I knew, before stepping foot in this apartment, that if my wife could gaze east and see nothing but lake and sky, then scan south along the Outer Drive to the Drake, we’d take the place. And I knew, if I could envision what I know is out there, recreate the scene I saw as a young man but can’t see today, we’d take the place. That’s how simple it was, how we arrived way up here, on floor 34, above the tree line.
The view is awesome—so I’m told. My wife tells me how azure blue or bottle green or steely gray is the water today, how the whitecaps rise and fall. She describes the buildings that form the skyline. I conceptualize. I construct blueprints. I remain a visual person. I paint my canvas. I place figures against the background which I do see—the light. Oh, the light—it’s light up here even on gloomy days. All these free-range lumens ward off Seasonal Affective Disorder—so I’m told.
I can see the world from here. If I stand, nose to the window wall, my visual field wraps around me. I last saw this wide forty years ago at the Shedd Aquarium, where I pressed my nose to the aquarium glass and watched a gar, the fresh-water cousin of the barracuda, glide past and counted every scale on its skeletal frame, like I’d counted cars on a long, slow, freight train.
Do you see how, having had sight, I default to the visual? If I can “see” it, I can feel it. I wonder if or why I rely on recreating every scene visually in order to legitimize it. Up here, above the tree line, I open the window and become oriented to my surroundings by sound. Wind. Traffic. I’d thought I’d hear waves, not cars. One of these nights, toward the wee hours, when the city is fast asleep, in a storm churning this Great Lake, I’ll hear the waves. And see them.