Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rods and Cones

No, this is not a planet. Or a mammogram. The images are my right and left retinas.

The back of my eye, behind the pupil...the small circle in the middle is composed of rods and cones, the whitish circle is in my eyeball oriented near my nose. I was at the Retina Center this week, having my eyes poked, prodded and photographed, and of course I asked if I could have a copy.

I looked up the definition of retina: The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the inner eye. It acts like the film in a camera -- images come through the eye's lens and are focused on the retina. The retina then converts these images to electric signals and sends them via the optic nerve to the brain. The retina is normally red due to its rich blood supply. An ophthalmoscope allows a health care provider to see through the pupil and lens to the retina.

I've worn glasses since third grade, and contacts since I was 16, so that's almost 30 years of having something on my eyes. When I started with them there were only hard lenses and I had to be on a wearing schedule and I remember taking them out and putting them in every 2 hours while I was at school. I'm at the point where I have 20/25 vision with contacts, we can't correct it anymore and I have to wear glasses over my contacts for driving and distance vision. If you're wondering, my contacts are at minus 10. I'm also getting a bit of blurry vision and halos at night, which is the start of cataracts. I have had all this verified in the last few weeks in the hopes that maybe my health insurance would cover the cost. No such luck - my vision has to be 20/40 CORRECTED or I'll have to be 65 on Medicare. I can't have regular lasik surgery, I have to have "natural lens replacement" where they put the lens in my eye. It's similar to cataract surgery and then I will never have to worry about cataracts in the future. Unfortunately, all this costs $4,000 per eye - so until I have an extra 8 grand laying around, I'll continue to see as well as I can with my contacts and glasses.

The composer Bach went virtually blind with untreated cataracts. My cat, Tex, went blind from high blood pressure and various other health issues. I suppose the U.S. government will be photographing everyone this way if they keep reacting in fear since the blood vessels are unique for everyone. I don't take my sight for granted - when one sense is weak, other ones compensate, but since I'm also hard of hearing, I think I have an extra-sensitive sense of touch.

I remembered a poem I wrote a few years ago - here it is below - while I was thinking about rods and was the year that June Carter Cash passed away - which happened to be the same night as the lunar eclipse. I saw the moon from the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi River, in Minneapolis on a warm summer night.

Lunar Eclipse
by Jules Nyquist

The highest goal that humans can achieve is amazement.
- Goethe 1810, Theory of Colors

Tonight Minneapolis transpires into rods and cones
under my pupils.
A city wearing a white halo, offering me steps of gold.
My bicycle takes me to the middle of the Stone-Arch bridge
where I pause.
Purple thoughts tangle in my wind-blown hair and
I realize, for the first time,
that if I jump off this bridge
into the weeping wake
floating with the river glass,
it will be okay.

Full moon lays bare in the Northeast,
her white light signals my resurrection.
She bobs from the fisherman’s unseen boat
in a sea of indefinite color
that lacks a word for blue.

The divine is hidden
but on this night
everyone is coming out to watch.