Do I or do I not resemble an awfully large flamingo here (click to enlarge)?
Want to know what I was looking at? Voilà (again, click to enlarge):
Do you recognize this building? If you are an American history buff or, like me, merely an arts geek, perhaps you have visited here. It's "The Old Manse," in Concord, Massachusetts, where the adorable Hawthornes, Nathaniel and Sophia (née Peabody), spent their three-year honeymoon, 'til they ticked off the landlord, Ralph Waldo Emerson. (Was it another woman? Or was it the rent? Get the gossip here. Okay, so it's 150-year-old Transcendentalist gossip, hardly "Page Six" or "E! Online." It has the advantage, though, of actually being interesting.)
Notice the texture and slope of the lawn in this second picture. Notice that I am standing, in the first picture, with neither cane nor crutch nor other supportive device, far away from my loving photographer, and also near the bottom of this lawn, near the boathouse on the Concord River. There is a boathouse near my home where one can rent canoes very reasonably, then row up to the Old Manse and picnic there, or roam around the grounds of this or the battle site at the Old North Bridge next door. We plan to do just this very thing the next time the sun shines reliably here on a Saturday.
But on this day, July 3, 2006, how did I get to this place? How did I manage to cross unsupported this deeply sloping, uneven, rolling lawn, me with the mechanical leg, the boring, analog kind without the built-in stabilizers? Why, I walked, of course. I walked on my own two feet (okay, one of them is an obvious replacement, but still mine), without any help, without even watching my step.
Yes, thank you, it did take a couple of years of hard and careful work incorporated into every walking and standing moment of my daily life to reach this level of competence, and yes, for a couple of months a couple of years ago, I did have Tricia, the awesome PT who set me up on my path to this with a smart, strong foundation of understanding. And yes, yes, yes, if your condition is not markedly more complicated than mine, there is no reason you cannot reach this point -- and further -- if you wish. And I strongly encourage you to try.
If your situation is more complicated, however, maybe you will need more help. I am here to tell you that, if you live in Massachusetts, help is available! You do not need to sit on your bum all summer! Well, okay, maybe you do, but you don't need to do it indoors! You can get out and have literarily and historically themed outdoor adventures, too!
I'm not interested in kayaking, personally. I'm big and fat and claustrophobic, and the idea of being contained like that skeeves me out. I really like canoes. Kayaks, though, have the advantage of greater maneuverability. And now, thanks to the Massachusetts Department of Conservation's Universal Access Program and All Out Adventures, disabled Massachusetts residents and their friends and families can learn to kayak this summer on Walden Pond, for just five bucks a head. Can you think of a better place to learn? Click one of the links in this paragraph to learn more, or call 413-527-8980 before August 14, 2006, to pre-register.
If you click one of the links, you will also learn that there is a wide variety of other outdoor sports and activities available through this program year-round, including canoeing. I find this very exciting. Personally, I've been meaning to get back to ice skating for years, assumed I'd have to give it up forever after my transfemoral amputation, but now am not so sure. I probably won't be waltz-jumping anytime soon, but this winter I might just start recreationally falling on my ass on frozen water again for the first time in decades. When that happens, I'll definitely post pictures.
If you don't live in Massachusetts yet yearn to get out and have similar adventures, I strongly encourage you to visit your state or country's website and see if it has a department of parks and recreation and/or a department of conservation, too. I'd be willing to bet it does. I'd be willing to bet that there are lots of programs like this, at least in the US and Canada. I'd love to hear about any you discover.
And if there isn't anything like this near you, maybe you can get on the phone and see what you can start yourself. I'd love to hear about that, too.
Now I must get out again myself, right now, this minute, out into today's too-rare, breezy sunshine. The bees are in the hyssop, and I have ripe tomatoes and no good excuses. Good luck, and happy adventuring!