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Archive for the ‘Autism’ Category

六十余州名所図絵 甲斐 さるはしMonkey Bridge (Kai, Saruhashi), from the series Famous Places in the Sixty-odd Provinces [of Japan] ([Dai Nihon] Rokujûyoshû meisho zue) 「六十余州名所図絵 甲斐 さるはし」

Monkey Bridge from the series Famous Places in Sixty-odd Provinces of Japan

Nothing replenishes my creative spirit more than a good walk.  The older I get, the more I find walking is essential not only to my physical health, but also to my creative process.  I learn so much from watching how nature moves from one season into the next with such grace and beauty.  There is no better teacher of color than nature herself.  As I watch her move from the intense greens and blues of summer into the golden yellows, browns and brilliant reds, I am awestruck.

Taking a daily walk is also an incredible source of pleasure for me, as it has been for many artists before me.  One of the things I love about Japan is the tradition of sketching and writing poetry while walking through the countryside.  This woodblock is an example from of one of my favorite Japanese artists -Utagawa Hiroshige.

This year in particular, the imminent arrival of fall with it’s shorter days reminds to me to slow down and savor the fruits of the harvest as I enter the next stage of my life.  Having just finished menopause, I am now looking forward to beginning a review of the creative work I have done so far. Through this process, I hope to have a better idea of where my creative work wants to go in the next half of my life.

While I was in Japan this past spring, I noticed so many books about walking and sketching or writing poetry.  With the most rapidly aging population on earth, as well as the longest life span, I think that the Japanese are on to something here.  As we age, taking time to connect with nature on a regular basis by walking while expressing ourselves in art and poetry seems to be a wonderful way to connect more deeply with ourselves while replenishing the creative well within.

The Joy of Bubbles

The Joy of Bubbles

This past week, as my son and I have been out walking by the light of the full moon, I have been amazed by how much the same terrain is transformed when bathed in mo0nlight.  Walking together has become a special time for us.  While we are out, he loves to recite his favorite cartoon dialogues for me, blow bubbles and dance in the streets with our dog.  As the mother of a child on the autistic spectrum, I have often found it difficult to share the kind of interactions that are more common for other families, like a conversation with eye contact.  To be honest, this used to make me feel very sad and left out.  Last night, however, as I watched his beautiful bubbles floating in the moonlight and listened to him joyfully hum bars from his favorite cartoon, I was filled with such gratitude.  Our lives may be atypical, but they are also filled with so much beauty and joy, if I only remember to slow down and savor this walk through life.

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I had an interesting experience a few days ago that has stayed with me.   I was taking my students on a day trip out of Tokyo to a lovely old town called Kamakura.  A young man, about 22 years old, got on the train.  He stood by the door, fidgeting, swaying back and forth talking to himself.  Every now and again, he would utter a gasp of delight when he saw something intriguing.  Since we were in the first car of the train, he was able to go back and forth from the door to the window at the front to look out over the conductor’s shoulder to the tracks ahead.   The joy on his face as he watched the conductor reminded me of my sons when they were little.

After a while he began start reciting stories to himself.  The other people on the train politely ignored him.  I noticed that while no one actually moved away from him, neither did they move any closer to him.   Everyone seemd to silently agree that is was best to give him his own little bubble of space, an unusual luxury on crowded Japanese trains.

Several times, as he looked over in my direction to the trains traveling alongside of ours, I caught a glimpse of his face.  I immediately recognized the look of pure innocence which is so familiar to me.  It is a look that I know from years of experience being with people with autism and related developmental disabilities.  Seeing this young man out in public on his own, riding the trains safely filled my heart with such happiness and hope for the future for my own son.

Before the arrival of my youngest son, I might have felt anxious having a stranger near me talking to himself and moving back and forth on the train. Today, however, because of all of the years of experience I have loving and caring for my son, I felt such a warm kind of kinship with this young man.  His presence on the train made my day.  I was so grateful to see him out in public, doing something very ordinary by himself, like taking a train.

In all the years I lived in Japan, I have rarely seen a person with congnitive or physical impairments out in public with a caregiver in Japan, let alone by themselves.   Until very recently, handicapped people of all types were rarely seen in public.  Slowly Japan is changing it’s attitudes and I am so happy to have been able to experience this for myself on this trip.  Just sitting near this young man on the train helped take the edge off of a lot of complicated feelings that I have been carrying around for years after all of my own struggles in Japan trying to get help for my son when he was young.

Yesterday I had lunch at a fancy hotel restaurant with my teacher Kiyomi Saotome and our waiter was the son of a friend of mine from France and her Japanese husband.  Her son has also struggled with his own developmental issues, similar to my son’s.  I was so happy to see him in his splendid uniform and working in the restaurant.  It was so encouraging to see him taking such pride in his work and making a life for himself.

I wonder what the future will bring for my son?  If he will find employment which will give him joy and a sense of satisfaction when he gets older?  The world is changing, in this case for the better and I couldn’t be happier.  Who knows?  Maybe he would even want to spend some time in Japan again someday?

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