Nature provides me the freedom that my body doesn’t—the freedom to imagine, explore and contemplate. But visiting nature wasn’t something I did during childhood. As a teen, I would retreat to Michigan farmlands and photograph abandoned farms and barns, but other than that, I didn’t truly appreciate nature until I was 27. At that time, I had moved to California soon after learning I had a very rare genetic, progressive muscle-wasting condition. Called GNE myopathy, it would eventually take my body to complete immobility.
This news amplified a sense of adventure that I’d held deep within me. No longer feeling the need to cage it, I began to travel. I took road trips, fulfilling my curiosities along the way. I found nature at a time when I needed her most.
Today, I’ve progressed to quadriplegia. My existence has moved from physical to cerebral, and nature provides a safe haven to marinate and simmer in my thoughts.
By training, I’m an industrial designer, by heart an artist with a critical and attentive eye for design, and nature never disappoints when it comes to that. What I love most about nature is its seeming simplicity until you really look in and witness its complex design. Something is being born and something is dying every second.
I remember one of my first road trips—to Joshua Tree National Park. I was captivated and hooked by that alien land.
Nature is a canvas to teach us about life and its bittersweet impermanence. It’s the origin of all things living. The truth behind our existence lies quietly in the rings of a tree or fluttering wings of a bird. It’s a window into the antiquities of time. Nature is a place to seek acceptance, wholeness or nurturing from a tiring week or the shattering news that requires space to be alone. For me, this brings peaceful reflection and healing from daily life and trivial matters.
I think visiting the cathedral of nature brings us back to the simple elements of life. Except it’s not simple, and that’s what’s amazing about it. From afar we see rocks and trees, but up close there’s so much complexity in every cell; from the microscopic veins in a leaf that act as a pertinent highway of life to the delicate stained-glass wings of a dragonfly. This sublime loveliness creates a sense of humility.
Nature is like a time capsule, a place to lose your soul to the winds cast from the breathing lungs of the earth. Everything you see took millions of years to craft. How awe-inspiring that these lives have existed longer than humans?
My disability has never stopped me from having a relationship with nature, but inaccessibility has. With all the amazing spiritual, philosophical and therapeutic healing aspects of nature, isn’t it a shame not to have access nor be included because you’re disabled or because of your ZIP code? We need more access to nature. Perhaps it will bring out the softer side of humanity.