Justuna’s Blog

Archive for April 2010

What do you do if your five year old autistic son is unresponsive to treatment yet inexplicably soothed by the rhythm of horses? If you are Rupert Isaacson and his wife, Kristin Neff from Austin, Texas, you take him to a country where horses are as essential as water: Mongolia. Somewhere in the mountains is the Shaman or Healer of the Reindeer people who may be able to heal this boy.

Kristin did not think she could do it. It was hard enough just getting through a typical day let alone going on a journey to the far ends of the earth. Despite all the concerns, barriers and hurdles the family got on a plane to Mongolia.

“The Horse Boy” is a record of that extraordinary journey, a gruelling, week’s long trek across the plains of Mongolia in search of shamanic help for Rowan, their only son. Plagued by inconsolable tantrums, chronic incontinence and severe dissociation, the boy is no one’s idea of a congenial travel companion; but as his parents endure discomfort, defeat and ritual floggings (“You’re not allowed to scream,” Mr. Isaacson warns his deep-breathing spouse). The family risk everything, their safety, happiness, future and sanity on an arduous epic horseback journey in search for a cure for their son Rowan.

Resolutely unvarnished and astonishingly intimate, “The Horse Boy” chronicles a couple in the most emotional and physical extremities.

The journey takes them to the shores of Lake Sharga or the Heaven Horse Lake. Legend has it that the first two horses, made by the Gods, emerged in this lake. The windswept beauty of the lake in surroundings so barren makes it appear like a mirage. They finally arrive at the Reindeer Peoples camp.

In trying to describe autism, his father tells the Shaman of the Reindeer People, Ghoste, how it was to have a child who seems to be not fully there, the neurological firestorms that would course through his body, the tantrumming, the impossibility of toilet training and feeling of being completely shut out. Ghoste performs the ritual and said that Rowan will be getting gradually less and less autistic till he’s nine. The family returned home with a completely different child. The dysfunctional behaviour was gone. His reading ability increased and he made friends. His social life was now like that of any other child! He learnt to ride a horse. Rowan is still autistic but relieved of the terrible anxieties and hyperactivity.

This book recounts a deeply personal, highly subjective and inarguably thought-provoking story of one family’s quest for a certain kind of peace. Autism is one of the most puzzling conditions and as a parent of a 12 year old autistic boy – life is anything but dull.  Rowan’s parents literally went to the end of the world to help their son with significant effect.


I have a lot to write about but I decided to start my blogging career with W.B Yeats who spent his early years in my home county,  Sligo. He wrote this truly beautiful poem about unrequited love.  He was truly, madly and deeply in love with Maud Gonne. She was a poet, feminist, actress and revolutionary. He proposed three times but she refused him. This experience had a significant and lasting effect on his life and his poetry.

“….Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

‘He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’ is a poem where the poet states that if he had all the riches in the world, he would give them to his love to show how much he loves her.  As the poet is not rich he gives her his dreams instead. It finishes with the warning that his love should be careful lest she crush his dreams. ‘Cloths of Heaven’ is a declaration of love using rich imagery. The central image in ‘Cloths of Heaven’ is the metaphor of the sky being a cloth. Yeats paints beautiful images of the skies ‘Enwrought with golden and silver light’. The cloth is golden during the day and silver with the light of the moon. The image of spreading the cloths under her feet, like a cloak, is a romantic and chivalrous one. Yeats wants to offer Gonne the heavens in an extravagant declaration of love.

The tone in the beginning of ‘Cloths of Heaven’ is one of exuberance, it describes a joyful, effervescent declaration of love ‘I would spread the cloths under your feet’. The tone changes in ‘Cloths’ to fearful as Yeats considers that his love is to be rejected. It captures the cruelty and pain which can arise from falling in love ‘I have spread my dreams under your feet;/Tread softly because you tread on my dreams’.W.B Yeats is a poet of for whom love caused great sadness and suffering. In ‘Cloths’ Yeats is warning Gonne to be careful with his heart and dreams for he feels fragile and vulnerable in his declaration of love.

I cannot help but wonder… how many suitors would pen such a beautiful poem to woo the woman of their dreams in this day and age? Is romance dead and gone?


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  • Lily: Una, I’m adding a comment to all BBC members blogs to say that our June book is ‘The Children’s Book’ by A.S. Byatt to post on the first Sunda
  • justuna: You are right, in a sense it was such an arduous journey which offered rich experience for the child and the family. He and his parents were pushed to
  • justuna: Thank you, I loved your post on food for book clubs and I did the roasted nuts when I hosted the club - they were a big hit as you promised. I loved