Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Wildflowers and Weeds

A weed is but an unloved flower. ~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Wildflowers and weeds, they seem to be almost impervious. Their ability to grow anywhere and everywhere is quite amazing. Our tolerance of them is entirely individual. Do you dedicate a space and allow them to do their own thing and to attract the necessary pollinators to your garden or do you constantly try to eradicate them? I'll never forget purchasing a really pretty Lyreleaf Sage in my earlier days of gardening called Salvia lyrata and having my good friend very quickly inform me that the plant's common name was roadside or wild sage. Yes, you can find it growing wild just about anywhere. Is a weed simply a plant growing somewhere that you don't want it to grow?

I once watched a video of two guys exploring the depths of the Congaree National Swamp. A place that I would probably never want to get to physically. (Snakes and mud are really not my thing.) I loved just watching the video, although some people that I know with disabilities would enjoy taking part in that kind of adventure. The Congaree National Park has a wonderful 2-mile long and very accessible boardwalk. I'm not certain to what extent of access that the park's other trails provide, and these two guys were definitely not on any trails. The video allowed me to see even more of the swamp. I've suggested this type of added accommodation often especially to historical structures where physical access may be truly difficult. i.e. a historical ship where certain areas other than the main ones are not feasibly passable to anyone with any type of mobility disability, a lighthouse or to the various floors of a Nationally Registered Historical House Museum (Most are obligated to provide access from accessible parking to at least the first floor, bathroom and gift shop.)

When I was younger, I would do everything in my power to avoid attracting any type of negative attention or to be perceived as one of those angry, negative people with a disability whose life would be unbearable to have to live. I have had a really good life in an environment that would often defeat many. I now know much sooner when I am apparently wasting my time. I will make suggestions to anyone willing to hear me and who legitimately wants to make improvements. It's simply wonderful when they want to do it because "it is the right thing to do!" It's up to them to implement any change. I have to laugh, and laugh often. I know that there are certain things that I can't laugh about. I do find myself quite frequently shaking my head in disbelief and asking myself, "What were they thinking?"

Years ago, I would also do everything in my power to not be perceived as disabled, everything except wearing pantyhose and 4 inch high heels. (I never liked them to begin with.) I drove a sporty car, dismantled my wheelchair 6 or more times a day, and without help because I could. I would go to the beach and crawl across the sand to go for a swim. I was young, and unstoppable! Kind of like Bermudagrass, although I'd rather be perceived as more of a wildflower like Rudbeckia. My husband would not hesitate to pull me up and down steps to visit gardens that I would otherwise miss out on. He too is getting older, and he can no longer do that physically. (He's had three hernias.)

INDEPENDENCE is what it is all about, and maintaining as much as possible for as long as we can. One of my neighbor’s last week took his own life. He had been living with Parkinson's Disease for a number of years and this past year he had been forced to use a wheelchair. Sadly, some people would rather end their own lives if they have to live their lives incapacitated in any way. I, fortunately, do not share this attitude. I will be the old lady teaching others how to do wheelies!

I reflect on this because it is important. I’m not going to say that that attitude is right or wrong. It’s all relative to other things, pain as well, and I’m not in a position to judge. I’ve always felt that dealing with the sudden loss of independence as an older adult would quite possibly be more difficult for a person to deal with. Although, there have been a few really awesome, older folks who have inspired me along the way and many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of assisting with maintaining a quality life. Many are truly appreciative for the life they have left.

When I encounter an entity, business, person or organization that would rather ignore any obligation to provide or enforce equal access, I see it as if they have the attitude that a person with a disability isn’t a person worth accommodating. After all, if they valued us as human beings, they would do everything possible to include us, right? Wow, it all makes sense! The American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) isn't just a building code, it's often overlooked as the Civil Right that it is.

As harsh as this may sound, it can often seem like the reality. Whether a person goes to a large retail outlet or to a small mom and pop restaurant, the obligation to provide equal access to goods and services is there. Until people can realize that it is flat out dangerous for a person to park in a narrow, non-compliant parking space, things are not going to change. I have come too close to getting hit too many times. Most people with disabilities will avoid going to any place that they can't travel to safely. No one wants to endure a dangerous sidewalk or to be forced to travel down the middle of the street. This is an ongoing and very legitimate safety concern. No one should have to endanger themselves either by having to pull or carry someone with a disability.

In the mean time, I will pick and choose where I go. Even if I have to drive to another county to experience a botanical garden that I can easily enjoy with accessible routes and pathways. I will continue to grow my own veggies and tend to my own garden as long as I can, because this is what makes me happy. Life is too short not to be enjoyed. I will also continue acting sometimes as a persistent weed, although I may wheel away occasionally to give people time to react, because I truly care about other people having the opportunity to live an independent and meaningful life. I am inspired by those with so much less than me, and I see their lives as worthwhile. No one should be excluded or treated in anyway that is less than first class. It is my hope that this next generation, wouldn't have it any other way!