Nature is restorative and needs to be accessible for as many as possible.

I have enjoyed living most of my elementary and high school years in very rural areas. Almost by default, I have a much better idea how nature ticks because of it.

I was 21 when I started needing a wheelchair to get anywhere, and I was pliant and ambitious enough to try new ways to experience nature. The time I knew I could reconnect to nature in different ways was at daybreak on Wilcox Lake. Everyone else at my campsite was asleep when I pushed a kayak out to watch the fog rise off the still surface.

I regained something — I realized the famous trout streams of my youth could be accessible if I acquired a kayak. And, in fact, my kayak leaves me on a somewhat equal basis to anyone using a similar boat. I say somewhat because I will not be carrying in a boat or even reaching all areas.

I want to get back to that.

I used to rationalize that the car wreck that paralyzed me was some kind of aberration, some test. I thought I could make a deal with God: let me handle this one new thing and have a go at life. Later on, I understood that not only could other changes come along, but they would. If I stick around I will slow down. I could lose my eyesight. I could lose more use of my body. If I live long enough I will become less able-bodied.

At 21 years of age, I thought most of the onus of living with a disability was on me, my cross to bear. I could not perceive that universal access and inclusivity could improve through planning and forethought. I understand that now. I keep stock of the technology, politics and culture of these changes with the publications I follow.

My interest now is to continue beyond accessibility to the idea of inclusivity.

Getting back to connecting with nature, I heard a wonderful TED talk on NPR regarding humanity’s imprint on the entire earth. Earth’s life has changed in so many ways through extinctions, pollution and invasive species that what we have to consider is just how lucky we are to experience connections to natural environments and to feel alone. We continue to find fossil records of long-gone life forms. I speculate there may be species that we have no knowledge of and never will. Yet the irony is we always bring our selves with us. We all use non-natural synthetic contrivances when we pursue the natural.

We are connected to nature right now but we need more. We are looking for more of ourselves or something even greater than ourselves.


Denis Livsey hauls himself up and over a beaver dam.

If it turns out that I cannot get somewhere because it is so primitive, I may have to accept that. Arguments are being made right now that modifications to a place I want to visit such as Boreas Pond may not be achievable but consider this:

Everyone is vulnerable to changes in mobility and access. We all age and change, sometimes in ways that impede our mobility. We can be working on the access for our future selves. Someone dear to us will also change and need access. Everyone we know will age. We may have disabled or not disabled youths in our families who may need access. All of us will change. We may become an amputee or blind. We have a huge population of disabled veterans and there will be more. Disability is the equal opportunist cross we all will bear in some fashion.

Nature is our home, but also an intrinsic part of ourselves. So we plan ahead for the inevitability of change so we can continue to the search for ourselves through nature.