Aron Tyler – How this California Dreamer Found Peace and a Renewed Sense of Purpose in Oregon
It is a wonderful thing to have discovered a great talent and passion to pursue in life. Many of us never find the kind of work that doesn’t feel like “work,” or a hobby that gives them a feeling of peace and a sense of pride. If you have done so, and are able to find a way to turn this into a marketable skill or business, then you have found a real life “holy grail.” The secret to a life of purpose and fulfillment comes from the innate desire to create, build, write or do something that contributes to the world in a positive way. It can be art, engineering, medicine or anything that feels like it is something you are meant to do.
Aron Tyler was looking to follow his passion, and was seeking an environment where he felt most in tune with his inner purpose when he moved from California to Oregon in 2009. Even though he was a 5th generation, Pasadena native, he moved to Oregon after falling in love with how green it was and the way he felt when he breathed the fresh air. He first visited at age 18 with his family to help with selling the estate of his great aunt.
Now, when he goes back to CA to visit and gets off the plane, he is overwhelmed by the smog and people overload. He prefers a slower pace and appreciates the more simple things in his new-found life. He hates the big city lifestyle and wants to live a life with more meaning, as opposed to the superficial lifestyle he felt was so prevalent in Southern California.
He soon discovered the open space, thrills and raw sensations of “free riding” his ATV on the beautiful outdoor trails along the Oregon coast.
That is, until the day his passion changed his life. A broken back, in the local sand dunes, resulted in a t10-t11 smashed spinal cord. It was not completely severed, and he would later regain some feeling, hip flexor movement, abdomen strength and plenty of muscle spasms to remind him his body now had a mind of its own.
After the accident, his mother flew in from her home in Utah to take care of him once he completed rehab. He was discharged from hospital after having had 19 surgeries, MRSA, and numerous other complications. He was transferred to a nursing home for three months before finally being admitted to the Rehab Institute of Oregon where he learned the basics of how to care for himself.
It was during this time that he decided to pick up his mom’s camera and start taking pictures. Art had been his whole life and drawing was something that came naturally to him. Now however, it was a full-time job just taking care of himself and he didn’t have the time to create art the way he had once took for granted. He deeply appreciated and enjoyed the beautiful things around him but needed another way to capture them. After his stepfather showed him where he could download some free editing software, he bought his first camera, and then a nicer one, and it began to open doors. He felt that this was something he was good at and decided he would follow this instinct and see where it would take him.
He recollects how his art teacher from grade school had a big impact on him. Photography uses similar skills to art and he was well versed in composition, how to use distraction of the eye, how light works, how best to arrange shots, and what was best for the picture. He doesn’t just follow trends or what is hot; he reaches into his own creativity and follows his instincts. And, boy, does this inner eye create some masterful works of art through his lens.
Ode to a Third Grade Art Teacher:
“My technique and style, I think I can attribute to my art teacher back in 3rd grade. You see, we had an art instructor that came once a week to give us a break from our usual weekly studies… I think that’s why they came, because I always thought of it as a treat. Anyway, I remember these lessons about composition, how to arrange a photo, and cause distraction of the eye, and how to make people look at a piece in its entirety instead of just the subject, thus provoking an emotional response from the viewer… For some reason, these lessons always stuck with me. After my accident, I basically used what I had learned in 3rd grade and just had to apply it to photography instead of drawing.”
That happens to me a lot when I go for drinks with friends. I often get seated in the dining area, losing the ambiance of the bar setting. I don't like that my friends have to endure this as well. This photo was taken at the only place open on a Sunday on my Mom's birthday in Northern Arizona fairly small town. We made the best of it, but honestly it sucked. I put my food on my lap to eat.
An outdoor high top table in Australia.
"It was taken at a bar called Never Mind in Hawthorne, Melbourne. There are only two tables in this bar - and the bar itself - all at the same height. For a quadriplegic, like me, who finds it difficult to raise their arms above shoulder level, this is a real problem! I ended up virtually troughing my food from the plate." - Martin Heng, The Lonely Planet
15th Street Fisheries, a popular waterfront dining spot in Fort Lauderale had almost exclusively High Top seating on two separate patios. We had to eat upstairs and inside to have a regular table.
Stache 1920's Drinking Den
He also refers to himself as an idiot savant in his way of thinking. “I can remember things,” he quips, but what he really means is that he remembers everything he was ever told or read about art, photography, or anything else he is interested in. This advantage serves him and his art well-you could say he is a fast learner.
I asked him about his equipment and the respective costs for this new found outlet. His first camera was a Nikon D5000 which he then upgraded to a Nikon D800 at a cost of $2300 for the body, $2500 for a telephoto lens, and a macro lens for $980. There was also a computer desk that is raised up for editing, a special “built for editing from the ground up” computer topped off with a special mouse and graphics card to make it run more efficiently and process more pages per minute.
Now he is serious about making art to earn money and getting off disability benefits. He is keen to shoot anything besides weddings because doing photo shoots can be emotionally draining, especially in highly tense or stressful environments which weddings can often be. He loves shooting photos of animals, capturing moments as they happen and being in tune with what he is witnessing. He especially loves landscapes, “…even though it is hard to make it at it,” and black and white photos too.
Aron now has access to a studio and is starting to shoot for the disability inclusive, stock imagery site, PhotoAbility.net in the hope of earning some commission when his images are bought by companies and organizations to use for marketing and advertising.
He does not yet have a website for his photography, as he lives on $730 month which doesn’t leave enough to build and host a site, but he does have a professional Facebook page-Aron Tyler Photography.
Recently, his efforts paid off as he won 3rd place in the Advanced Architectural Photography Competition at the Coos County Fair in Oregon. Coos Bay, where he resides, is the largest coastal city in Oregon and happens to be a small logging town.
Aron now lives independently in his own house, drives a 2006 Toyota Sequoia SUV, and does his own grocery shopping, although he also has the benefit of a caregiver to clean his house via a State funded program by the Department of Human Services.
He has also met some really good people after having had a hard time fitting in socially. He says, “I am a big city boy,” in a town of only 20,000 people.
He gets out with some guys who he met before being injured. One close friend, who he had only known for two weeks before becoming paralyzed, came to visit him religiously once he was home from the hospital.
These friends helped him build a ramp in the garage and, while he appreciated the mobility this gave him, he was forced to wheel past his quad bike every time he came or went and often wanted to cry. People would offer to buy it and he just couldn’t get rid of it. As it turns out, selling it was not meant to be.
He now has adaptive hand controls on the very same quad that he broke his back on… and is making it go faster and faster. “Others on the sand dunes can’t tell I am a paraplegic when I am riding. Or they will ask ‘Why is the guy in the wheelchair wearing riding gear? Where are the brakes?’ People get so perplexed.” This is why Trail Blogger did a special edition video to demonstrate just how it was accomplished.
How this all came about speaks for the power of the internet and social media sites like Facebook. He got the idea for his new rig when his brother sent him a link to a video of Bay Area paraplegic, Ricky James, who rode a two-wheeler in the Baha 500.
Aron was able to get in touch with Ricky’s father who put him in touch with Ben Brown. Ben then advised him what special parts he needed. Ben Brown at the time was on Nova Scotia’s National basketball team, and is now a hopeful for the next Paralympic games. He also rode a quad and was his inspiration.
Aron is now 37 years old and remarks on the rate at which self-esteem drops with this injury. On top of that, he then contracted testicular cancer, causing him to lose some teeth in the process. All of this left him with, “…not being into asking girls out,” and a sense of lost social confidence. He is more isolated now and, while his memory is still intact, he feels there may have been some damage to the brain from the coma caused by both his lungs collapsing. Certain injuries, like collapsed lungs, do not permit anesthesia due to the risk of lower blood pressure and complications. To prevent post-traumatic stress from the experience of the pain, the patient is awake and aware but given medication that will prevent him from recollecting the experience. The experience was one to forget: they used a scalpel to cut into his side, and fingers to separate the ribs enough to enter the tube into the lungs. There were two tubes on each side to retap lungs. Stabbing and screaming entails. He was fully conscious at the time but has no recollection of the event. A coma was induced after the procedure and he was put on a helicopter to Portland where they could better deal with his multiple injuries. When he woke up, he didn’t remember the event.
“I feel kinda like a weirdo now, sometimes stopping and forgetting mid-sentence what I was communicating, and having become highly empathetic, tuning into others’ emotions really well. It can cause people to feel uncomfortable.”
Getting his teeth fixed is now on the agenda as he had some money when injured and also assets in a family trust that will pay for medical needs, but he lives paycheck to paycheck. “I walked on legs for 32 years and didn’t appreciate anything. Everything was readily available to me; I didn’t have to work for anything. My perspective has totally changed.”
His Mom went back to Utah, and his Dad is in CA. He and his Dad had a falling out and don’t talk anymore. His grandfather was his favorite person and his mentor. His Mom, he considers his “best friend, and the only one who really understands me… I’m just like her… Everything I know about riding I learned from her… When I was a little kid she used to put me in a backpack with my head sticking out and go riding… She’s a lot of fun.”
While he does get lonely, he has some “dogs, but they don’t talk back” so when the time is right, love is on the agenda. He tried online dating as he doesn’t know too many people in the area, but has a “mental block” at present. He just needs someone who “gets him,” as we all do. He says he is a master at shoving a foot in his mouth and just wants, “Someone who sees through the complexity to understand who I am. There are so many superficial people out there, I have almost lost hope. When God feels it is time, I will find the right woman, but I am more afraid of being with the wrong person than of being alone. My animals keep me sane.”
Having gotten to know Aron, I can say that he is a wonderful and interesting conversationalist, and someone I am sure many women will enjoy getting to know.
If you are interested in learning more or following his work you can find Aron on Facebook.
Ricky James Baha 500
Aron in a gas powered wheelchair, in the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix with Chet Dyreson
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