With age comes wisdom, respect, experience, insight into your strengths and weaknesses, gratefulness, humility, sharpened abilities, accumulated skillsets, and things you may have acquired that I can’t even list or enumerate. Hand-in-hand with age, the garden of life also plants less productive things like cognitive decline, realization of your mortality, forgetfulness, aches and pains, change, and other things that elude my ability to ascertain.
I have worn eyewear for the last eight years now. I was fortunate to make it past the age of fifty before my close-in vision lost its ability to resolve minute details. Luckily, my distance vision has remained above average, which is not a brag but a true blessing I greatly appreciate.
As such, I am bad, terribly so, to only don my “goggles” when I am engaged in reading, or close proximity vision work. Otherwise, I pull those suckers off and stick um’ in a shirt, jacket, coat or pants pocket. Worse still, I lay the things hither-and-yon. This is all spur-of-the-moment stuff as I go through my daily activities. Combining this process with cognitive decline, I have undoubtedly produced the perfect recipe for having to continually hunt one’s eyeglasses.
My most recent serving of aggravation, concerning the framed lenses, came just this past week. I was leading a group out to a lofty pinnacle for a look at some of the Lord’s finest geological sculpturing. So enthralled was I with the breathtaking view that I orated far too much in the telling of the local lore concerning the place. As I sat there on a big boulder, on the edge of a high precipice, I pulled my “goggles” from my face and laid them there beside me.
Later that evening, after hiking a considerable distance, it suddenly dawned on me what I had done. Nary a word did I mention to those with me, lest I be embarrassed in my inability to cope with all things mid-life oriented. I just told myself I’d come back, very discreetly, and retrieve my eyewear another day.
For two days and nights my glasses perched there on that cliff looking off at life below; the railroad, the river, the highway, the sky above and the valley below. It was an ordeal to hike back to the promontory in solo fashion. Some climbing was involved, with the remote possibility of whistling off a cliff face to my hyperopic demise. Alas, I made it safely though. Sure enough, there were my glasses, right where I thought I’d left them.
Having worn a scratched up, dilapidated, older set of glasses for two days really made me appreciate having my up-to-date, refractive correctors wrapped back around my ears and riding atop the bridge of my nose. Close-in details once again leapt at the inner workings of my brain. Eureka! I could read again without having to look through scarred, worn out lenses I’d put through the trials of life for a couple of years.
I have joked that I am going to plug my glasses into a computer and download all the images they saw for two days and two nights in my absence, all alone way upon the tip-top of that mountain. Folks do so with trail cameras all the time. Why should lost eyewear be any different?
The last pair of glasses I lost are still out there somewhere, on eternal “looksee” duty, at a place called Thunder Ridge. I had been on an elk hunt with my nephew and great nephew. Somehow, during my great nephew getting a huge seven-by-seven bull, and us extracting it from rugged terrain, my eyewear became missing-in-action.
That pair has been remotely observing the world of Thunder Ridge now for nigh on four years. I’d like to see all the images they’ve captured in my absence. But youth also fell prey to the complexities of life that day. Somewhere out there, in abandoned companionship with my eyeglasses, are a couple of chains my nephew left during the elk extraction, and my great nephew’s gloves and extra ammo he forsook during the adventure.
I suppose there are things we want in the future, items we have, and value, in the present, and then there are memories of things we’ve lost. What is most important though is the wisdom and experience to sort out what is, what has been, or what may be really important along this road of life we are all traveling along. Even a really good pair of glasses can’t help you see those things clearly in your mind’s eye.
Mark J. Tidwell is librarian in Jellico.