I saw clouds
I was welcoming solitude
with a safety net
with an “other shore”.
I’m not sure why it’s so difficult:
either I am with you, and then I feel the compulsion to know in each split second what exactly you expect from me, what to say, what to do.
I am by myself, I wander off to meet the stars, the leaves, the visions that speak to me easily as soon as people leave me alone, and I leave them alone. I find the root – because I couldn’t escape solitude, I’ve decided to find the root of connection within it, to be nourished by nature, and when I cannot see and hear and feel nature because of what we’ve done to it, to feel the Earth through my body nevertheless. To never be alone, to always have guidance, and to always know that I have a right to walk it – that the Earth wants my clad or in summer bare feet even on its concrete.
I relax, I slow down, I enter the mode in which all this speaks to me. Patterns, feelings, sights, sounds, intuitions, visceral intuitions and whispers become the language. A peaceful, relaxing language that doesn’t fret the mind, that doesn’t disturb the soul, that doesn’t warp time.
When I think about it, it doesn’t even create past and future, except as moods and intimations. Maybe that is why the burden is lifted.
But in the in-between land I feel lost and torn.
I am with you, and I get used to the human rhythm. The human warmth. A faster speed, at which you don’t notice the seasons change every few days, or the tides multiple times within a day. You don’t notice the sun’s cycle extending and shortening, changing colour every week. You don’t hear the whisper of walls (except if it’s gruesome, then I still hear it and am thrown out of this human world for a few hours or days).
The human world offers something. I’m not sure what.
A friend says, yes, it’s our nature to be immersed in it. Does that mean years of my life were wrong or lost?
Perhaps I’ve never experienced much warmth or security in it. The forest felt more secure, since I can remember. Even if the mosquitos and ticks bite me … I’m not particularly scared of the boars.
Although once I wandered off with a friend in the snow tracking hares and deer, somewhere near the Belorussian border, far out of the wood cabins of the village, and while trying out one of the famous “shortcuts” to get back, darkness fell. We walked many hours, without a map and without GPS devices (pre-smartphone era), through deep snow, relying on an intuitive sense of orientation. When we could barely see anything and weren’t sure of the direction anymore, we saw the lights of a settlement emerge from behind the trees in the distance. For the first time in my life, I was so happy to see a human settlement. Having been raised in too much civilisation and grown to abhor it, at that moment I did understand something primal.
Push and pull.
I guess I understood why people constructed civilisation 🙂
The warmth of fire, the orientation of light, the safety of enclosure. Someone who most likely won’t let you freeze to death and will give you hot tea.
This is a good way to experience it.
Not the coldness of the TV flicker, the disorientation of hectic noise, and freezing to emotional near-death around people who don’t seem to read the distress in your face.
I also wandered off topic …
The in-between is when I’ve dulled my senses, gotten used to the world of people. But I think the truth is I am disoriented by it, so I anchor myself in the other person. I observe, I mirror, I guess, and I follow – I start needing your gestures, your words, your attention, synchronisation with your rhythm in order to not lose orientation. To not lose myself in the noise fluctuations. I forgot who I am, I don’t remember how to speak to the Earth now when there is so much to do, and so quickly. So you need to anchor me. Otherwise, I’ll float.
When we part, I am lost.
Do I still really exist?
Is what I see real?
It seems like mere shadows, because your eyes aren’t seeing it. Are my eyes alone, by themselves, real enough?
Why do I feel my glance doesn’t have the power to impart reality, like yours does?
Over time, slowly slowly, I find the reality in myself.
Or perhaps, I reconstruct it. Piece by piece, over a number of days.
These are my feelings, these are my thoughts, this is what I see.
This means I am real, even if you don’t see me, even if you don’t see the same I do.
I re-open the visceral connection to the apples, the shrubs, the walls, the Earth, the air, the stars, I open my inner dialogue with a memory that’s far older than me. I open my inner, trusting dialogue – initiated in early childhood – with the universal You, with my own heart perhaps (as Zarathustra would say). I am soothed by the continued existence of familiar things. This house with thick walls of clay and stones, here since I was born this time round. I am soothed by the fact things happen without my input; I am soothed by how fruit grow or insects move.
I go back to instinct.
But I also experience immense sadness.
Is this a dream state created to soothe me in the absence of sufficient connection, sufficient integration into the circle around the fire? Or is it real?
Why do I always lose myself when I try to join the circle?
Why don’t people see the same things that I see?
What the heck is reality, which one is it?
Then why does a fluid movement seem impossible? Why is it difficult to stand both in truth and in company?
And what do the signposts of feelings mean?
Does a sad, tired loneliness mean it’s time to look for a corner behind the hearth, near the flickering lights, trying not to get swallowed up by them?
Why does this chasm seem so exceptionally wide?
I lose myself with every change, back and forth: between solitude and connection
either the loss of other or the loss of self
loneliness or overwhelm
either peace or aliveness, creativity, stimulation
either lost in the snow or lost in the city; how hard is it to find that village with just a few lights on the horizon?
*A more logical post on this same subject with a rather dramatic title is “How to walk the tightrope between social burnout and agonising isolation?”
**This piece was written after reading Naoki Higashida’s The Reason I Jump, written by a 13-year old autistic boy with autism who was nonverbal then managed to learn to write using a computer. I’m placing some excerpts below, those that resonated and led me to think about these topics.
Q45 W HY DO YOU ENJOY GOING OUT FOR WALKS SO MUCH?
My guess is that lots of people with autism like walking, and I wonder if you can work out why. ‘Because walking makes you feel good?’ ‘Because it’s great being out in the open air?’ Both these replies are true, of course, but for me the number one reason is that us people with autism love the greenness of nature. Now you might be thinking, ‘Oh, is that all?’
However, our fondness for nature is, I think, a little bit different to everyone else’s. I’m guessing that what touches you in nature is the beauty of the trees and the flowers and things. But to us people with special needs, nature is as important as our own lives. The reason is that when we look at nature, we receive a sort of permission to be alive in this world, and our entire bodies get recharged. However often we’re ignored and pushed away by other people, nature will always give us a good big hug, here inside our hearts.
The greenness of nature is the lives of plants and trees. Green is life. And that’s the reason we love to go out for walks.
Q47 WOULD YOU GIVE US AN EXAMPLE OF SOMETHING PEOPLE WITH AUTISM REALLY ENJOY?
We do take pleasure in one thing that you probably won’t be able to guess. Namely, making friends with nature. The reason we aren’t much good at people skills is that we think too much about what sort of impression we’re making on the other person, or how we should beresponding to this or that. But nature is always there at hand to wrap us up, gently: glowing, swaying, bubbling, rustling.
Just by looking at nature, I feel as if I’m being swallowed up into it, and in that moment I get the sensation that my body’s now a speck, a speck from long before I was born, a speck that is melting into nature herself. This sensation is so amazing that I forget that I’m a human being, and one with special needs to boot.
Nature calms me down when I’m furious, and laughs with me when I’m happy. You might think that it’s not possible that nature could be a friend, not really. But human beings are part of the animal kingdom too, and perhaps us people with autism still have some left-over awareness of this, buried somewhere deep down. I’ll always cherish the part of me that thinks of nature as a friend.
Q58 WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON AUTISM ITSELF?
I think that people with autism are born outside the regime of civilization. Sure, this is just my own made-up theory, but I think that, as a result of all the killings in the world and selfish planet-wrecking that humanity has committed, a deep sense of crisis exists.
Autism has somehow arisen out of this. Although people with autism look like other people physically, we are in fact very different in many ways. We are more like travellers from the distant, distant past. And if, by our being here, we could help the people of the world remember what truly matters for the Earth, that would give us a quiet pleasure.
Excerpts From: Naoki Higashida. “The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy With Autism.”