Monday, February 09, 2009

Seeing through hearing

On the weekend a friend and I visited the art gallery. There was an exhibition of Brett Whiteley's works - bold and evocative and beautiful. As we stood and looked and thought, admiring detail, noticing new perspectives or symbolism, two women walked in. They were middle-aged with their arms linked together and I could hear them talking about the paintings. After a minute I realised one of the women was (at least partially) blind. She was carrying a cane with a ball and had a bandaged patch over one eye. From their conversation I could tell she couldn't hear all that well either.

I was so intrigued I couldn't help myself from eavesdropping as they stood in front of various paintings. The sighted woman would start with the title of the painting, then something about its dimensions, then she seemed to pick the most salient point (some of the paintings are so abstract there wasn't an overall 'theme' I suppose) and describe it. She described the colour and the contours, and sometimes the movement, as though she were describing it being created. She would stand in front of each painting and talk softly and continually and then after a while move to the next and start again. The other woman stood as though lost in thought, she didn't ask questions (except sometimes asking for a repeat), she just stood facing the picture listening intently.

There was something so poignant and beautiful about these two people experiencing the paintings together. And I felt inspired and curious, were they art lovers from a long time back? Did the blind woman already 'know' some of the paintings? Why choose to visit an art gallery with your blind friend? It seemed very normal and simple to them both, as though perhaps they did this every week and it wasn't a big deal.

As we left I felt inspired by people in the world and a new wonder at the power of language to provide images for people to savour and interpret.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The small moments

So a bit over two and half years ago Eyal was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In a way it is what precipitated our relationship in the real world (nothing like fear of death to make you get things done!). He had a tumour the size of a fist in his chest and a smaller one in his liver. After three months chemo he had recovered completely (I don't like the term "in remission" it seems to imply you still have the disease, and that it is just resting).

Thereafter he has had tests every three months (at first), followed by every six months. Every single one of these tests is a reminder to stick your head up and reassess- for a few moments or a few days or weeks you prepare for the possibility that the cancer is back. A parallel life starts to be conceived where our lives instantly relocate to Israel for treatment, we pull back from other tasks in our lives and start to focus intensely on fighting the cancer. In this parallel life we have to consider the possibility of death or of continued sickness. I get a feeling of resolve, and a kind of fluidity about what in my current life I would keep, and what is superfluous. It is the kind of brilliant and cruel exercise that helps keep your house in order, it helps you get ready to mobilise and let go of the non-essential parts of your life.

Today was different to the last times - just a blood test (no PET CT), Eyal knows how to read the results, and he just looks them up on the internet. We were both pretty casual about it, did our best to 'forget'. So this time there was just a couple of minutes while he looked the results up on the internet for us both to mentally prepare. A small moment - an aperture to another life opens - and then closes. The results were normal. We are back on track...
another small celebration,
another landmark,
then off to bed.