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Essays: Cleaning my Glasses

Essays by Karen Anderson.png
Illustration by Kacie Brown
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Every morning when I sit down at my computer, I begin by cleaning my glasses. Grabbing the bottle of cleaner and a flannel cloth, I spray each lens and am shocked all over again at how dirty they’ve become in one day. One day!

Where do all these smears and smudges come from, these spots and speckles? It’s not as if I’ve been biking through mud puddles or feeding a group of toddlers. Yet, every day my glasses collect enough debris to distort my vision, whether I notice it or not.

Mostly, I don’t notice. Instead, I think I’m seeing clearly.

And suddenly — in the middle of my polishing — I wonder how my view of the world is distorted not only by the speckles on my glasses but by the smudges in my mind? By my unexamined biases and old judgments that reappear every day without my noticing and shape my perceptions and behavior.

Where is the lens cleaner that can wipe off my mistaken opinions and assumptions? A solvent strong enough to cut through those greasy fingerprints of prejudice that belong to me?

Seeing clearly isn’t just about vision but about revision — and more revision. I hold my glasses up to the window and pick up the flannel cloth again.

Karen Anderson is a writer who lives and works in Traverse City, Michigan. She was a columnist for the Traverse City Record-Eagle for 30 years and published two collections.