Image via WikipediaDr. Sue Barry also talks about Eric, a child with convergence insufficiency. according to the Mayo Clinic, convergence insufficiency occurs when your eyes don't turn in properly when you focus on a nearby object. Because your eyes are not working together, when an object is close to you, you abandon stereo viewing. This leads to a lot of problems with reading and can be misdiagnosed as a learning disability or ADHD.
Dr. Barry also had problems with peripheral vision. She describes how this affects her driving. Because she had to concentrate on looking straight ahead, she wasn't aware of what was happening right beside her. Cars and pedestrians seem to appear suddenly out of nowhere. I have problems with peripheral vision, too. I really can't position my side mirrors such that I can view those windows at the same time I am looking straight ahead. I have to consciously make the effort to keep checking my mirrors. Needless to say, driving in rush hour is very stressful for me, more so than for everyone else. For a while, I lived in the Washington DC metropolitan area, which is rated number two after LA for bad traffic conditions. DC drivers are extremely aggressive. After living in DC, no one in Philly or even New York City phazes me. It was very nerve-racking to drive and not be completely aware of when someone was about to cut you off, or how to change lanes when the person behind you would accelerate if he thought you were about ready to get in front of him.
Other things that bother me about a lack of peripheral vision include social gatherings when I am seated at a table with a group of people. I noticed I tend to have a conversation with just one person at a time. Trying to keep up with the group of people and understand what their body language is doing is beyond me, at least for right now. If there is noise, I really focus on the speaker's lips, to the exclusion of all else. I suppose this makes me seem rather rude, or stuck up, or clueless. As a woman, this can put me in an awkward spot as women are the kin keepers. According to a widely held view, women are supposed to tend to other' emotions. So how can you take care of things that you can't see? How can you make sure everyone is okay when it is a major chore just to understand what the speaker is saying? Especially in a noisy room. I know women are supposed to be major multitaskers. But you can't multitask when it takes all your effort and energy simply to hear or see what is right in front of you.
Dr. Barry also had problems with sports. Since playing ball was too difficult, she went out for crew. I find that I, too, avoid sports involving a ball. I, too, go for sports that involve moving in a single direction. Sports that I have enjoyed include sailing, hiking in the woods, weight training, bicycling and yoga. When I hike in the woods or bike, I am very unaware of what I am passing. I just look straight ahead. So, when I hike or bike ride is more like going down the green tunnel and less like being surrounded by living things. It's enjoyable but I don't think it's the same experience that others have.
So, when I think about eco-psychology or environmental psychology, where does this leave me? All of these disciplines rely on having some mental connection to place. For example, wayfinding which encompasses all of the ways in which people are animals oriented themselves in a physical space and navigate from place to place is extremely problematic when you aren't quite aware of right and left. wayfinding in architecture means using in buildings spatial grammar, logical space planning, and tactile clues to help people navigate spaces. Theoretically, our spaces are defined for special needs people, including the visually impaired. But, in a broader context, perhaps wayfinding can be thought of metaphorically. That is to say, wayfinding in nature can be a means of relating the natural outer world to our inner psyche. So what is happening outside of us can be used as clues to help us understand what is inside.
So with an impaired vision where you see a green field and simply green and not this varied mosaic of teal, forest green, asparagus, celadon, Olive, Shamrock, Jade, etc. and a forest in winter quickly fades into a brown patch, and not in intricate web of twigs and branches. I think I am missing a lot of interconnections and the emotions that the wonder of nature can evoke. Or, the emotional contact that ensues when you gaze directly into the eyes of an animal like a deer that you encounter unexpectedly. In this book, the Wisdom Paradox, Dr. Goldberg writes about the love he feels, and the innate intelligence he has come to respect in his pet dog as he gazes into the eyes of the dog.
Dr. Barry writes about one of her professors who was a naturalist with uncanny powers of observation. Keen eyesight gave her professor the ability to see rare birds, and note new behaviors that the rest of us can't see. I guess the same is also true of great natural photographers like Ansel Adams. However, Ansel Adams could couple his unique sensibility of the exterior world to his artistic sensibilty and his emotional world: "In my mind's eye, I visualize how a particular... sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. It is an intuitive sense, an ability that comes from a lot of practice.
As Sue Barry said, "Vision allows us to be active participants in our world, continually moving through it and molding it to our needs and desires."