Enjoying the Ride


sometimes the simplest things in life reveal the most profound meaning.

sometimes the biggest challenges in life unearth the most powerful joy.

my son, Ian, is one of the biggest lights in my life. and on this planet.

he has many nicknames. but one of the earliest that has stuck with him to this day is ‘Big Blue’ (for his beautiful, big blue eyes).

Enjoying the Ride - By Brian Marsh. My Big Blue, son Ian Marsh. Missoula Montana.

Ian was diagnosed with autism at age 2.

from the time he was 2 1/2, he was engaged in speech therapy (since he had no expressive language at that time).

from the time he was 3, he began riding a big yellow bus to school. half-days for the first year, then full-days all the way through high school. 16 years in all.

the routine was incredibly helpful, comforting, even life-giving for him.

the movement, motion and mechanisms involved were exhilarating (stirring a fascination with all three – and all modes of transportation – that continues to this day).

and then he graduated high school last spring.

and the blessed rhythm of his beloved routine disappeared.

a disorienting loss for him. a daunting challenge for his support system to help him create a new kind of rhythmic routine for his life.

but thanks to some painstakingly creative and resourceful work by his mother, case-workers, even former teachers and aides, the pulse of that new rhythmic routine gradually emerged.

the daily schedule of school has evolved into a regular rotation of work at a local market, continuing to volunteer at the local food bank, and exercise at the local YMCA.

the tasks and occasional homework from school have turned into chores he does around the house independently (like the laundry…for our entire family! and NO, he is not available for ‘house calls’ outside of my home ;).

and the big yellow school bus has transformed into the big teal/pink/green/yellow-ish transporter known as the Mountain Line Public Transit bus.

Enjoying the Ride. Mountain Line Bus. Missoula, Montana.

as Ian has grown older and more independent, there are more things in life that he prefers to do ‘by myself’.

one of those things is riding the bus.

after working with his wonderful case worker and a UM grad student to get acclimated to navigating the bus system on his own, Ian was on his way and hasn’t looked back.

in fact, since he began his new routine, he has only allowed me to ride with him on his route to the Y and back a grand total of ONCE. literally, when i ask him whether he’d like me to ride on the bus with him or drive myself and meet him there, it’s always, ‘Ian rides the bus. Dad drives the van.’

until yesterday.

when i finally received ‘clearance’ to enter into his sacred schedule, his joyful journey for a morning.

we began with the 3-block walk to the bus stop.

Ian Marsh. Missoula, MT

then the wait for the colossal chariot to arrive.

Ian Marsh, waiting for the Mountain Line Bus. Missoula, MT

a friendly, giggling greeting as we step on board.

Enjoying the ride. By Brian Marsh. Missoula, MT

running his pass through the fare machine.

Boarding the Mountain Line Bus in Missoula Montana

and taking his seat in the back of the bus.

Enjoying the Ride on a Mountain Line Bus in Missoula, MT

nothing incredibly spectacular about it.

once we arrive at the Y, Ian engages in his regular routine there as well. i join him on the treadmill for walking (him) and running (me) and giggling (him, then me). then the pool to make a BIG splash, and tell him some of the same stories i’ve told him since he was an infant. more giggles and hugs.

then reverse the bus route and routine back home.

almost doesn’t even seem worth writing about, to be honest.

except for one tiny and transcendent aspect of it that so many of us miss (myself included), but that Ian is specially gifted to perceive and celebrate.


the joy that builds up in the well-spring of spirit deep within him, and bursts forth out of him in smiles and cheers and laughter like a fountain of fantastical freedom, a geyser of grace-filled glory.

the joy that floods his whole being at the experience of something that for most of us is so mundane and ordinary, but for him is magical and extraordinary.

the joy that is present in the midst of a life where so much focus and attention and energy is invested in getting to the destination, but where the truest satisfaction and meaning and pleasure is uncovered in the journey.

the joy that comes less from enduring the routine, and more from enjoying the ride.

Riding the Mountain LIne Bus in Missoula, MT--one of Ian Marsh's greatest pleasures.

today, Ian turns 20 years old.

i am amazed to see where his journey has taken him thus far.

i am awestruck by how he has faced so many challenges in his life with so much courage, and so many moments of potential despair with so many manifestations of pure delight.

i am astounded by how simplicity is his staircase to the spectacular and supernatural, the humdrum his hallway to the holy.

i am inspired by the young man he has become. so much so that if and when i ever ‘grow up’, i want to be like him.

so completely content and comfortable in my own skin.

so positively at peace in my own journey.

so thoroughly transfixed and transformed by the magnificence of the mundane.

basking in the beauty of a big bus.

and always enjoying the ride.

Happy Birthday, Big Blue! Daddy loves you 🙂

Brian and Ian Marsh.  Missoula, MT



To see more of Brian’s writing, check out the Brian Marsh main page here at Make it Missoula. And for even more, check out his personal blog, Apocalypso Now.


i’m a wanderer and a wonderer. a percussive and paradoxical pastor who exists happily (and hope-full-y) at the intersection of doubt and faith. journeying with my unique and special family (my wife, Kirsten, and sons, Ian and Trevor) whilst temporarily splitting my time between two unique and beautiful places (Missoula, Montana and Ukiah, California). restless and lazy, usually amazed, always in process, i’m continually surprised and usually delighted at discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary, the ‘sacred’ in the ‘secular’, the shafts of light that sneak into the shrouds of darkness. i drum decently, surf poorly, love multicultural food, music, and community, and living in the ‘Zoo.