Finding the Way
In previous Insights post “Moving by Instinct,” I reflected on my severely autistic son being able to find his way to a hidden back trail, even though the path was overgrown by bushes, and even though he hadn’t been there in a couple of years. Like our friends in the animal world, humans have powerful instincts not only about things like directions and sense of place, but also about emotions and personal interconnections.
Last weekend, barely a week before my older son’s move to London, we decided to take a walk in Pacifica that we hadn’t been on a while, the same one my autistic son was able to find the hidden path for.
We spotted a set of trails that we hadn’t explored before. A hiker had recently died in a tragic fall from the cliffs just over the ridge we were climbing, but we decided to climb carefully and see what new path would take us to Rockaway Beach, without walking the extremely dangerous cliffs.
Our older son, about to embark on a huge life adventure far from familiar turf, led the way. I’m usually the one taking trails the rest of the entourage feels iffy about, but found myself in the opposite role.
“That looks like a straight drop, watch out!” “That’s the cliff someone fell from recently. Stay away!”
He steered away from the most dangerous spot, but we still maneuvered through sharp drops, slippery gravel, and a narrow rock crevice. Intuition told us how much risk an exciting hike was worth without putting ourselves in true danger.
On the human connection side, autistic son Sean senses a big change coming. He alternates between being angry at his brother for no apparent reason, and spending long stretches sitting next to him. Though he doesn’t have an easy grasp of language to question and express things, Sean has developed powerful emotional sensors. The trick is finding tools to help him process deep and sometimes confusing emotions.
The instincts we use to explore new hiking trails are intertwined with the instincts we need for new adventures in life. As our older son forges a new path for his life in London, we’ll be creating a new way of walking through our days with one less member of our family around.
This week’s HikingAutism Hike Notes making an encore appearance from the archives is Rockaway Beach via Calera Creek Path, a fairly flat walk on a smooth path past memorial gardens to Pacifica’s Rockaway Beach.
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This week’s Hike Notes from the Archives:
(Original Hike Notes 44): Rockaway Beach via Calera Creek Path
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