March was a travelin’ month for Owen this year. Is he lucky or put upon? I’m not sure. Traveling is exciting and Owen loves doing stuff, but it is confusing and disorienting to be sleeping and eating in new spaces, at different times, in different air and water, and to have none of the same schedule. And to not know why. But Edward and I had decided to just take him along with us to check up on his G’mom in Florida, so two weeks after our Colorado adventure we found ourselves on an airplane once again, headed for Treasure Island.
Standing folded into the airplane lavatory to assist Owen there (a Rubeck’s Cube kind of experience) I did feel like we deserved some kind of ingenuity award. It is remarkable what can be done a tiny space. One thing about Owen – he has a sense of humor and appreciates the absurd.
Florida gave us both sun and rain,
warm and cold — and blustery!
Our blustery day walk was a highlight of the trip. Owen seemed pretty amused to be pushed down the beach by the bossy wind, which blew his collecting bag out at right angles to his body, spinning and spinning it round his fingers.
After Owen had added a certain amount of additional plastic bits to the marine environment of the Gulf, he and I took a rainy day drive to Jacksonville to see Peace of Heart Community Farm. During our eight plus round trip that day, we rolled through a fascinating variety of Floridian interstates, farm fields, and back roads thanks to the wonders of GPS navigating. Owen ate way too many nuts, and was heartily sick of the car by the end of that day. But we did get to witness a miracle in progress — the beginning stages of an assisted living community with a farm built in, a home that will also provide a life’s purpose and a connection to the larger community through the vegetables the residents and a their support staff (some family, some volunteer, some hired) will grow.
Peace of Heart Community Farm is the brainchild of Amy and Howard Groschell. Their daughter Gentry has autism. Years ago, Gentry and Owen attended the same clinic in Atlanta for a summer of saunas. The Groschells dreamed up and are building this beautiful home where Gentry can live and be cared for into old age, along with five other young women with autism. It has not been smooth sailing, Amy told me, it’s a concept in progress. But the garden is up and running, with a local farmer’s market presence, and some of the girls already help out.
Gentry’s paintings line the walls of the house. After years of trying to heal her by bio-medical means, Amy says it was learning two methods of communication that made the biggest change in Gentry’s life: painting, and assisted typing.
She paints her large vibrant canvases with the assistance of her stepdad Howard. This and the method of using a keyboard with assistance allows Gentry to express herself, and have made huge difference in Gentry’s happiness, Amy told me. She shared with me the name of the woman (Marilyn Chadwick) who taught them how to use the keyboard technique. I came away from our long drive to Jacksonville full of ideas – inspired and hopeful.
A vacation rich in experiences! part lounging in the sun, part touring, part drinking in new ideas— oh yeah and part running after Owen and trying to keep him out of Gmom’s stuff…
It was a remarkable trip, but we were tired and ready to get home — to our own dear, cold, recently-snowed-on Maryland to digest it all.
Photo by Kathie Constable