Do You See these Fascinating Close-ups from Your Eye?

Rainbows, ridges, squiggles, abstract art, and more

Photo courtesy Harry Quan on Unsplash

Do you ever close one eye and look with the other closely near itself? I do this once in a while when one of my eyes is tired, or just like that.

Here are the things I spy from my eye nearby.

Nose profile

My skin-coloured nose ridge is a steep blurred slope that ends at the bulge of my nostril. It catches the light best among the features near my eye and is the most prominent thing close up. When I switch the open eye, the profile is subtly different. I don’t know why this is so, but I am content to leave the question unanswered. If I keep both eyes open and look down, I see both ridges at once, separated at the top, converging, and crossing at the bottom.

Eyebrow hill

My eyebrow looks like an upside-down hilltop lined with tall grass. The stalks all bend down in the same direction under their weight. I see things in the background hazily through them. The brow looks fuzzily detailed in the centre and becomes indistinct and dark as I move my gaze towards each end.

Eyelid shutter

The dark line of my eyelid appears as a horizontal line sloping across the cave mouth of my eye, beyond which lies the bright world. It only emerges out from under my brow when I bring it down. My eyelashes make a wispy light border under the dark edge. They are barely seen but certainly there. The lid shudders like a rusty old sliding door as I close it slowly and watch it.

Eyelash rainbows

My eyelashes catch the early morning sunshine and diffract them into iridescent rainbows. It happens when I do my supine yoga exercises at about 7.30 every morning. My mat is opposite the larger window of our bedroom that faces east. The early sunbeams stream into our fourth-floor room at a shallow angle, and if I narrow my eyes, the lashes catch the sunlight perpendicularly, and a shimmer like peacock feathers appears between them. It is always wonderful and delights me. I can recreate it at will, as long as I get the position of my eyelashes and the sunbeams just so.

Interior squiggles

I notice translucent floating strands appear in my field of vision once in a while. Sometimes solitary, often in twos or threes, and rarely eight or more, they are glassy distorted Ls, Ss, Ys, or Ws. Some twist over themselves, and it’s clear they are three-dimensional. The prominent part is dark spherical nodes at uneven intervals along their length that help me spot and follow them. I swing the filaments around by moving my eye, and they change direction sluggishly, like nebulous strings in an aqueous liquid. They keep their shape as they float around.

I know they are inside my eye and wondered what they were when I first noticed them uncertain years ago. I found out they are collagen strands that appear as the vitreous humour in our eyes liquefies. They are a sign of ageing, like the blue-grey ring that may edge the iris (I have these too).

The diaphanous strings are usually called eye floaters (I’m not too fond of this name and prefer squiggles or strands). They are benign unless there are too many, or they increase suddenly. They don’t affect my sight and are a curiosity for me. I watch them when I am at a loose end and play at trying to keep them from floating away so I can observe their structure.

In the drawing below, I’ve tried to capture what the squiggles look like from inside my eye. I’ll try to improve the sketch. I hope you get an idea of the squiggles, my brow and nose line as I see them.

Image made by the author

Darkness denizens

I see some things even with both eyes closed. These are remnant retinal images of bright stuff like windows, lights, and reflections. And eddying and swirling light and dark shapes that form in the blackness, and change and pulsate. They’re probably artefacts of my optic nerve or brain. I notice that neither the bright aftereffects nor the abstract art appears if I close just one eye. The information flooding in from the open eye washes them away.

Do you see these things too? Would you like to see them? Just close an eye or both now and look, and you will.

These are unique and private visions. No one else can see them, nor will a camera capture them. At least not yet, as far as I know. Someday there’ll be embedded nano-cameras in the eyes or probes in the brain to precisely capture what we see. But until then, these fascinating intimate views are exclusively ours.

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