It has taken me almost seventy years to accumulate the things you will read about in this short look at an Autistics Journey. We are sometimes driven by a subject to learn as much as we can about it...until one day we stop. This is about pictures lost but the memories are intact. We like ritual... uber hobbies give us a ritual to do every day: photograph the sunset, find a museum, who made the bricks for the red brick roads in Cleveland Ohio, or Liverpool England.
I ate only a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup for lunch for nearly three decades. It took that long for me to try something "new". My daughters still think it is amazing. I watched Groundhog Day for 100 straight days...and then stopped. Other movies I watched only once...but remember them as if I had seen them a 100 times. Both are common among us Autistic types.
So here is how I managed when I was at sea to fill my days with routine. I am grateful for every memory.
Like most Autistic Folks, I have Uber Hobbies that last anywhere from a year to three years. When I was a little tyke (and I was truly little, the smallest kid in my class every year in School…until 10th grade) I could name all the dinosaurs, WW I and WW II airplanes, every missile and rocket the USA made (and most of the German models). Then I got into the Mythology scene: Norse, Roman, Greek, Icelandic, and the German and French tales too.
The Irish Gods with their twin swords and truly ferocious female Gods…were a delight too, summoned on occasion by the Druids of the time. And who could forget the friendship forged between Merlin and Arthur over in England- or the White Bull of Mithras, and later Robin Hood and his Merry Band of Brothers.
Then it was onto the Planets, Moons, Stars, and Galaxies. The Pale Blue Dot, The Universe in a Nutshell, and Graviton. So much to learn, so little I know.
In between I sandwiched all the Tom Swift, Hardy Boys, and yes…even the Nancy Drew Series of books. Science Fiction I still read to this day.
Before I gave my Library Away seven years ago, you could just peruse the shelves to see each two year increment of my Autism. Just look at the Non-Fiction…two years of only Math books. Two years of Physics. Two years of mostly Cosmology and Astronomy ...having also built a radio telescope in my backyard when I was seven, Astronomy was more of a return to a hobby than a new one.
Then the Brain took over. The Decade of the Brain took me about three years to wrap my head around. That led to a short foray into the psychology of Happiness, Self Help, Human Potential, New Wave and even Business Books on Success and Achievement. (I am a notorious failure at any type of Business, but I did like the stories of building something from scratch).
I did other weird things besides fuel my imagination thru books and that is what I want to talk about now, things that most Autistics will understand and more than a few of the Neurotypical folks out there too. I call them Funaloutions. Resolutions that are fun to make happen.
Here are a few of them:
I decided to photograph every sunset for a year- at sea. I did that. Only when the weather interfered did I miss a sunset. Of course, up in the Arctic Circle I had trouble figuring out when it set…since it just kinda bobbed just below the horizon to bounce right back up just a bit later.
I saw the famous “Green Flash” more than a dozen times that year. Yes, it is a real event. It takes perfect conditions at sea, in the atmosphere, and the angle of the sun, but you can see it. I did. I even got a whole slew of crew to come out and watch for the Green Flash. When we all saw it at the same time, well, the cheers were loud and long.
Another year up in Alaska, I decided to take pictures of the Icebergs floating by in each of the three or four spots we went to look at Glaciers. At least three times a week, for six months, I would get my little camera (smartphones hadn’t been invented yet) and wait by the railing, or hang out on the bow, or stern, to see as many chunks of ice, or actual ice bergs floating by as I could.
Some looked like sculptures, some were so pretty I almost forgot to take pictures! When ice comes from deep in a glacier it is a blue so dark it almost looks indigo. All the air has been squeezed out of the ice by the intense pressure, so the blues range from sky blue to electric blue, and on towards the deep dark blues. So very pretty. Jewelry that floats.
Some icebergs were big enough to sink ships or at least damage them. Others were a danger to any boat less than fifty feet long. Most had seals hauled out on them to bask in the sun for a bit. Birds liked to perch on the ice too. The smaller bits of ice, those that were fifty feet or less, were like clouds as they floated by. You could imagine all kinds of creatures in their shapes and sizes, just like when you were a kid and lay in the grass looking up at puffy clouds.
You might see a whale, or a mermaid, or a building, or (once) I swear I saw the Eiffel tower in ice! Sometimes they were more like a geometry lesson gone haywire, with round balls of ice or rock sitting on top of a flat surface. Other icebergs had their own beaches with a cove filled with deep blue water, or turquoise water lapping out into the green of the bay.
Then I got into Castles. Yep. Over in Europe I decided to take pictures of every Castle Door, in every Castle I went to. Believe me, it is hard to run out of Castles in Europe. They are everywhere. Some are true bastions of power and military might, others, well, more ornate and self serving. Versailles made a statement when it was built in the middle of nowhere with no walls, moats, or towers. It said, in no uncertain terms: Come get me if you can.
Once I got done with Castle doors…I started looking for Ancient Sites: Stonehenge, the stone age villages in the Orkney islands, burial sites in the Baltic, catacombs in France, Germany, Spain and Portugal. Then it was Museums that caught my eye. I decided to go to every National Museum in every country we visited, and the Art Museums too, even if they were as small as the one that houses “The Scream” by Edvard Munch in Oslo, or the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. The Hermitage in St. Petersburg would take a lifetime to see everything.
Then, for some strange reason, I got into bricks. Yes, bricks. Turns out there is a rich history from cobblestones to brick streets. The Brick industry became dominated by just a few big brickyards…and you could tell who built a road by the bricks that they used. And architecture before Steel, is all about bricks.
I spent a year studying footwear from basically scraps of animal skins wrapped around your feet, to sandals, shoes, boots, and on up to high fashion footwear. Every country had its own style of shoe ranging from the practical, to the wooden clogs of the lowlands. Women’s shoes edged all the way up to Art. Shoes that ruined their backs and calves, but gave the stiletto its sexy appeal.
Then it was clocks. Clocks in towers. Clocks in cabinets. Grandfather Clocks. Maritime Clocks. Cuckoo Clocks. Pocket clocks. Finally…wrist watches. Just like shoes, clocks ran the gamut from practical to high fashion. Many were Art.
I had thousands of pictures. I lost them all when my faithful laptop lost its hard drive to the whims of the cybersphere. I did have a back up drive, but a friend accidentally erased that to make a back up start up disc for his computer. We were unable (back then) to recover any of those pictures.
So a decade and a half of Uber Hobbies…gone. But not forgotten.