Sunday, July 15, 2012


Seeing things

“To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand / And eternity in an hour.”—William Blake

Blake was writing about how heightened perception alters how we see things, and that’s been an important concern of mine lately. Recently I had surgery on both eyes to help alleviate ongoing headaches and a hereditary condition that eyeglasses and contact lenses were not resolving.

Computer-assisted microscopes were used throughout the process and my background in science made this deeply interesting for me. I expressed my keen inquisitiveness during the testing and prep phases. My enthusiasm was rewarded: the techs generously allowed me to view the various images of my own eyes, harvested for the computer screen via the microscopes during such procedures as Dilated Fundus Examination and corneal mapping.

My retinal scans were fascinating to behold. The optic nerve was a river snaking across a red glowing planet; the hazy Jupiter spot that was the Macula loomed darkly. All perfectly healthy, too, according to the ophthalmology team, and to my obvious relief.

These visions of vision were very inspiring. Some of the images I saw made me think of Prince Edward County artist Mary-Lou Ashton’s large abstract paintings. As it turns out, a former career in science inspires her artwork.

Ashton explains, “The topic of my Master of Science thesis [York University] …required the use of a transmission electron microscope. Just as I graduated, the position for electron microscope technician became available and I was asked if I was interested. And so I worked at York for some 20-plus years.” During this period, she spent much of her time looking at highly magnified cell structures, and making drawings of what she saw.

While working at York, Ashton undertook a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She continues, “Haematology and electron microscopy are both visual sciences. Guess biology does influence my work.”

What we see through these powerful looking glasses can actually be incredibly beautiful. Scientist Dr. Gary Greenberg photographs grains of sand from around the world under a microscope. The results are astonishing and well worth a look at his website, or within his gorgeous book, A Grain of Sand: Nature’s Secret Wonder. (2008, Voyageur Press: Minneapolis.)

Through Greenberg’s three-dimensional photomicrography technique, the tiny grains of sand reveal themselves as exquisitely delicate compositions; each is as unique as a snowflake. And the shimmering colour! A microcosmic aurora borealis is one way to describe it.

The requisite downtime whilst one’s eyes are healing up can be a challenge for an artist. Listening to Eckhart Tolle’s soothing drone via audio book put me into a mood of looking inward, exploring small spaces, and being present in my predicament.

There is something about being very reflective… spending a lot of time by oneself without going online or able to read or paint, etc. The waiting can be excruciating. But, like sands through the hourglass… this, too, shall pass.

I think once my eyes heal up and I no longer need to use dictation software to write, I will dig out my beloved beautiful old Leitz trinocular microscope with its fluorite lenses and have a look at some Sandbanks sand. Who knows what I’ll see…

Read the full article HERE.

1 comment:

Jens Fiederer said...

Couldn't get them to give you JPGs, though?