autism,  cross-country

That’s evolution, folks

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A few days ago, Steve called me to the window. “You see it?” he said. “What do you think is wrong with it?”

I monitored the large brown and spotted bird, sitting perched on a short trellis in our neighbour’s flower garden, for a few minutes. “It’s one of those sparrowhawks,” I said. I hate sparrowhawks. We’ve lived in our house for 10 years now and every August the sparrowhawks show up to terrorize the song birds, squirrels, and rabbits in our yard. I’ll never forget a four-year-old W, shrieking and pointing at the very same window where Steve and I now stood, a hundred white feathers floating in the air, and a sparrowhawk, grinding the life out of some poor songbird beneath it with its talons.

“I don’t see anything wrong with it,” I said.

“No watch, there’s something wrong with it.” And within a minute or so, I saw it. The tall, proud bird dropped off the trellis and hopped on the ground, struggling to get back in the air.

“Is it his feet? or his wing?” I said. “It looks like it’s the wing, maybe?” Steve didn’t know either. For the next five minutes we watched this bird struggle, finally land on the trellis, call out in two short squawks, repeating the call frantically, and drop to the ground and begin its struggle again.

I despised everything about sparrowhawks. I hate its awful screech as it dive bombs through our yard. I hate the quiet chorus of crickets in our yard, because all of the songbirds are hiding. But I felt bad for this bird. Because in nature, there is one universal truth, no matter where a living creature falls on the food chain. If an animal is injured or disabled in any way, its chances for survival are slim to none. Suddenly, I felt pity for the bird.

And injured, disabled, broken things strike a very sensitive heart string inside of me. I’ve always been that way, long before J. But with J that sensitivity is always close to the surface. I thought about that bird. I thought about humans. I thought about evolution. In fact, I think a lot about evolution. J teaches me about evolution on a daily basis. Humans are always evolving and adapting to their circumstances. J is always evolving and adapting despite the challenges his autism brings. His evolution is much slower than his peers, but he is constantly evolving. Running faster and longer distances. Catching up on skills and milestones at school and at home his peers have surpassed him in years before. Because of his slow evolution, I never take for granted any small victory. Victories he would never be allowed to have outside of a civilized world. It’s a miracle, really, to be human. All of us get the chance to grow and push forward, even if we are temporarily set back, if we are temporarily injured, disabled, or broken. We even get a chance to grow even if we are chronically injured, disabled, or broken and it’s because we, as humans, have evolved to give each other–those of us who have those injuries, disabilities, or broken parts that injure our survival–protection and safe places to heal and grow. We have evolved and created a protection system from all of the harmful elements that threaten the survival of those who can’t make it without extra help. It’s a truly beautiful thing.

Here are the recent signs of growth in J and W this week. They were off to their first day of school on Thursday. Neither were thrilled to go–especially J, but he came home after a full day of school, XC, and a XC dinner at the Moorhead country club happy and tired (a million thanks to J’s coaches for dinner and making sure he was okay through the whole thing). A marathon for any kid on their first day of school. That’s evolution, folks.

And here are J and W at the first meet of the season. First high school JV 4K for both kids! Even though J was in high school, last year, he still ran middle school races. He rocked his 4K race Saturday. That’s evolution, folks.

J post race. I didn’t catch any action shots because I was too busy making sure J was doing okay. I had nothing to worry about. J did just fine.




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