glasses because I did not have the wherewithal to get bifocals. The doctor who saw me at Johns Hopkins noted that he also does the same thing with his reading and distance glasses and he saw me take off my reading glasses and switch out for distance so I could navigate myself down a hallway. It was those distance eyeglasses that became the focal point of one of my more humorous experiences on the winter vacation. It was during my intake interview at Johns Hopkins that I noticed my doctor wearing a pair that looked exactly like them. That did not become an issue until I was leaving his office. I had taken my glasses off so that my eyes could be examined and unfortunately could not find them to put them on again. It didn’t help that I frequently misplace the glasses and was therefore talked into looking for them in numerous places that they were not to be found - several times in my bags, my purse, in waiting rooms and lobbies. My husband returned to the doctor’s office when I insisted that I had left them there. He came back empty handed. I then sent in three other persons to try to retrieve my glasses but they too came back without them. Finally I asked the doctor myself, after an hour and a half of fruitless searching elsewhere, for permission to go back into the examining room to retrieve my glasses.

When I was finally able to get back into the examining room, I saw my glasses resting on a counter top next to the examining table. As I rushed towards them, the doctor let out a rather strident sounding comment, “Those are mine.” (I was later to learn that was the same comment given to everyone else who tried to retrieve my glasses). I could have done the polite thing and pointed out to the doctor that he was wearing his own glasses on his face, but, being essentially territorial I went straight for the glasses, snatched them up and put them on my face lest someone else grab them first. The doctor came within inches of my face with a decidedly unhappy expression on his own. After a moment’s pause and some closer scrutiny I told him that our glasses were identical.

To be certain of this, we both took our glasses off and put them side by side. They were identical in every way. My reaction was slack jawed disbelief. The doctor’s expression changed from annoyance to recognition to amusement within seconds. Then I became uncertain as to whose glasses I was really wearing. I couldn’t really test their efficacy at this point because my eyesight had been changing so rapidly they didn’t fully work anymore. I put them on and off a few times then asked my doctor if he could see out of the ones he was wearing. He assured me that he could and that he could identify his own by a tiny crack in the upper right lens. Thank goodness for that distinction.

It was a bizarre feeling to look at someone wearing the same apparel that I possessed myself - even if they were just eyeglasses. (I wondered what the odds were of two people meeting who had chosen the same eyeglass frames and I resolved to put this question to an optometrist friend. later). I suppose it has something to do with identity and territory. It is probably why in war conquerors would sometimes dress in the clothing remnants of the conquered. It is why the movie “Single White Female,” reaches its most unsettling climax when the antagonist saunters down a stairway having dyed and cut her hair and changed her clothes so that she is an exact match with her roommate. And that is most likely why two people with the same eyeglasses fought to claim their territory without careful examination of the phenomenon.

Yet curiously, when the identical glasses were discovered, I can say that my focus changed from property claimant to someone who recognized a kindred spirit. As I looked at his bemused expression, my doctor became a member of my clan - the brotherhood and sisterhood of black, thin framed angular glasses. Or perhaps it was all just an amusing coincidence. We had a good laugh over the coincidence.

But stranger still, as I was leaving his examining room, I noticed an open eyeglass glass underneath the doctor’s computer screen. Same place I keep my reading glasses. His reading glasses were in the case. They looked identical to my reading glasses. I left without pointing that out.

Further on down the road, after a trip to see the Byzantine Exhibition at the National Gallery in Washington DC, my husband and I took a side trip to Westminster, MD to visit old friends from my former summer teaching career at McDaniel College. The Prechts were very patient with my newly acquired vocal and motor tics associated with my protracted illness. It is always a relief to be among warm-hearted tolerant friends. We were visiting the Prechts not only to reconnect, but to pick up a Djembe drum that Tom had so artistically and skillfully restored for me. (Pictured below). Tom happens to be an optometrist so my husband Nat and I told him the story of the identical glasses. When I asked him what the odds were of two people meeting who had picked out the same frames he said that there are so many frames and that they change so frequently the odds might be a million to one. After reflecting upon that being almost like a lottery win, I remembered the second pair of reading glasses as well. “What about two people picking out the same glasses twice?” I added. “Maybe, ten million to one.” came his reply. How funny to share ten million to one odds with a fellow human being!


Jim Hillegass said...

I like your art.

(via Mitchell Johnson)

Jim Hillegass said...

And a very nice story. Thank you.