Keeper of the forests. (On nature as “therapy” and Autistic interests)

Interests and Obsessions – I do believe in faeries

One aspect of autism besides social and communication difficulties is an obessive  preoccupation with interests. They are considered restrictive not so much in their quality (can be quite expansive, intense, and there usually are several that can rotate and change over time) but in how they have the possibility to limit other activities of life.

One long standing interest of mine is nature.

My first try at college, (there were a few) I took two zoology classes and two biology classes with no interest whatever in majoring in it.

I’m not sure why.

I wrote an impressive paper on secondary succession in the C and O (Chesapeake/ohio) canal areas affected by flood. I’m sure I could have pursued it to graduate level but it never occurred to me. These days I follow current problems in local environments, still read and research, and use this knowledge as a base for setting, I hope, my kids in the right direction.

(my interest in Lepidoptera is a later one, acquired on my 34th birthday, but that’s another story)


That love of nature comes from an older, faded obsession.

I believed in fairies when I was a child.

Now I believe in ecology.

So in a way I still do.

Ecology, the desire to study nature,  isnt very different from the desire to give names and personalities to the qualities of nature. It stems from the same love, and need for explanation. (my view, fine if you disagree)

From the time I was nine till around fifteen was the longest period time I lived in one place.

Surrounding much of our neighborhood was an expanse of woods and I spent time there daydreaming, avoiding a poisonous family life, and sometimes skipping school to avoid the bullies.

Dancing for the keeper of the forests

During that time period,

I had a  dream of lights in the woods where I would walk.

It was so vivid, I can recall it in detail still.

From the distance I could see pin points of yellow and orange lights.

The lights drew me to the wood where I saw they were torches lighting up an encampment of lean-to and other shelters. In this camp were tall, lithe animal yet person shaped like creatures, brown with large eyes and long faces.

They danced.

There too were faeries (not like pixies but rather more like elves, tylwyth teg , the fair folk) and they danced (not a stitch of clothing) to their horned master, (a dark figure, some distance away) the keeper of all the forests.

It was like I’d hit a mute button on the dream.

They did not speak, there was no sound whatever, no music to this dance. Yet they beckoned me to join them.

At the time I was determined that it was somehow real, and spent many days walking the woods looking for possible signs of them.

I could believe it.

The woods around my home seemed magical.

I day-dreamed sitting by a glistening stream with cat tails and frogs, explored an expansive forest vibrating with life,  and swam in a peaceful river nearby.

Every inch of it was mystical and my playground, mine alone.

In reality, I “played” (I called it play, I’m not sure if it really met any definition of typical play) fearless and unsupervised in a run off ditch, as yet to be developed woods (its all gone now, covered in mc-mansions in gated communities) and swam in a river I wouldn’t let my kids be in without a life jacket.

I consider myself lucky my life wasn’t claimed by the undertow.

That time period was also one of the worst in terms of abuse (almost everything imaginable) and neglect.

I believe my fairies saved me in terms of nature giving me a quiet place to be in its stress reduction, and the moments to delve into a fanciful obsession.

I consider nature to be therapy for my children (autistic and otherwise) now for those same reasons, even though their lives are predominantly peaceful.

I also feel interests need indulged as far as possible without taking away from the responsibilities of life in order to provide an anchor for children in a world that can be chaotic and confusing, regardless of whether you have a diagnosis of anything or not.


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