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  • Writer's pictureErin Clark

Flesh body/Metal body

March 1st is apparently International Wheelchair Day. Today is March 2nd, but I still appreciate my wheelchair. To celebrate, here is a photo of me being very good at being in a wheelchair.

There’s this moment when someone is goofing around in my chair when they hit some kind of obstacle and hop to their feet suddenly, re-position themselves, get back in, carry on with the fun. Able-boded people imagine that I live that moment in an endless loop. I get to an obstacle, or there’s a new activity I want to do, and the chair is a hindrance. I go to hop to my feet only to be reminded, by the total lack of action, that I can’t. Again and again and again. Can you imagine how that would feel? I can’t. Because that’s not what it’s like for me at all.

My wheelchair is part of every thing I consider. I don’t imagine the way I would do something if I could walk first, detour through a bout of abject frustration, and then muster up the will power to come up with an alternative wheelchair included. My wheelchair is always included. I don’t start my day with expectations of my body to function without paralysis only to be met with constant disappointed every time I’m reminded that I am, in fact, paralyzed. I KNOW that I am. I was born this way. I am never trying to make my body be a different body. That second nature leap out of the chair an able bodied person does when it’s inconvenient? The true equivalent is my second nature leap WITH the chair or swift manouver around WITH the chair. My chair is my first nature. I don’t experience the movement of my own body without experiencing the movement of my chair. Not even in my mind. I have an exceedingly low tolerance for frustration and inconvenience. I expect things to come to me easily. To take a short time to master. To flow smoothly. I move primarily for pleasure. And those are my expectations WITH my chair.

My adaptations come to me naturally. Most of them are so innate and subconscious now that I don’t notice they’re happening. The ways my wheelchair makes me less spontaneous than my personality would otherwise be balance out to assets - it makes me efficient, it has honed my thinking ahead skills into near psychic abilities, being prepared is sexy. And I don’t feel self conscious about my body. Not my flesh body, not my metal body. I think both of them are cool.

During this photo shoot at La Mussara with photographer Eli Mora, I wrangled my chair onto piles of ancient rubble, taking my fancy shoes off to get through thorns and bramble so I could pose under the ruined arches, I beelined for the slash of sun for this particular shot and then we headed off to the forest to find a just right clearing. I love working with Eli because when I say, ‘Get the whole chair Eli, can you see the whole chair?’ she doesn’t squirm at the unfamiliar aesthetic or crop out the wheels, instead she moves rocks out of the way, pins baby trees down and out of the shot, crouches in dusty cave corners so she can get far enough away so that no part of me - from bare thigh to gleaming rims - is obscured.

I celebrate wheelchair day, everyday.

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