Posts Tagged ‘“The Horse Boy”’

Thoughts on a snowy October evening

October 29, 2009

It’s October but outside it’s like deepest January. This beautiful doe showed up at the Hardscrabble Times world headquarters this evening just as I was signing out from an afternoon of work on a technical editing job. I actually took the photo through the window.


Dr.Phil Maffetone has weighed in on the flu vaccine and the debate over the H1N1 “swine flu.”

Since finishing “The Horse Boy” the other day hardly an hour has passed that I have not thought about the book, the story and autism. Of course I’m reminded of autism all the time since my son

Harrison is an “autist,” a word I picked up from the book.

Harrison goes to the Custer County Kid’s Club after Kindergarten some afternoons. Yesterday when I went to bring him home I had extreme difficulty getting him into the car, seated and buckled up. I’ll spare you the details but just know that there was no reasoning with him and this ended up being a 25-minute ordeal. At one point I was so frustrated I actually considered sitting down in the snow in the parking lot to cry. And I’m not overly prone to shedding tears.

There is a certain obsessive-compulsive component that goes along with Harrison’s autism. For instance, when leaving for school in the morning, he has to stand against the refrigerator and see the headlights through the front door window when I start the car. Then, he has to run to the car, get in the front seat and “steer” the wheel four times. Not three times and not five, but four. Then he will usually get in the back seat and we can drive to school.

Then there’s the blender. We make smoothies often, starting the Vita-Mix on low, then dialing it up, and finally hitting the high switch for a few seconds to crack the flax seeds. This is simple enough except we need to consider Harrison’s sense of order. He must be in the room when we turn it on. Sometimes he will turn it on for us. Then he runs to the bathroom and closes the door as we dial it up and turn it to high. Once there, he runs out and turns it off, first switching off the high switch, then dialing the speed down, and then finally turning the machine off.

Any deviation from this order and a tantrum is certain. For instance, the other morning he was in the bathroom when I started the blender. Bad idea. If you don’t allow him to turn it off himself all hell can break loose. If you didn’t add flax seeds and don’t need to switch it to high, you better switch it to high anyway or there will be trouble.

Yet even with all these strange challenges, there are moments that are truly amazing. This evening he pulled a book — one that we don’t often read to him —out of the bookshelf, and started reading it out loud. Had he memorized this book word and verse or was he actually reading it? I believe the latter, but either is remarkable.

According to several sources, Ted Andrews, author of “Animal Speak,” the most comprehensive book of animal totems, died this week at the age of 57. This book has been an amazing source of spirituality to me and I actually learned of Andrew’s death after looking up deer tonight in “Animal Speak.” His words on deer say it all: “When deer show up there is an opportunity to express gentle love that will open doors to adventure for you.”

Weather animals and ‘The Horse Boy’

October 26, 2009

Generally speaking, I think most animals know more than humans do.  And certainly, in my experience, many animals are smarter than many humans.

So I startled myself a bit yesterday during a discussion with my neighbor Patti about our dismal October weather. She said her horse Sterling had put on quite the coat, causing her to wonder if winter was going to be really bad.

I flipped back something to the effect that if horses were smart enough to predict a winter’s worth of weather they would not be living in pens and subservient to humans.

So do I really believe this? I don’t know if I do or don’t. Is it possible that a horse can intuit things like El Niño, the tracking of the jet stream, polar air masses? And then grow a coat accordingly? Or is this cosmic weather station just hardwired into a horse’s central nervous system?

And what about the horses that didn’t grow a long coat for winter? Are they just not “in the know,” or do they merely like it cold?

Regardless of Sterling’s heavy coat, when I drove my son to school this morning the temperature on the Subaru thermometer was 2 degrees.  Last week we had 2 feet of snow. Even this human knows that’s way too wintry for October.

And speaking of the mystical world of animals, I just finished a book by Rupert Isaacson called “The Horse Boy.” This is the story of a father’s quest to heal his son who has autism. I found the book compelling on many levels. For starters, the story is an epic real-life adventure told in a very raw form.

Most familiar to me was Isaacson’s description of his son’s speech habits, peculiarities of behavior, and tantrums. Most valuable was the manner in which this father openly discusses his very personal feelings about his son’s condition, and the impact it has had on every part of his life, including his own physical and mental well-being and his marriage.

I also found the story intriguing in light of my use of saddle donkeys as therapy for my son Harrison.

Without spoiling the story, Isaacson discovered his son Rowan to have connections to the world of shamanism and also to horses. So he decided to take him to a place where shamans and horses are still an integral way of life — Mongolia. The resulting story is one of courage and triumph. I recommend it not only for people who are close to someone with autism, but also for anyone who likes a good adventure tale.

If I have any small criticism it is the appearance that Isaacson foresaw the marketability of this story well enough to bring a video crew along for the adventure. The film is due out this fall at special screenings all over the country.  Still, I think the richness of the story, along with the fact that the film will give millions of people an honest glimpse of autism, offsets this minor quibble. Plus, Isaacson has donated part of the proceeds to helping children, and I can’t blame a writer for wanting to make a buck off his work.