than most people ever see

credit Photo Malaya


Brooke is leaning over the side of the pool. Her arms are draped up and over the wall and spread lengthwise before her.

Periodically, she scoops a handful of water and pours it out onto the concrete.

After watching her for a while, I sidle up next to her. I sit quietly for a minute, mirroring her.

“Whatchadoin?” I ask.

“Watching,” she says.

“Whatcha watching?” I ask.

“This,” she says, dunking a slender finger into the stream of water on the concrete. Her finger nudges it gently toward the grass.

“Can I watch too?” I ask.

“Uh huh,” she answers.

Together, we watch the water as it snakes its way toward another tiny stream, then joins it, getting fatter and ever so slightly deeper at its head. The sun glistens on the tiny pool, illuminating the water. It’s breathtakingly beautiful.

“Thank you for showing me this, Brooke,” I say quietly. “It’s beautiful.”

Without another word, she slips back into the water and the moment has passed.

I linger, watching the water make its slow journey for just another minute. I can’t bear to pull away yet.

It will take me all afternoon to remember his name. Michael Moon, an autistic man whose words I’d discovered years ago. What had he said about water? The words will come back to me slowly. He’d called it a collection of dancing interlocking patterns that each needed attention. Yes, that was it.

Later, I will look up his words. I will nod as I read them, just as I did when I first stumbled upon his article four years – a lifetime – ago.

I’m still nodding, but differently now.

Yes, differently.

“It turned out all she could see was the fountain; she’d taken it in and was ready to move on to the next sight. I hadn’t finished looking at the fountain yet because, to my vision, the fountain was a collection of dancing interlocking patterns that each needed attention. Though it took me much longer to take in that fountain, I realized that the richness I experienced was so much deeper than most people ever see. I began showing her the textures in the water, the way you could see the individual water drops held in mid air sparkling in the light, the unusual colors blended in the pool .. endless vignettes that to me were huge and visceral and to her were just a fountain.”

I will read one line again.

And again still.

The richness I experienced was so much deeper than most people ever see.

Yes, I will think, that’s it.

I will be overwhelmed with gratitude.

And vibrating with possibility.


27 thoughts on “than most people ever see

  1. I love this. My girl sits in the bath and watches the water drip from her fingers, and I’ve always wondered what I’m missing that she sees. Gratitude and possibility — what excellent themes. I’m going to take those with me and try to carry them through my week (and beyond).

  2. Thank you for reminding me. Some of the folks who are still unfamiliar with autism will ask me what “special talent ” my boy has. I just realized what it is. The ability to see beauty in anything!

  3. If our children were water droplets, and if only more people would look at them in such a rich, sparkling, interlocking context. My son will never blend into the pool, but his individual textured richness is certainly deserving of such focused attention and perspective.

  4. My son loves watching water…endlessly. I have always thought he must see some beauty in it that I am missing. Thank you for sharing this. It is beautiful.

  5. This is beautiful. Daniel loves water too and watches it endlessly. He is 15 and when he needs a break at school he goes to the boys room and runs the water in the sink to calm himself. Water is huge in our lives. He swam on the boys swim team last year. He was part of their team. He would live in the water. He says he wants to be that scuba diver at Shedd aquarium that goes into the Carribean sea tank and swims with the fish and feeds them. It’s his dream job! Beautiful post!

  6. Beautiful. The writing and the water…both. I remember being a kid and laying on my stomach in the cool evening grass and looking at the grass in a similar fashion. The textures, colors…counting the blades. It was tranquil, peaceful; no one demanded anything of me.

  7. Oh Jess, I can’t tell you how much I love this post. You have an amazing way with words and I value your expression so much. I apologize in advance for the length of my comment, but want to share with you and all your loyal readers something I have observed.

    It turns out I think maybe people with autism have it right and we have it wrong in many circumstances. They, I think more frequently than not, take the time to appreciate all the little details that the rest of us just rush right by and miss. We try to pull them away to look at something else, something more “appropriate”, when really we should join them to try to see what they see and appreciate it as they do (which unfortunately we cannot fully do).

    Your post reminds me so much of my Sam(5) who when I finally asked if there was anything he would change about his bedroom, while lying with him in bed one night, he proceeded to rattle off a list of more than 10 things that I never noticed before. Things I think most people wouldn’t even notice, but were revealed to me only because I asked; I don’t think he would have ever told me these things if I hadn’t paused and asked. Some of the things he wanted to change included turning the heat/ac vent in the ceiling 90 degrees so that the horizontal slats turned to run vertically and the vertical ones inside the vent turned to be horizontal; reverse the direction of the fan (which we had changed recently when spring came) from clockwise to counter clockwise. This moment was so amazing to me but bitter at the same time. I was thrilled he was sharing with me, then I was worried, how long had he been lying in bed thinking about these things? He’d been in this bedroom the last 4 years. After much concern about the anxiety these things may have been causing him, for what could have been years, I realized they must not have been too anxiety provoking or else I would have seen the anxiety rear it’s evil head.

    I think our kiddos are so overwhelmed by all the sensory input they take in, they have to stop and appreciate it all or at times block it out, they’re forced to and they want to. I feel like they can’t join in with everyone else all the time, because everywhere they turn there’s another opportunity to appreciate the beauty and chaos of the world around us that we “regular” people just walk or swim right by and never even notice. And, solely out of ignorance, thinking we are doing the “right thing”, society wants to change them, to make them fit in our world, “the normal” world. But I think we have it backwards. I think, and know, that we can learn so much from them if we stopped trying to put a square peg in a round hole. Why don’t us round holes appreciate the beauty and differences of the lovely square?

    Many of us parents, family and professionals do realize this and do appreciate the amazingness of things our children can teach us, if we think or are aware to stop and look, listen, observe. Yes, our children do also have to learn how to accommodate and make adjustments at appropriate times to be functional; but we need to observe them to see what the challenge is in each situation so that we can address how we can accommodate their observations as well as be functional at the same time.

    When we were working on potty training the sound of the toilets flushing and hand dryers in public restrooms caused such anxiety in my boy, he couldn’t relax enough to even consider using the bathroom. These were real concerns for Sam which I needed to assist him with, but at the same time he had to functionally be able to use the bathroom when necessary. What can I do to help him with the things that are overwhelming for him so he can be functional? He can’t cover his ears with his hands while he has to pull his pants down and use the toilet? We started using ear plugs. I had ear plugs every where we went. They worked great. He was able to function appropriately (use the bathroom) while at the same time addressing his specific needs. We also use the internet and youtube a ton to help explain things he’s either interested in or terrified of. Often that understanding makes it much less scary for him.

    Part of the challenge of describing and instilling in others the amazingness of our children is that they often don’t pause to join our kids to see what is so interesting or terrifying. If we all did this a little more ourselves, it would be much easier to point out to and educate others on.

    One of the things that helped me open my eyes further than I imagined they could be, after having immersed myself in all things autism for more than 3 years, was this amazing woman’s video I saw on Facebook and always encourage others to watch.

    Once again Jess, thank you, thank you. Thank you for giving a platform to what is so near and dear to so many of us, to help others open their eyes and hearts too. I love being your neighbor.

    • Thank you Terri for posting this response and video. It has touched me and I will be looking at people, all people, with a different view. I have interacted with many on the spectrum and knew they were communicating somehow but this just proves that we all need to pay more attention to each other.

    • “It turns out I think maybe people with autism have it right and we have it wrong in many circumstances.”

      If often think the same thing…we are trying so hard to help our kids fits the mold that society finds acceptable, while we as a society have so much we can and should be learning from them.

  8. Thank you for reminding us that amidst all the challenges that come with autism, we must never lose sight of its many beautiful gifts.

  9. Wanted to post earlier but I had a cranky baby at 7am…
    THANK YOU for this! Jess, I feel like you read my mind today. We were at the spray ground with Cymbie yesterday. She found a spot, sat down, and watched her bucket fill with water for an hour. She was happy. I felt sad in the moment seeing the other kids run around and play, and her oblivious to it all. I told myself “she’s happy. I’m glad she’s not overwhelmed by all the people”…but I was sad…just another reminder of how different she is. But now, NOW I see. I understand. The difference is, she is a beautiful, deep, and aware soul, more so than all the rest there yesterday. She saw things we all miss…Thank you for helping me to see that! ❤

  10. While searching on you tube for aquatic therapy I found a video that explained how to a child with sensory differences, the water feels like jello. Because the skin is the largest sense they feel the water totally differently than we do. Can you imagine how wading in jello would feel? I would imagine the weight of the water gives them the deep pressure feeling they tend to crave. Great post!!

  11. Between this post and Jeneil’s about transitions, it helps me see the world our girls are in so much differently. Thank you, gail

  12. Love this post, and it occurs to me after reading it a second time the similarities with something I wrote yesterday ( … although in my case the tiny details that only my son noticed led to a meltdown. Still, in my better moments, I am amazed at the level of detail that he is able to take in. I have been an rather intense hockey fan for at least 35 years, but there are things about the game my son has noticed that had never occurred to me before he pointed them out. It is truly a gift to see the world that way, and yet, there is always the nagging concern/frustration that he will have to adjust to the world more than the world will have to adjust to him. It’s not right or fair, it just is.

  13. Pingback: Water you looking at? | that cynking feeling

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