An Eye to See

by Bob Lodes

My mind was thinking of sunsets, sunrises and walks on the sandy beach in search of something to photograph.

We were waiting in line and the monitor sign said it would be fifteen minutes more. We could see the ferry in the distance coming to take us across the ship channel to the Island called Port Aransas. We’ve been many times before, but this was special – our forty-fifth wedding anniversary. Year after year we stay at the same condo, same view of the pool, treasured walks on the same beach. Sitting here, waiting, we watch the birds fly in the crisp air of February. Sea gulls follow the ferry in hopes of finding food. When the ferry arrives my anticipation increases and it seems like an eternity before we finally get to the condo and unpack the car.

Eighteen years ago my tumor was removed through three brain surgeries that left me with double vision to carry on my passion for wildlife photography, one eye closed and the other searching the viewfinder. Now, I have lost one of those eyes permanently to retina occlusion, sometimes called an eye stroke. This was my strong eye that I used for my photography. With hope shattered, I started to try and teach myself to use my other eye to pursue my passion.

On the beach, people were fishing on the long pier. Young people were surfing large waves like I had not seen here before. After a couple of days and no pictures, my wife encouraged me to go with her to the wildlife preserve, just a short drive away. We arrived and took the long walk together down the boardwalk to an observation tower near the end. Along the way we watched the ducks, one snake and a swamp filled with who knows what. Those ahead of us were pointing to what they called a Tricolored Heron. Yes, a photo op for me. For a moment I forgot about my eye problem, my heart picked up a beat, and my mind exploded with wonder. I spend a lot of time in amazement of God’s creations and holding on to his promise, “Behold, I will do a new thing.”

We were walking back to the car when my good eye caught the image of a beautiful winged creature standing in the water. The bird was so majestic I stopped instinctively with camera in hand. Click, click, click. I was shaking and knew none of my shots would come out sharp.  Leaving, I looked back one more time and the brightly colored bird was still there in a striking pose, watching me. Maybe God was waiting for me to say “thank you” for the good eye.

Later, I learned this bird is the Red Knot from northern Canada near the Arctic. They come here to winter, flying up to 19,000 miles a year. In the almost last day on the island I found my hope returning thanks to this beautiful bird telling me, “Yes, Bob, you can still do it.”

I’m wondering now if the Red Knot has gone back to Canada and if will he be back next year? I don’t know, but I do know that I am coming back.