This I Believe

Carol - Pasadena, California
Entered on October 24, 2006

This I Believe

I believe in boundaries, in knowing where they are and what they are made of, and in understanding when it is time to nudge against the wall, when it is time to break it down, and when it may be time to transcend the boundary altogether. To many of my students, boundaries seem to be important, as well. Over the years, I have noticed how they look to boundaries to define parameters and to determine what is expected, what is acceptable and what is not. For me, though, the power of boundaries lies in their way of marking the edge, as if purposefully, even willfully indicating a precipice from which a leap must be made. This is my chance to soar, if only for a moment, before settling into the relentless and transient space that exists between borders. This is the no man’s land, the uncharted territory that requires avid exploration and constant soul-searching; it is the strangely suspended, yet frenetic place that yearns to resolve itself, the one that calls me into being. For some forty-five years, I have inhabited such a place, a space filled with color and challenge located somewhere between the sighted world and the world of the unsighted. On the eve of adolescence, a time when parents must often set limits, I suddenly discovered that a mysterious ocular inflammation called Uveitis, had struck both eyes, as if it were charged with setting limits for me. For decades, I have denied those limits, believing instead that the very pathology responsible for scarring my retinas and clouding my vision was the same one that had made things quite clear. It has given me that edge, from which I jump into a place unlabeled, the realm of the possible, where I can say: no, I have never been able to drive a car, but yes, I make my way happily throughout Los Angeles and its celebrated car culture. Though I can no longer draw, and truth be told, maybe I never really could, I still embrace the world of visual art and I believe it embraces me. From my in-between place, I have been teaching art for nearly twenty-six years. It is through my students’ eyes that I see. Listening to one another, we share the in-between place and the stunning vistas it makes possible.

Despite heroic efforts to pluck out obscuring cataracts, and recently, to scrape the milky calcium from my corneas, my visual acuity has continued its decline; my sight has grown ever dimmer. But even as my retinas have deteriorated further, I realize that Uveitis can no longer be permitted to set the boundaries for me, the ones I hover between. At long last, I must take charge, learn to set my own boundaries, declare what it is that I cannot do, as well as celebrate what I can. Only then will I believe in transcending boundaries; then I will know what I am made of. And I hope my students will know, as well.