Excerpt Tuesday – Monet Refuses the Operation – Lisel Mueller


This wonderful poem took on even more meaning for me when I learned that Ms. Mueller herself has all but lost her vision after suffering from progressive vision loss for years.  How does the physical sense of vision interact with our inner vision and creativity? The degeneration of the senses sometimes becomes a part of the legends of great artists – Beethoven and his hearing loss for example – and sometimes not. Read the full text of “Monet Refuses the Operation” here. A recording of Ms. Mueller reading it can be found here – she has a lovely and soothing voice. Photograph and composition by me. Enjoy!


    1. This is another one I return to time and again! It’s in the “return to illustrate again” pile for me!

      Viewing the work that the MFA Boston has of his, I have very recently come to especially appreciate his studies of snow and the subtlety of different kinds of whites – smoke, ice, snow – the gallery had a little blurb from a contemporary of Monet’s describing how he would see Monet out on the road painting in the dead of winter, draping in blankets and standing in front of a small portable fire!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Even before I developed MS (with its various sensory distortions) I found this question interesting. I’ve grown accustomed to that quality of flux (and three-dimensional space really does feel like an illusion much of the time), and I know my changed perception of the world has added something to my writing. I always hope that my condition won’t get any worse before a cure can be found, but at the same time, would I really want all the damage to be reversed?

    A really great poem, and an intriguing photo. The way *you* see poetry is always unique!


    1. Thank you so much! Your comment reminded me of another documentary that I love that is called “Into Great Silence” and it is about the daily life of Carthusian monks in France – and in that movie one of the monks talks about something similar. He has gone blind – and he discusses what that means for him and how he has found new ways to pray and mediate because of his blindness. I think there is great value in acknowledging and discussing the rich mixture of experiences that people have when things like this – loss of the senses, chronic, or degenerative illness – happen to them and how it can inform and produce amazing art and writing!

      On a separate note, I have so many colleagues who work tirelessly on researching the underlying causes of MS and attempting to discover new treatments – I have great hope that we will soon come to a day we can at the very least arrest its progress!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do too; in the beginning I had trouble believing I would see that day, but not anymore! It seems like in the last year alone the discoveries have doubled, so hearty cheers to your colleagues! Also I see that my library has a copy of that documentary, so thanks for mentioning it; a little inspiration never goes amiss.


  2. This poem was very meaningful to me as I have recently had eye surgery to restore vision that was lost due to a hole in my retina. I’m also severely nearsighted and the world described in the poem is very familiar to me. I have often thought that my vision limitations have influenced my artwork and my writing – because the world I see is of course filtered through what ability I have to see! This was just great, thanks for posting it.


    1. It is my pleasure, Claudia! I wish you a speedy and complete recovery from your surgery! It is so fascinating to think of the unique worlds we each see, starting with the variations in our eyes (and eyesight) and then combined with and filtered through the imagination. And from that combination comes our art. When I had the occasion to study the anatomy of vision and perception – like learning that visual information arrives into the brain upside-down and our brain “rights” it for us – it only heightens the marvel!


      1. Yes, that upside down part rings a real bell to me since my surgery – it involved a gas bubble in my eye, which I could see – it started off covering my whole field of vision and gradually shrank, going to the bottom of my vision – But in reality it was floating at the top of my eye. Somehow that just amazed me and I’m still amazed. The whole eye thing has really made me evaluate what I see much more, now, in gratitude for seeing at all!

        I love your work. Thanks for this eye poem reference in particular!


      2. That is an amazing story – that you could see something inside your eye! I can only imagine how scary that must have been at the time, but in a way you were seeing into a realm of space that few people do. I am so glad to hear that they were able to remove it and restore much of your vision.

        Thank you so much – it is my pleasure. Your comments are such great encouragement!


      3. Actually, believe it or not, the bubble was the treatment for the hole in my retina – a gas is put in the eye after surgery to repair the hole to hold things in place and allow the hole to heal. (vitrectomy, it’s called). Bizarre but it worked. My vision is progressing very well. As I said, I am much more conscious of how I see now and I think about how things appear much more than I did.


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