Tomorrow we’re going to High Island on Bolivar Peninsula. There is a photo blind there that the local boy scouts built and manage. It is a treasured destination for seasoned birders to glimpse the yearly, bimodal seasons of migration. The spot promises a menagerie of traveling fliers, the colors of Central America making their way into the ubiquitously green acres of summer in the North.
I am neither seasoned nor migrating when it comes to birding—or photography, for that matter. I am not even barely a neophyte. I’ve practiced these two overlapping hobbies for shorter durations than many of the feathers—the ones I hope will cross our viewfinders tomorrow—will have flown above this earth. Then again, while I have been less than a neophyte birder and photographer, I have not been disinterested or utterly ignorant. These interests and skills have lain dormant, practiced in my own mind or on equipment that is merely cute or common.
But now I have a Maserati and I am like a 10-year-old at the wheel. Even a natural racer, one with inherent, genius-level visual-spatial skills and hand-eye coordination would not be able to make good use of a Maserati, would they? Even Rainman would have to learn his numbers before knowing how many toothpicks are scattered on the ground.
And yet I have rented an entire bird blind for an entire day at the beginning of migration season in the very heart of seasoned birders’ and bird photographers’ bucket list destinations: High Island, Texas. It is true that renting it for ourselves for a whole day was the only way to participate in this excursion this year, this extended year of pandemic, a pandemic possibly promulgated by other flying creatures in other lands. Had it been another era, I would not have been likely to have made such a bold move. That said, had it been another era, I would not have been likely to have had a Maserati at my fingertips, or a growing interest in the variations of our avian cousins.
It is this era, nonetheless, and so, God willing, tomorrow we will skip out of our usual routine of lending ears to aching souls and sneak over to a sanctuary of God’s earthly rhythms. For a whole day. Oh, how I pray the other half of my monogamous pairing will be able to last the hours I dream of spending under the covering of leaves, in the din of breeze and twee-twee or chit-chit-chit. I have been bold, this time, in making it abundantly clear that this is my expectation, my desire, and, said I, should he, my other, my person, not wish to do this, then I’d rather he let me go it alone.
Indeed, I have chirped this desire a few times, and yet I am quivering in anticipated disappointment. How often I have followed the path of another’s anxiety, changed my route or curtailed my journey into the heart of things, the heart of a wood, the farthest edge of a beach, the deepest depth of a still point? And if not to another’s anxiety, then to a tiny bladder, or ticking watch?
There is a young autistic woman, Carly, who was trained to be able to communicate via computer, trained by her devoted father and a loving tutor. She is a hoot. She has hosted podcasts with hunky actors, advocated for the visibility of the neuro-divergent, but she has also disappeared for many months at a time. When she last re-emerged, she said she had gotten overwhelmed and just needed to go back into her world for awhile. I got the sense that she preferred it there but came back out for others, to share in their world, a world that allowed them to provide for her, to help her share her gifts that otherwise would have lived and died with her alone.
I have always felt most drawn to the psychological defense known to some professionals—professionals who bother reading the back of the manual—as “autistic fantasy.” To an outsider, it appears like a second choice, like a movement away from something that, were it not there, not noxious, the choice would not be made, the inner world would not be preferred. I believe for many of us, those on various points of the so-called neuro-divergent spectrum, this could not be further from the truth. The defensive move is to join the world of others at a rate satisfactory to them so that they will not bother the inner world that is simultaneously made up of the outer world that is apparently invisible to these others, these neuro-typicals. Were it visible to them, I can not conceive of them not wishing to live in awe of it, too. Since they apparently can not see it, they impose their expectations for movement, time, tasks, dialogue and activity on those who can.
But my husband bought me the Maserati of camera equipment (a Maserati I did not dare ask for, mind you), and so I am going to drive it, even if I never learn about all the buttons and settings or what all the technical terms mean or even how they would accelerate my learning. I would have been happy with a Porsche or even a clunker with a decent engine. He gave me a Maserati, though, so I am going to drive it into the ground, across the world, into the very heart of the matter, the earth, the sky. Defensively, and out of respect for the one who provided it for me, though, I will come back out, but maybe not as often as he would have me come out; I had no say in the purchase, but I will have say in its use. And I am going to go into the blind tomorrow, the blind in which I hope to be granted hours on end to see…and listen…and discern…and absorb…and enjoy…and delight and revel in…in my inner world.