85: The Island

85: The Island

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum

The Island

If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive.

~Eleanora Duse

Today something happened to Alexa and me, and as it was happening, I had the clear but strange thought, “This is a metaphor for your life.” So I began to pay attention to the details.

It was April and we were on vacation from school. The warm weather was just beginning. Sensing the pull and tease of the sun, I said to Alexa, “Let’s take a ride to the beach!” She climbed into the car, as eager and restless as I.

We drove to Plum Island. It’s a small barrier island just off Massachusetts’s northern coast. Named after the beach plum bushes that are scattered across the landscape, it is home to the Parker River Wildlife Refuge, a gorgeous, protected piece of earth. Driving past the entrance of the Refuge I passed the first parking lot where we could stop and walk onto the beach. I realized I had never seen the south edge of the island, had never driven all the way to the end of the road. I didn’t even know how far away the end of the island was. I decided to keep on driving, passing more beach access parking lots along the way.

After about three and a half miles of state park driving at twenty miles per hour, the smooth pavement of the road became dirt. I slowed down to five or ten miles per hour. Dust swirled around our car. I wondered out loud to Alexa, “Is this road ever going to end?” Glancing in the rearview mirror I saw my question reflected on her face. Eyes filled with concern stared straight ahead. The road came to a T. On the left was another beach area. A sign, “Sandy Point State Reservation,” stood on the right, where the road continued. I turned left and parked the car.

We got out and walked along the footpath to the beach. It was crowded and rocky. For a few minutes we watched people off in the distance carefully choosing their steps. “You know what? This isn’t the end. Let’s go to the end,” I said. With renewed determination, we took the road heading farther south.

Within seconds, we hit a huge pothole and felt the whole car bounce. Trying to avoid more large potholes ahead, I slowed to a crawl, weaving the car from one side of the road to the other.

“This is ridiculous,” I told Alexa.

“Diculous,” she agreed.

Then abruptly, it was over. We were at the end. I pulled into a parking space and turned the engine off. With huge grins on our faces we got out and stepped onto a boardwalk that brought us up to a small sheltered landing before turning and spilling us out again on soft sand.

We were on an aisle of sorts. Ropes swept loosely from stakes, protecting sea grass and plovers on either side. The pathway was wide and generous. Seashells were scattered at our feet. I noticed green growth springing up from the same roots as brown withered leaves. The deep blue expanse of the ocean lay before us, covered with rippling white foam. The wind was wild with celebration. Long flowing grass was bowing down. There we were, my daughter and I, at the very tip of the island, at the very end of the road, smack dab in the middle of reverence.

Alexa started uttering words I had never heard her say before.

Her silence, like many other times, had seemed heavy when we were in the car. There’s stillness in her silence sometimes that is hard to describe. I am used to not being able to have a conversation with her but I like how her cheerful repeating of phrases fills up the air. When she is silent even those words are gone and it reminds me of all that is missing.

Now her voice, high with excitement, was breaking free. She grabbed and held on to my arm, pulling me forward. That in itself is rare. I am usually the one who has to coax her into moving along.

“This is beauty! This is beauty!” she burst out. And then as if her own voice could not be contained, “Hallelujah!” Over and over again she sang out the words. “This is beauty! This is beauty! Hallelujah!”

My eyes filled with tears. I understood the metaphor. I understood what she said.

This is beauty. Just to have gotten the chance to taste this kind of love in my life. The kind of love that goes beyond limitations. The kind of love that gives everything it has, and if everything else is stripped away, unyielding and unbroken, it still stands. The kind of love that makes the price of a difficult road seem like pennies to pay, after all.

It’s not that I think I am so noble or anything. I struggle with loving plenty of people. But in this one person, I know that I have experienced the purest and most powerful side of love. So powerful, I never felt or thought it was a choice.

This is beauty. For just a moment, the dust clouds of my life cleared and I could see the gift shimmering there. It was love, beautiful love. My voice joined with Alexa’s as the breeze gathered up the sound, lifted it higher, and carried it off toward the sea.

This is beauty. This is beauty. Hallelujah.

~D. Alison Watt

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