A case of iritis forced me to take a break from writing, and almost everything else.
Iritis is the swelling of the iris. The eye turns red, has a consistent dull ache, light sensitivity and blurred vision. There is no known common cause of iritis. Left untreated, it can lead to blindness. Treatment requires prescription eye drops and close monitoring by an eye doctor. The symptoms come on suddenly and can last for months. My case lasted for four months.
I went to the eye doctor office so often; I can now do the drive with my eyes closed.
Emily Dickinson may have suffered from iritis. Her symptoms of light sensitivity, eye ache, blurred vision and inability to work up close are now widely accepted as iritis. The Emily Dickinson Museum’s website briefly touches on her visits with ophthalmologist Dr. Henry Willard Williams. Her poem, “Before I got My Eye Put Out” is now crystal clear.
Whenever there is inflammation in any part of the body, the rest of the body just wants to nap. It was my luck that iritis happened during the long winter months, when the days are short and I didn’t miss much while napping. I heard snow season was short lived anyway. I also slept through mud season, which was a win in my book.
It was difficult to view anything up close. I rested my eyes on the long views. We are lucky to have so many long views in the Methow Valley: ridges, tree lines and cloud formations that billow over hills and flow into rocky crevices. I don’t know how Midwesterners deal with a distinct lack of framing for all that sky.
The eyeballs are 98% water. Lenses turn light into electrical signals that travel along the optic nerve directly to the brain and are translated into images. I drank copious amounts of H2O and tried to envision a healthy eyeball, hoping the images in my brain would travel in reverse along the optic nerve to the iris muscle.
In my mind’s eye I imagined textbook diagrams of the water cycle: water evaporating from the surface of the ocean, rising into the atmosphere, condensing into thick cumulonimbus clouds, flying to the nearest mountain to release a thunderous downpour that sank deep into the ground. From there, the water table and creeks rise. Tree roots, wildflowers, gardens and myself drank our fill before the water droplets rushed back to the sea. I imagined my eyeballs nourished by seawater saline and invigorated by thunderstorms.
Mostly though, I worried. Because worry is something we naturally do when presented with a health concern.
Jarod K. Anderson writes, “The water in your body is just visiting. It was a thunderstorm a week ago. It will be the ocean soon enough. Most of your cells come and go like morning dew. We are more weather pattern than stone monument.” He postulates the sudden disruptions in our health are like storms. We can’t control the weather. But we can strengthen our shelters, sharpen our forecasts, and keep our focus on the horizon for a break in the clouds.