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A Tribute by Keith Dixon

who was an ALCS Director and also has extensive experience with organizations for people with disabilities. He has a sixty year love/hate relationship with a pair of crutches because of polio.

My first visit to Agur Lake Camp was in early summer and the blue sky was dusted with puffy white clouds. The aspens first caught my eye, arranged along the sparkling lake like white sentinels with green hats. I had grown up surrounded by aspens on a farm in Saskatchewan. Suddenly I felt like I was coming home.

A tour was being organized. I felt obliged to hang around the waiting crowd, yet something was pulling me away, off down the cow path, over toward the shore of the lake. I struggled for a moment but knew what I had to do. Clutching my camera I hurried along the path, past the aspens and over the embankment. Moving carefully, I experienced an eagerness that totally surprised me.

It's sixty years since polio handed me a pair of crutches and told me to make a life with them. When I returned to the farm from the hospital as a teen-ager I was faced with severe limitations in my mobility, compared to my growing-up years. Climbing trees and swimming in the slough, skiing across the fields and taking snow shoes through the bush was no longer possible. Yet, over the years I learned ingenious ways to do the impossible. I can't ride a horse, but I can fly a plane. I can't dance the polka but I can paddle a canoe.

Coming to undeveloped Agur lake was not so much a challenge as it was a falling back on knowing how to defy the word "impossible". Several pairs of anxious eyes watched me as I headed down the steep cow path to the shoreline. But they knew enough not to try to stop me! I can get very stubborn! In recent years I have avoided trails like that one. Something familiar, yet magical pulled me to follow the cow path that day.

Fresh hoof marks had me expecting a cow around each bend. My camera was ready, but other things lured me to take aim at them. Aspens with leaves that shimmered in the sun. A mirror lake rimmed with giant water lily pads. A shore bird who protested my coming too close to her nest. A family of Canada geese swimming single file, posing like children at a picnic. All these things pulled me farther and farther into the wilderness, and closer and closer to total contentment.

I was getting tired. At 76 years of age it is not easy to hoist my body up and down the irregularities of a cow path. I rested on a stump before starting back. A butterfly alighted on a rock by my foot, fanning her wings at me. Then I wandered back towards the parking lot, following the high path. It was easier walking there, and also provided new views for my camera. I was storing memories for boring days when I would be trapped in a city, feeling far away from this real home.

Before getting in the car to drive back to town I took one last look past the aspens, at the little blue lake tucked away in the forest. I looked into the future and saw cabins perched on the hill side and trails instead of cow paths. I saw families wandering freely down the trails, undaunted by the gentle slopes, delighted by the birds that nested just an arms length away. I saw myself with those people, strangers who were becoming my friends.

A car horn honked. It was time to leave. But I knew that I would be coming back.