Lines and Shadows
There are many theories about individuals with autism, often about how their brains process things. For someone like my severely autistic son, who I consider to be very intelligent in his unconventional way, extreme difficulty with language keeps him from explaining how his thinking works. General theories are interesting, but unless a specific individual can confirm his or her thought pattern, we’re only guessing.
Autism research papers often comment that autistic individuals have difficulty with abstract thinking, which is associated with problem solving abilities. That may be true, but when I hear “abstract” I instinctively think about the visual arts. In that sense of the word, a fascination with abstract lines and patterns with less regard for tangible objects was a key element in the way my son interacted with the world from when he was little.
Though my son seems more connected to tangible objects and people and somewhat less focused on patterns as he has gotten older, I know they are still part of how he processes the world around him. Relating to the world through lines and patterns feels familiar as I also tapped into the world that way from childhood. Visual memories of my early days are etched with distinctive markings on a worn linoleum floor, uniquely shifting ripples on a running creek, the characteristic curves of snow banks carved by the wind.
Some of my favorite trail images these days are pale brown paths marked by dark shadow stripes that move organically as leaves and branches blow in the breeze. A recent hike featured line patterns created by tree branches and shadow patterns on a mountain.
Part of nature’s calming magic is its power to focus our minds away from life’s worries. Next time you need to pull out from stressful thoughts, soften your gaze and look around until your eyes catch an interesting pattern to settle on, whether indoors or out. Seeing a pattern and letting troubles fade from the front of our minds is a magic trick most of us had as children. If we had it then, we can find it again.
This week’s Hike Notes, San Pedro Valley Montara Mountain-Brooks Creek Loop, takes hikers through eucalyptus, manzanita, and coyote brush on sometimes steep trails that offer ocean views as well as mountain views with turkey buzzards dancing in the sky above, presenting its own unique varieties of line and shadow patterns at every turn.
The long list of Hikes can be found on the Quick View Hike List and on the main Hikes page. All past Insights posts can also be viewed in the Insights/Hike Update News archives.
Check the Home page for the broader background story. If you’re not able to take one of these Northern California hikes, hopefully you can enjoy the photo galleries at the bottom of each hike page! Click Insights/Hike Update News for inspiring reflections. Please feel free to share. Follow on Twitter at @HikingAutism
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Hike Notes 127: San Pedro Valley Montara Mountain-Brooks Creek Loop
Sharing insights and hiking highlights (Hikes, Hike Search by Area) from the special needs caregiver front in San Francisco.