out in the world again

For weeks, if not months on end, I’ve been losing myself, drowning in the mire of a disabled child's life, a human shadow traipsing around as Calvin makes endless loops around the house. I'm losing myself in the weariness of monotonous days, losing myself in loads of laundry, a sink full of dishes and bursting bags of dirty diapers. I’ve been losing myself in the whiteness outside, the prolonged cold, gritty streets and frigid wind. My circumference, as my friend Lauren said, is notably smaller in winter. 

When the mercury made it above freezing yesterday, Lauren rang asking if Calvin and I might like to join her for a trip to the Giant Steps. Calvin had had a good night and morning, and was in a rare mood, so I agreed. Within an hour I’d taken a shower, changed three diapers, drew up Calvin’s late afternoon cannabis oil, packed up some snacks, some juice, a bib, a rag, some diapers and some wipes. I loaded Calvin into the back seat of Lauren’s car—at thirteen, he’s just barely big enough now to ride without a car seat—for the scenic drive down Harpswell Neck to Bailey Island.

Halfway there I was able to look up from feeding Calvin to see the open ocean on one side of the peninsula and Mackerel Cove on the other. The scene was picturesque, like one you’d see on a postcard: a dozen or two boats hitched to their moorings floating in a sheltered cove, leafless grey trees, their diaphanous canopies like clouds resting on the horizon. My view reached scores of miles, far beyond the mere feet or yards I'm accustomed to seeing in town. I felt my chest expand and my spine straighten up like I do when I step off of a plane in the West. As we drove, I soaked in the view. Cedar shingle and painted red saltboxes and capes sprouted from snowy knolls against a backdrop of blue sky and sea. Clumps of sumac branched like frozen dancers along the side of the road. I felt as if I were in another world, and then I realized it was one I had simply forgotten existed so close to home.

Turning down a narrow lane, we saw the ocean splayed out before us. Lauren dropped me and Calvin at the trailhead while she parked her car up the road. In an act of defiance, Calvin planted his feet, wouldn't move, and began expressing his disapproval of the cold and/or his inability to transition to the strange, new place. His tantrum included a mix of laughter and shrieks. I struggled to prop him against my knee rather than letting him fall to the soggy ground. Finally, I had to hook my arms under his and carry him to a wooden guardrail where I thought he'd be willing to stand. On approach, I misjudged the height of the railing, he lunged and pitched forward over it. Had he more momentum behind him, he might have plummeted over the edge and down the rocky escarpment, a demise that, for an absurd second at that exasperating moment, I imagined might have been fitting.

When Lauren joined us she took one of Calvin's hands and helped me walk him down the narrow trail to our destination. I was surprised at how well he did. Several yards ahead we found a spot to stop and rest. Lauren sat with Calvin so I could peer over the ledge to view the Giant Steps, a glacial rock formation I had never seen. The mammoth cube-shaped rocks looked as if they'd been placed there by Hercules. As I squinted out over the Atlantic I began to weep, realizing how confined I've been for so long, and grateful to Lauren for having lead me beyond my comfort zone.

On the way back, we had to wrestle with Calvin who, several times, struggled to stop and drop in the mud. All in all, though, he was very compliant and even walked the extra distance up the hill to the car.

Today, it's raining, revealing the green of things, and though I'm stuck indoors once more, I've been reminded that sometimes with a little help it's not too difficult, yet enormously vital, to get out in the world.

Photo by Lauren Catlett


  1. I'm so glad that you had a moment to get away and out and that Calvin "did well." I think about you all the time, Christy, and I wish we lived closer. I miss you. Don't underestimate spring -- it'll be there soon and everything will lighten.

  2. After fourteen years of this caregiver/ teacher/nurse/mother role my comfort zone and my literal world have shrunk as you have so poetically described. My comfort zone is so small, my daughters even smaller. I love this post. You are a beautiful writer.

    1. thank you. my heart goes out to you.

    2. :-). Sorry it seemed to put my comment here and also as anonymous below...

    3. no problem. i figured the other comment was yours, too, but just in case i approved them both! :)

  3. After 14 years in this role my existence has shrunk to the four walls of my home. You have beautifully described the loneliness, isolation and "forgetting" what exists outside this literal and figurative confinement. Sometimes getting out makes coming back much harder. You have a real gift for writing. I often think
    About how even in sleep I can't get out....my dreams too are stuck .