I am autistic.
I am bird.
Society tries to say this is two things. Often, I think, it is one. Where do the lines begin and the lines end, between bird-flight and autism-flap, between bird-panic and autistic-meltdown, between bird-song-of-joy and autistic-babbling?
I don’t know. I don’t want to draw lines. I am bird and I am autistic. I can’t separate these things.
Bird is movement. I have said this in previous writings about bird. Bird is movement, and rhythm, wind under wings, scooping motion pulling you forward through the sky, repeating, one-two, one-two. upstroke. downstroke. Changing speed, when the wind around you changes. I don’t have wind, I don’t have wings, so I use music, I use rocking in my seat, I use the movement of a car, I use a word or a song repeated in my head. Sometimes I use all of these together, rocking as the car moves as the music sings as the heart swells in my ribs as I make mouth movements to the song, as I sing it over over over in my head, one-two, one-two, now faster now slower now falling now rising, up up up up d o w n.
I can’t fly, so this is my flying.
Movement and rhythm, these things are soothing, familiar. We rock a baby in a cradle and the autistic person rocks and flaps and the bird soars on the wind, all the same movements, all the same rhythm. It is soothing, familiar, for a bird to fly: I don’t doubt this. It is soothing to run, to feel the ground under your feet, thump, thump, one, two, or to listen to a horse running, hooves on the road, onetwo, threefour, onetwo, threefour. If this is soothing to our ears, if a horse or a dog who are left alone will run for the joy of running, then I think that flying must be comforting, to birds. It must be the joy of coming home, to a familiar movement, the upstroke, the downstroke.
(Autistic people are criticised for rocking, for flapping. For wanting this familiar movement. For wanting to fly. For wanting to feel rhythm. For understanding the joy of rhythm, perhaps more than most humans, who only like it in very particular situations. Music. Dance. Poetry. Listening to the ocean drum on the shore. Imagine if every time you moved, you moved with dance and felt the pleasure of rhythm. That is an animal’s life, an autistic person’s life. Like animals, we dance all the time, we run, we fly.
And sometimes, we run, we fly, because we are animals. Because the running-need the flying-need the dancing-need is inside us, the call of our ancestors who are not our ancestors who are our ancestors more than science can show.)
Humans make noise only when it is expected. Isn’t it strange? When a human makes noise suddenly, it is treated as a mental illness. Unless it is singing or humming, and even then, this is only okay in particular places. You can’t sing if you are waiting in line at the bank. But birds sing constantly. Birds sing to find mates, they sing to say “here’s food”, they sing to say “I am here”. And sometimes, it seems, they sing just because they wish to sing. They sing because singing feels good, like a dog barks when she is bored, like a cat walks around the house meowing because he has eaten catnip and he wants to make sound. There is not always a reason. It is just good to make noise. Birds know this. Autistic people know this. It is okay to make sound.
I make sound for the joy of it. I run because the rhythm comforts me. I imagine wind under me, pushing me forward. I imagine my wings beating heavy when I flap my arms.
I am autistic.
I am bird.
They are not very far apart.