I have wished, at times, that I had been born twins. That way, the part of me that appreciates the conveniences of city living could reside in comfort, while the part of me that strongly prefers rural life could enjoy communing with nature. However, as twins, I would be two individuals, not one. Living apart from my hypothetical twin would separate me from my best friend. Neither of us would derive pleasure from the other's experiences in the other place. After pondering this, I concluded that having a twin wouldn't solve my conundrum of wanting to be in two places at the same time.
The only course available to me, then, as a person who likes certain things about living in the city but often yearns to get away to more open spaces, is to change my location occasionally. Travel enables me to tolerate my human limitation of only being able to be in one place at a time, so I travel whenever I can.
A few summers ago, I left central Florida and took an L-track westward through the Gulf states until I got to Texas. I turned north, zigzagging through east Texas and Oklahoma to meet up with friends and siblings. After a family reunion on Lake of the Ozarks, I accepted a high school friend's invitation to the northwest corner of Missouri. There, she helped me set up camp on the shore of Mozingo Lake, where the City of Maryville maintains a two-thousand-acre recreational park, nestled between lake, farms, and forests.
I found the park and surrounding countryside just as charming as my friend had predicted. Besides having numerous "primitive" hiking and running trails, Mozingo Lake Park is veined with broad concrete sidewalks that cross hills to snake through woods. This is great for joggers, but the advantage to me is that it makes much of the park eminently accessible to wheelchair users. I mounted my Nikon D7000 with its unwieldy 300 mm telephoto lens on the lightweight monopod I rest on my footrest and set about experiencing the park through my camera, which I had named "Candace."
A gentle breeze rippled the surface of the lake. Although I knew a small flock of Canadian geese usually hung out near the nearby boat ramp, I decided this was the day to explore the "interior" of the park. I headed up the hill and over, away from the water. Robins hopped around the regularly mown lawn areas adjoining picnic shelters, and bunnies nibbled grass near wooded areas, while butterflies flitted from one purple thistle to the next.
Not content with the "adventure" the sidewalks provided, I also ventured into the woods with my power chair and bounced down the hiking trails. This wasn't without its adverse effects on the machine, but I felt it was worth it. A few weeks prior, on a blistering, dusty south Texas afternoon, a huge thorn punctured one of my pneumatic tires, and I nearly got stuck in the wild. I had to "limp" a mile or more on my flat tire to get back to my vehicle, where I loaded my chair in the ozone-scented advance showers of a looming thunderstorm. After that experience, I bit the bullet and upgraded to foam-filled wheelchair tires that wouldn't go flat on a trail. The part of me that doesn't get nourished by city life needed to be fed.
One of my best encounters of the summer happened after I came out of the woods and returned to the nice, smooth sidewalks. I had to traverse a broad meadow to get back to where my RV waited near the lakeshore. Something prompted me to pause beside the last large tree before I got into the clear. Just ahead, a short distance down a gentle slope, a doe stood in a sea of Queen Anne's lace and clover. She grazed peacefully, looking around casually between bites. I rolled forward, grateful for my chair's silent electric motors. I stopped almost directly across from her with Candace's lens trained on her and my finger on the shutter button for the next time she raised her head. Then I realized that a pair of fawns also grazed a few yards behind her. I smiled and clicked— and clicked and clicked.
Within minutes, the doe noticed me. She became suspicious even though, in my wheelchair, I didn't present a precisely human silhouette. She bounded away to the concealment offered by the trees below. The twins watched her flight but didn't become uneasy in her absence. They lingered where I could continue photographing them until one heard a call that I didn't. Then they both heard it and joined their mother in the woods.
I returned to my campsite to review, cull, and crop the images I had captured. I spent the rest of the evening basking in gratitude for the opportunity to get away from my city life and for my friend who had invited me to enjoy her corner of the prairie.