march 26/SHOVEL

25 minutes
4 or 5 inches?
still snowing
25 degrees

earlier today: As I write this, it is 9 am and snowing. We (Scott, me, FWA, RJP) are about to leave for the airport — the kids are flying to Chicago. . . . Happy 150th birthday Robert Frost! Recited “Out, Out –” to RJP in honor of it. I don’t get it, was her response. Oh well.

now — 12:40: Just finished shoveling. Such heavy, wet snow and still coming down. Decided to do a pass now for future Scott and Sara. Plus, I wanted some exercise.

The kids are at the airport, waiting for their flight; it was delayed by an hour and a half. That sucks, but it’s a good reminder to them of how flying sometimes works — lots of delays and getting to the airport way too early and sitting around.

look them in the eye

Wanted to archive some more examples of “looking people in the eyes” that I heard on a podcast and read in a book yesterday:

During the pandemic I had started saying hello to people and looking people in the eyes. We had masks on and gloves on, so you really had to connect with people by looking them in the eye. And one of the things I started to notice was people who are down on themselves — and, you know, they sort of taught us how to see if someone was smiling through eyes — and so, when someone was having a bad day to really make sure I connected with their eyes and be like, here’s a little bit of my light. You’re having a tough day, I want to pass something to you. . . . And I find connecting with people, for me, really reduces my anxiety.

episode 156

I like archiving these examples because sometimes I wonder if I’m making a bigger deal out of losing the ability to make eye connect and see people’s faces. I also like archiving them because I am a former academic who needs evidence and examples to prove my points. Now that I’ve done more reading and thinking about eye contact, I know that making eye contact, even during the masked faces of the pandemic, is not the only way we can connect with others, but it still is alienating and exhausting and anxiety-inducing not to be able to do it.

And here are two other “eye-looking” examples, both from the book I just finished, The Thursday Murder Club:

You can really see in the eyes of the couple which one wants to move, and which one is just going along with it.

describing the show, Escape to the Country

You know when you look into someone’s eyes for the first time and the whole world breaks apart? And you just think, “Of course, of course, this is what I’ve been waiting for all this time”?

telling a story about “love at first sight”

This idea of being able to see who wants to move by looking in someone’s eyes reminds me of a great chapter from Georgina Kleege, in Sight Unseen, “Here’s Looking At You Kid.”

When the sighted describe facial expressions, the eyes are more central and more active. Eyes glow, twinkle, sparkle, shimmer, smoulder, flicker, projecting emotions the viewer readily understands. But what I know about the visual system tells me the eyes cannot do all this. They receive and respond to light but cannot emit it. The “flash of recognition” or “spark of understanding” the teacher sees in his students’ eyes is merely a trick of lighting. The lids rise, in wonder and surprise, exposing more of the slick surface of the eyeball to reflect light back to the beholder. Illumination. The downcast eye beneath half-lowered lids cannot catch and throw back the light, and so seems dull and unenlightened. The eyes themselves are passive. Without the context of the mobile face around them, and the play of light upon them, they remain unchanging and vacant. But in the language of the sighted, where seeing is believing, the eyes must be the focal point of every expression. All the wrinkles and crinkles of emotion occur only to funnel meaning into the eyes.

And this:

I worry that the sighted delude themselves, and put themselves at risk. Because when most of them look into my eyes, they see me as sighted. If eye contact matters so much surely it should be harder to fake. Perhaps it is only the expectations of the sighted. When I aim my eyes in more or less the right direction, the sighted see it as close enough. But if a mere millimeter could make an inquiring look into a menacing stare, shouldn’t my fraud be instantly obvious?

Be honest. Look at me when I’m talking to you. Do you really see all that you say? Or is it a convenience of language to ascribe to my eyes those qualities, emotions, messages you derive from the rest of my face, our surroundings, or the words I speak? Aren’t you projecting your own expectations, interpretations, or desires onto my blank eyes? And if you’re really being honest, really looking closely, my eyes are no more vacant than a sighted person’s eyes. My eyes and their eyes send back the same reflection. Of course this hypothesis comes full circle. If I see your eyes as blank, it is only because I am projecting what I see (or don’t) onto you. But only you can say for sure. Go ahead. Take a good look. Pull the wool off your eyes. Tell me what you see.