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Autism: People on the Path

02 Oct

As I stood on my front porch, the sun beat down on me, and felt marvelous. Making a quick decision, I took off the sweater I was wearing, and hung it on the coat hook. Then we started on our walk of the day.

Passing our yard, I noticed the amazing colouring of our burning bush, and made a mental note to get a picture before the leaves fell.

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I crossed my arms to find some warmth as we began our descent down the hill, and mentioned to my son that I should have brought a vest. The day was warm, but it is still autumn, and there is a coolness in the shade. He asked if I wanted to go back for it, but I chose to keep walking.

At the gate to the path, three people had stopped to talk, and needed to make way for us to get through. It is hard to walk past people. Take a breath, say hello, keep on walking… I can do this.

With people so close, we walked in silence. We moved to the side of the path as two of the people came by on their bikes. The third was running, but not quite to where we were at the time. Concerned about being in the way, or not hearing her, I kept looking back until she was near. We moved to the side, and she, too, went by.

As the distance between us grew, my breathing evened out, and calm returned. My inner conversations were loud today, and for long periods of time I forgot that we were actually walking in silence. I turned to look at him, but he seemed preoccupied with his own thoughts. Silence is okay. We kept walking.

At certain angles, the sun shone through the leaves in flashes, causing a strobe light effect. I had to turn away. This makes me dizzy, and nauseous. I cannot handle the flashing lights – not when walking through a path in the trees; not when driving along the edge of a forest; not when walking into our kitchen where the fan is running under a skylight… not ever.

My younger brother has epilepsy, and has struggled with seizures for most of his life. I guess my response to flashing lights such as this is somewhat similar to his milder seizures. It doesn’t feel good. Sometimes it is so bad, I fall to the floor, and cover my eyes.

Today I turned away, thinking of how nice it would have looked – if it didn’t make me so sick.

As we turned the bend, the person who had been running, and one of the women on the bike had stopped. A man had joined them, and was looking at the bike – there was trouble with the chain or something. We squeezed past, and continued walking.

Up ahead, the other person on the bike had turned around, and asked ifs we had seen her friend. I said she was a little down the path, and kept walking.

Then a man on a bicycle came by, and we moved off to the side for him. It was such a busy day on the path. A lot more people than we are used to seeing. A lot busier than we like it. We continued to walk in silence.

As we got to the bridge, I mentioned that the walk seemed shorter than the last few days, even though we always walked to the same spot. My son agreed. We stopped and looked out at the lake and mountains, and it felt wonderful to just be there.

We turned around, and began the walk home. The man on the bicycle passed us again on his way back, but the others seemed to have gone ahead, and completed their journey where ours began.

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It was nice to feel alone again… and I was thankful once more to live here – so close to the lake, and nature trail; where a few minutes walk can take me to a place where this broken world seems whole, a place where I feel happy to be alive.

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