A year after my life changed in the pull of a brake lever but a year before the world changed too, I picked up a camera for the first time post accident to make some photographs of friends that make bicycles staying over on the way back from the Sea Otter cycling show down the road in Girona. I had no idea if I could even hold a camera let alone see through a viewfinder but there was only one way to find out.
We started off in the quiet streets behind the cathedral in Girona with a point and shoot camera and an infinite supply of rustic walls.
I was pretty wobbly still with my pet brain haemorrhages less than a year old and so needed propping up at times but this opportunity was a pretty big deal in my ongoing path back to autonomy and the person that felt like they’d been left behind on the tarmac of a col in the local hills. Once upon a time it was the bike that needed propping up while I would stoop, climb or lay around it pressing the buttons but now I was the vulnerable and imbalanced one that had hands nearby ready.
It was only a short offroad interlude for these Italians on their way home, on my bike ride of old through the red rock switchbacks with Pyrenean vistas my bikes once called home and it carried a mixture of emotions from relief and freedom, to pangs of remembrance and a pining to change the past and return to the pedals in the present. It was an envy of ability from a disabled perspective.
There was a joy though in being able to see a friend discover where the ruts or braking points in my local trails were for the first time and their visible grin carving some of the best rocky singletrack descents I’ve ever asked inappropriate handlebars and too small tyres to navigate.
It didn’t take long to realise I couldn’t do much of what would be needed to return to work, routine stuff like be able to carry bags, walk unaided or simply lean and balance while making photographs. But to be doing so at all when statistically speaking I shouldn’t have been able to even think, talk or see let alone walk or pick up a camera was a real lift before being back at hospital the following day for more therapy not long after just relearning to stand and walk.
So we moved locations of a few hundred metres a couple of times and I directed what and where, which was another test for my traumatic brain injury. And after a few photographs created, we introduced the Italians to French Pizza (another story in itself) and bid them farewell until next time.
The interesting moral of this story being my eye doctor, seeing my paralysed eye muscles twitch for the first time in a year, ask me what I had done differently that week? And on the back of that photographic morning and subsequently a chance observation at the eye clinic, an appointment was made with a top eye surgeon to further operate on my eyes and continue to rebuild a part of the old me.
When a friend had said another interest would replace cycling in my life, I suppose I could have assumed it might be photographing, but the idea that would actually be a physical therapy of sorts was truly a marker in this journey.