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Westford resident's vision grew as energy faded

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Great blue heron
A great blue heron in flight at the pond at Blanchard Farms.
Courtesy photo by Mary McAvoy

From the UK's Westford Eagle:

Westford resident's vision grew as energy faded

By Joyce Pellino Crane
GateHouse News Service
Posted Sep 12, 2010 @ 07:00 AM

Westford — In 2005 when Mary McAvoy was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, physical limitations narrowed her world, but she somehow found a creative way to counter-balance the loss with a new-found joy in nature.

In mid-life, the former school administrator—once active and vibrant—reinvented herself to adapt to a severely curtailed energy level.

She left a job she loved and moved for her Acton home to a one-floor condominium at Blanchard Farms East off Graniteville Road in 2006. Someone else might have seen the transition as a downgrade in her quality of life, but McAvoy found a source of peace and tranquility in her new environment.

From day one after coming to Westford, she was drawn to the pond that sits in front of the Blanchard Farm development—a tiny body of water. Formerly an active and adventuresome personality, she found her life diminishing as the illness transmitted pain throughout her body and caused tenderness in her joints. Combined with fatigue immune deficiency, from which she also suffers, McAvoy’s activity level was dramatically impaired by a condition that has no specified cause and no cure.

“Midlife, I’m living a different life than I had had because of my health,” she said. “It’s sent me off on another trajectory that has been at times unnerving, but also full of discovery.”

Discovery came along the edge of the tiny pond where she began walking for her daily exercise. Soon she began to bring a Nikon D40 camera with a 200-millimeter lens and to take photos of what she saw. After a year and a half she started to research her nature sightings, learned more about photography, and now considers herself an amateur naturalist and photographer.

Now her walks are chronicled with a skillful eye, she said.

“As I begin my walk, I see everything from macro to micro,” she said. “I might notice the blue of the sky or the cloud formation, and I might take a wide angle shot. But then as I walk, I’ve become visually very alert to anything from recognition of a snake in the grass to a dragonfly on a flower, a turtle or frog in the mud of the shoreline.”

About six months ago, she began framing her photos with the hope of having them displayed at photography shows. Then she went to Starbucks on Littleton Road and convinced management that the environmental characteristics of her work warranted a wall display in the upscale coffee shop where a wide spectrum of the town’s population converges. The 12-picture display will be on exhibit through the end of this month.

“It was permitted by Starbucks management because it has a conservation component to it,” she said. “The purpose is to bring attention to this beautiful gem right here in Westford and how important it is to preserve these resources.”

McAvoy does nothing half-hearted. She’s delved so deeply into her nature research that she can now recognize some bird calls and identify bird species.

“I love finding birds in the trees and bird nests,” she said. “I might do a study for a week of newly-hatched fledglings. Mind you, I knew nothing about birds, and flowers when all this began.”

Among her collection are photos of Red-winged and Barn Swallow fledglings.

The experiences at the pond inspired her to write a blog,

“It’s a four-year history of that pond,” she said. “My senses are trained to hear, to see, to sense things that are going on there.”

It’s a major change from the life she led until four years ago when she left her administrative job at the Oak Meadow Montessori School in Littleton as director of admissions.

 “I was highly regarded, but my health got to a point where I couldn’t keep up anymore,” she said. “Sometimes my sense of logic is impaired. I can only go two steps ahead at a time. So when I worked with numbers it was difficult to keep up.”

She earns a living today writing content for small businesses and websites under her services.

She had spent 15 years in Acton, growing herb gardens and raising two children. But the symptoms of fibromyalgia began in 2002, and slowly her life diminished.

The frustration of her limitations took an emotional toll, but she found a saving grace in Westford.

“Walking around that pond gave me so much hope I considered it the silver lining in my life,” she said.

Copyright 2010 Westford Eagle. Some rights reserved

The article originally appeared here.


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