Friday, August 16, 2013

Tattered and Torn: Smiley


Smiley, a happy little dragonfly, has been hanging out in the garden a lot lately. I think that she is curious and somewhat leery about this person cruising around in her wheelchair taking tons of photos of flowers, butterflies and of every kind of bug that she sees. She's suspicious yes, but not afraid, as long as she keeps a safe distance away.


A new friend of mine this past week was curious about what kind of camera I was using to 'make' my close-up photographs. I have had the privilege and sometimes frustration of living my life these last 15 years with a real fine art photographer. I differentiate with the term 'real' because at first my objective as a photographer was to simply take pretty pictures. Pretty pictures of life in our gardens. Life isn't always pretty, but having the ability to see the beauty in everything possible is what seems to make it all worthwhile. I sometimes will crop out the ugly parts of a flower by zooming in and showing off only the 'pretty' part. My new friend asked me very nicely if she could edit my photograph of 'Smiley', but it didn't occur to me until later what she probably had in mind. My dragonfly had a torn wing. At first, I thought about 'mending it', so to say, with Photoshop, but I realized that editing it would remove the life I saw in Smiley. That torn wing was a reflection of her life. It reflected her character as a possible champion from a battle she fought and survived. To hide or fix her wing would take away that part of life in her that I could relate to.

The most beautiful people I've known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. ~ Elisabeth K├╝bler-Ross


I remember years ago a friend asking me why there weren't many pictures of me that showed my wheelchair. I had never really noticed that that was the case. Before that time in my life, I do believe it was difficult for many people close to me, including myself, to see my wheelchair. Somehow maybe, the wheelchair made me less attractive, and served as a painful reminder of too much pain or loss. I'll never forget my first outing from the hospital after breaking my neck. I was wheeling outside of Boston University Hospital when two guys walked by and turned and looked at each other and said, "Did you see her? She was pretty too!" Yes, I wanted to respond, "Pretty people break their necks too!"


I know I have said it before, that "the wheelchair is not me", but it is a part of me. Kind of like my high top sneakers. At the end of the day, both are next to my bed. The flowers, the veggie gardens, the bugs, and the gardeners aren't perfect. We are, however, full of life. I am so thankful that there is a change in attitude and acceptance from many now who actually do see people with disabilities as an integral part of our world.



“Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art. ”
― Eleanor Roosevelt