Tiger lilies sway in the wind along Preston’s in-town trail as I’m out shooting while seated on the rollator walker. LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Tiger lilies sway in the wind along Preston’s in-town trail as I’m out shooting while seated on the rollator walker. LISA BRAINARD/BLUFF COUNTRY READER
Spending time outdoors and taking in all nature has to offer is certainly central to my life and to my very being.

After falling 26 feet off a bridge in early September last year, followed by a stroke while in the hospital, I spent a lot of long days indoors. As winter stretched into May, I thought I might go crazy waiting for nice spring and summer weather.

OK, I suppose I should note there were forays outdoors. Once in awhile friends would wheel me into a courtyard at Mayo Clinic's Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester, or down and across the street to the Canadian Honker.

My friend, Mark, from Indiana wheeled me out to enjoy the hospital's Peace Garden one day. We were lucky to see some odd, large bug that flitted about the flowers and in doing so made noises like a hummingbird.

Staff members did what they could to get me outdoors. I had physical and occupational therapists, as well as a recreational therapist. The latter would take patients out and about as their discharge dates approached. He suggested my first trip be somewhere like Quarry Hill Nature Center. We settled on his suggestion of the large garden center Sargent's on Second, a place he'd used a few times. It was a treat to be wheeled around the beautiful landscaped gardens that included small gazebos, fountains and more. It seemed more like a well-manicured park than a business.

Perhaps you're wondering how we got there. The hospital used R & S Transport, which readily can accommodate someone in a wheelchair. Later, we also used this transport for a shopping trip to Target. That was considered a vital part of getting me ready for such tasks in what I call my "real life" in trying to catch any problem areas before I might be on my own in a store in a wheelchair.

I was discharged from the rehabilitation floor at the Mary Brigh building at Saint Marys on Oct. 23, when I then moved into Park Lane Estates assisted living in Preston to get stronger and further recover over the winter with the facility's respite care.

I decided on Park Lane, would you believe, due to its location on the edge of town. Plus, I knew staff fed deer in front of the dining room windows in addition to having bird feeders there. Yes, I had to have the most from nature that I could.

The deer and birds teased me to get back to photography. I would try my photo skills with a new camera, similar to the one destroyed in the fall. Perhaps a bigger challenge would be using my stroke-affected left hand. I got a monopod for the camera to help steady it and usually held it between my knees with my right hand on the camera. At least that hand was functional after getting the cast off it.

Soon, I was happily urging the wildlife to come a little closer as I photographed through the window from my chair. Often enough they obliged. My camera has a great zoom function, so I could get in pretty close for the shot. And shoot - and shoot and shoot and shoot - I did!

Warming weather meant I got outside more. By this time a walker and a cane were being used. However, I have a weak left ankle from earlier years of volleyball sprains. Add that to stroke-affected muscles not knowing where they are in space and you can see that further sprains might occur. And so they did. They were totally aggravating and while they were temporary, they were spirit-dampening setbacks.

I kept an eye out for the return of the turkey vultures, saying I'd be going home soon after spotting them circling the thermals and perched in nearby trees.

I had scar reduction surgery on my face on May 1 and moved home from Park Lane for Memorial Day. I gimp around my small apartment with no aids, but grab my borrowed rollator walker when heading out to walk on Preston's in-town trail. It has a seat, so when I'm tired due to being out of shape, I can set the brakes and have a seat.

I love the trail and all I see and hear along it. If I'm not yet up to hiking natural terrain trails (which will come, I tell you), at least the recreational trails of the area can get me out. The one I'm using is almost right out my door.

I've taken many photos along it and plan to take many more. I watch the South Branch River flow and hear its gentle sounds. I smell the flowers. I feel the changes in air temperature. I sit, contemplate and feel strength slowly returning.

Yes, nature is soothing and very therapeutic - especially now.

Lisa Brainard can be reached at lbrainard@bluffcountrynews.com.