When I bought a cottage a couple of years ago, I decided to take up bird watching. I have no particular interest in birds. In fact, every bird I've ever met in captivity seems to have some longstanding beef with me. As soon as I enter their captor's home, they engage in an aggressive series of squat thrusts that suggest they'd like to peck my eyes out. As if it's my fault that some idiot clipped their wings and forced them to stand on a perch all day, squawking what I'm sure are songs of revolution.
But when I moved into the cottage, I found an old copy of Sibley's bird guide on a bookshelf and I started bringing it with me when I took my dogs for long walks in the woods. At first, it was a fun hobby. While my dogs rolled in dead things and wallowed in swamp water, I'd madly flip through the pages of the bird guide trying to identify the creatures nested in the treetops. I believed that the birds appreciated my efforts and smiled down at me fondly as I struggled to come up with their names and read up on their odd digestive routines. ( The word 'regurgitation' appears with shocking regularity in bird guides. )
But then I started to forget to wear my glasses on these excursions. Suddenly, all of nature became a foggy brown stew and every bird looked like a finch. I could be staring at an owl or an eagle or an indigo bunting and I'd confidently flip to the middle of the book and loudly identify it as a finch. This made me no friends in the bird world, and soon I developed the uneasy feeling that my dogs and I were no longer welcome in the woods.
What the birds didn't understand ( because, let's face it, they're not known for their empathy and are prone to nursing grudges ) is that I'm practically helpless without my glasses. I wasn't trying to insult them. I just couldn't see them.
I almost never remember to wear my glasses. Part of this is by design. When I don't wear my glasses, the entire world appears as a pleasant blur of soft colors and engaging blobs. It's like living inside an impressionistic painting. It's only when life comes into focus that it becomes ugly and harsh.
The other night, for example, I attended a swanky lesbian affair. I left my glasses at home intentionally because—as is often the case when I venture into the dark, treacherous waters of the lesbian social scene—I wasn't in the mood to recognize people.
I spent the evening standing among a group of friends, happily sipping a cocktail and gazing out at a surprisingly attractive crowd. People always look better when I don't wear my glasses. They look softer, younger, and less threatening.
Suddenly, through the pleasant murk of unidentifiable woman-flesh, I noticed an approaching figure. The person stood just outside of my field of sharp focus, looking rather like a mound of mauve Jello. I smiled because I like Jello.
'So, is this how it's going to be, now?,' the Jello snapped. Her hostile tone suggested that we may have been romantically involved at some point. 'We're not going to even say hello when we see each other?' Before I could answer, the Jello melted back into the hazy background.
'What was that?,' my friend Greta asked.
I took a thoughtful sip of my drink and squinted hard at the Jello's retreating form. 'I'm fairly certain it was a finch,' I said.
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