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United blvd…

August 11, 2010

According to Mr. Zephyr’s story,

at the age of eleven,

perhaps twelve,

Ambrose announced to his parents that he possessed a talent…

The announcement occurred during the family’s annual motoring holiday…

They were on the Cornish coast…

I can see better than anything, young Ambrose said…

Any one, said his father…

Better than animals…

That is something, said his mother…

Better than binoculars…

You don’t say, said Mr. Zephyr…

I do say…

And how did you come by this talent??? asked Mrs. Zephyr…

Ambrose shrugged…

Indeed, said his father…

Ambrose’s face began to glow…

He was standing on the last cliff of England,

squinting as boys do,

and seeing America…

A soft blue lump,

right at the horizon…

Just there,

Ambrose insisted,

jabbing his finger westward…

The Manhattan skyline emerged through the low ocean mist…

His parents apologized for not being able to quite make out the details…

They blamed the time of day and the sun…

— in THE END of the ALPHABET by CS RICHARDSON

I usually keep the house very quiet,

so I can hear my own thoughts,

and the thoughts of others as they come through the cracks,

the thumps,

and the pops that live with me in this place…

But today I decided,

on impulse,

to mix things up a bit…

I tuned my red radio onto CBC Radio 2

105.7 on your fm dial,

when you’re in Vancouver…

This used to be the only station I could stomach,

for many years…

There was a time in my late twenties and thirties,

once I’d started teaching,

that I could only listen to classical music…

I don’t know exactly why other than it had something to do with noise reduction…

Yesterday I was chatting with a neighbour of mine…

He’s six…

And while I was cutting back a rose bush with my telelscopic pruning device,

he proudly told me that he would be turning seven in September,

and that he would be going to school ALL day,

with a short recess,

AND a long lunch…

His dad said,

The school hours have changed…

They’re weird…

The day starts at 9:00 am,

which is fairly normal,

but the end of the day is at 3:01…

In Switzerland,

where I come from,

things like that just don’t happen…

I said,

It makes the whole system look foolish doesn’t it…

He said,

It’s ridiculous…

I said,

Don’t get me started…

My six year old friend took me into his backyard,

to see his new baby brother…

These Swiss parents have given each of their sons indigenous names,

full of significance…

Names reflecting knowledge of the place where they chose to come down,

to earth…

I looked at the six year old boy,

and said,

I can tell from your feet that you must be a very good climber…

He proved it by immediately scaling the Sumac tree,

and quickly made me a wrap out of leaves,

as a gift…

He said,

You can take this and use it as a decoration,

for your house…

Then he went into his house and got out his treasure chest…

A collection of stones,

shells,

and little animals,

wrapped up in black satin,

to hold in the magic…

The boy liked my necklaces,

so I gave him the new one I’d just finished,

and was wearing for the first time,

as a gift for becoming a big brother…

He showed me his treasures,

and then looked at me with his Spiderman face paint,

and blue-green eyes,

and said,

Are you in love with me???

I didn’t know quite what to say,

and I wondered where that came from…

I said,

Are you saying that because I gave you the necklace???

He shook his head…

I was happy his father didn’t rein him in with some comment about what’s okay to say,

to a stranger,

and what isn’t…

WE sat in the silence…

And then his father said,

Are you trying to say that you love her???

The boy looked at me,

saying nothing,

speaking in his own language…

I said,

I’m going to answer your question with the feeling in my heart…

I asked him,

Do you feel the answer???

It’s like a burning fire…

He put his little hand over his chest,

and climbed right into me,

with those perfect for climbing feet…

Today I heard,

on Radio 2,

that there’s a new brain scan that can be done to determine whether someone has autism or not…

All it takes is 15 minutes,

and you have a picture…

So far its only been tested on adult males known to have autism…

Don’t get me started…

I wonder why we still haven’t learned from the Holocaust,

and why we’re still looking,

although in more subtle,

and seemingly more scientific ways,

to identify and

eliminate difference,

ASAP…

What is a brain scan of an adult male diagnosed with autism really going to tell us???

And what exactly are we intending to do with the information???

And if we keep screening out all possibilities,

where will all of the light come from,

tomorrow…

I remember showing a boy defined on the autism spectrum,

a collection of fractal images…

I asked him,

Do you see things like that???

He looked scared,

and unsure if he should answer,

like any typical six year old who has already been through a battery of tests,

to categorize his problems,

and his not fitting in…

I asked him,

about the fractals,

Do you see things like this in your dreams???

He looked at me,

eyes as big as two planets in alignment on the cusp of an evening summer sky,

and he nodded,

YES…

More than a year ago I went to visit the school of a former colleague…

I sat in on a class for the morning,

in the name of research,

and greater understanding…

I perched myself beside a table group of five seven and eight year olds,

one of whom I was told is a selective mute…

Within minutes the other children at the table were filling me in on their friend who refused to talk…

And a few minutes after finding out that he was more than happy to talk at home with his grandfather,

I asked him,

Do you talk to people who love you???

And with people whom you trust???

He looked at me with eyes as big and brown as a warmblood,

and nodded,

YES…

Another boy at the table,

who I was told was in the grey area,

and was completely ignoring the black and white spelling list he was supposed to be focusing on,

said,

Now if I could just get my hands on some GD duck tape,

I’d really get something done around here…

We have good reason for keeping quiet,

giving the middle finger,

and going into our own worlds,

when the ones we’re living in don’t make any sense…

If I could see light streaming out of the ends of my fingers,

you better believe that I’d be flicking my fingers at the edge of my eyes 24/7/365/42,

and tuning out,

the adult world…

My six year old neighbour gave me a parting gift when it was time for him to go to bed…

It was a warm black stone…

And he told me the secret recipe,

When you don’t feel good rub this stone on the place where it hurts…

It will make everything better…

And if you cool it down in the fridge,

it will be perfect for your spider bites…

You’ve got me wrapped around your finger…

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