Wednesday, October 19, 2016


“It is not suffering that is precious, but the concentric pearlescence with which we contain it.”
--Andrew Solomon, Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity [review]

left: cross-section of a drilled natural pearl; right: cross-section of a pearl-oyster shell, Natl' Academy of Science

Far from the Tree is turning out to be well worth biking in the rain for, so far. I'm on page 256, in the Autism section, having read Deaf; Dwarfs; and Down Syndrome. The book is 960 pages. (260 of those are notes. I love notes.)

I'd also checked-out a book on child development by Alison Gopnik, The Philosophical Baby, which I skimmed. It's OK but seems to be shaped by a Marketing team, complete with a Gerber baby cover.
Not so Solomon's book.

Solomon focuses on people--parents and children--doing their best, trying their hardest in the gamut of challenging circumstances.
He quotes from the well-known "Welcome to Holland" piece written by the mother of a boy with Down syndrome:
You plan for a trip to Italy, but when you get off the plane, you're in Holland. It's a shock that calls for an adjustment, but it's good in its own way.

The mother of a child with profound autism wrote her own version, "Welcome to Beirut." (Today it would be Aleppo.)
"One day someone comes up from behind you and throws a black bag over your head. They start kicking you in the stomach and trying to tear your heart out. … This is the day you get the diagnosis." 

I've given myself an official vacation from working on my book this week. I've certainly stopped working for days at a time during the past 7 months, but I always felt guilty, that I should be writing, so it was hardly a vacation. 
I actually think I need to step back, not just because I'm dealing with other stuff but for the sake of the book. I'd been close up for so long, it got like standing too close to a dot painting: I lost sight of the overall pattern.

So for a week, I am taking a page from Calvin:

[You can find links to both essays, Holland and Beirut, on Caffeinated Autism Mom]

Also see video (2 min 50 sec): "The father of a severely autistic high-schooler opened up about the joy’s and pains of raising his son"

1 comment:

bink said...

Love the Calvin and Hobbes.

And the "Welcome to Beirut" quote...whoa...I can only imagine how difficult that would be...