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  • Jessica Barker

Depth Perception

Updated: Jan 1


A Photo of Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park with Lake Pukaki in the Foreground

20/20 Vision


When I was in sixth grade, I got my first pair of glasses. I will never forget them. I picked them out from the Optical Center at Shopko, and they were the first pair I tried on. All the rage in 1992, they took up half my face. I remember riding my bike to school the next day, thrown off by things not seeming in their right place. I got to school, and looked up at the trees. For the first time since I could remember, I could see the individual leaves on the trees. I sat there for probably ten minutes, taking the glasses off and on, looking at the leaves over and over again as the trees transformed from big green blobs which were nice looking, to fascinatingly beautiful creations of nature, each leave with its own patterns of blowing in the breeze, and shades of green flowing into one another, but still distinct from each other.

I eventually got used to my new vision, and some things got easier. Reading, which I loved, didn’t put as much strain on my eyes, and my balance got a little bit better. I got contacts when I was 16, and my life changed again. I was now able to see in my peripheral vision things that had previously been unseen, and this was no doubt a huge benefit when I got my driver’s license a couple of years later. I thought this was good enough for me, and it wasn’t until I had a little bit of extra money in my Flexible Spending Account a couple of years ago that I thought about getting laser eye surgery. I had heard people talk about it and how life changing it was, but never liked the idea of getting my eye balls cut open, and didn’t have the money. However, since that fund was use-it or lose-it, I booked that appointment and set out to get the vision I had with contacts all of the time.


The procedure itself wasn’t exactly comfortable, but it wasn’t the worst either. I spent a day or so recovering, and was stunned to see the world in a totally different way just 24 hours later. I went to my check-up appointment and my doctor said this was only the beginning, and that my vision would continue to get better for the next year.


The following week as I drove by downtown Minneapolis at night, I was stunned. The buildings, which had previously all kind of melded into each other, stood out from each other and the dark night sky with a brilliance I couldn’t imagine. I couldn’t stop looking but told myself I needed to get my eyes on the road. It’s been over two years, and I still can’t drive by that skyline without remembering that first moment of clarity, when I saw something I had never seen before in seeing something I had seen a million times before.


For the past nine days, I have been driving around New Zealand, and seeing things so beautiful I cannot even describe them. The photos I have taken, while stunning, don’t even come close to the beauty that I see when I compare the two. Standing at the end of Lake Pukaki (yeah, for Americans this is an incredibly funny name) in Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park, I again found myself looking back and forth at the scenery, this time from a photo on my phone to the natural scenery in front of me instead of flipping my glasses of and on. The deep appreciation I was able to feel in that moment for being able to enjoy this moment was not lost on me.


Piercing the Clouds


I chose a picture of Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park here because it is my most recent example of being shown beauty that I don’t think I would have appreciated that much before I had the gift of depth perception. Though it is hidden in this picture, there is a peak that stands out far above the line of mountains that you see here. I stood looking out with my friend and a rather large group of tourists from Japan at this mountain range as we marveled at its beauty and grandeur. Then the lady behind the counter said “oh if you could see it when you could actually see Mt. Cook.” Myself, my travel companion and the large group of tourists were all confused how there could be a mountain bigger than the ones we were looking at. We swore that no, we had to be looking at it. We wanted so badly to see it we had convinced ourselves that we must be. But the woman behind the counter who was there every day knew what she was looking at. We squinted ,we waited for the clouds to clear, but the tip of Aoraki was covered in snow-laden clouds swirling around its peak, and predicted to be so for the next three days. No matter what we did we just weren’t going to see the magnificent mountain. We looked up on the internet at what our view would look like if it was visible, and we finally understood what it was we were not seeing.


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© 2019 by Jessica Barker