You Can Experience the Beauty of the Outdoors, Even with Duchenne

Hawken Miller avatar

by Hawken Miller |

walk, inspiring, creativity, columns, Self-quarantine

It’s hard to find time to spend outside, especially since I have a disease that hampers my mobility, but being outdoors reinvigorates and reboots me, and reconnects me to nature and God.

During weekends I could lie under the covers well into the afternoon and watch HBO’s original series on my phone until the sun sets. That’s an inviting image, but not sustainable.

We’re designed to spend time outside. For millennia, humans hunted wild animals and gathered nuts, mushrooms, and berries to survive. Inherently, we long to be outside, not isolated at home. 

With Duchenne, it’s easy to become isolated by fear over abilities and logistical realities — I’ve been there. We need to be outside, though, alone or with friends. 

Georgetown waterfront. (Photo by Hawken Miller)

I wrote part of this column on the Georgetown waterfront, right on the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. The tree I was sitting under provided the perfect amount of shade on a sweltering day. I watched rowing teams practice, their oars slapping against the river synchronously. Not far behind, their coach followed them in a small motorboat. “Chins up!” she yelled through a megaphone. 

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Long grass framed the opposite shore of the river. The breeze cut through the baking heat, causing the trees to whisper thier original music. It evaporated the sweat beading up on my skin. 

It’s like I’m part of nature in that place, among the blue sky, the green grass, and the turbulent turquoise water. I’m meant to be there. The ability to be alone or together in nature is a gift that people with Duchenne must embrace.

Outside in the ancient city of Huế, Vietnam. (Photo by Paul Miller)

Playing video games is surely entertaining and feeds my introversion, but it isn’t anything like experiencing God’s perfect creation for myself. Why not enjoy life outside my room while I have the chance? It’s a privilege to feel the wind flow through my hair and breathe fresh air, watch people walk their big, small, medium, fluffy, fat, or scrawny dogs. 

You don’t need to ski down a double black diamond slope, compete in the U.S. Open of Surfing, or climb El Capitan. All it takes is a second to reflect and be one with the world, wherever you might be. 

What’s even better is getting myself to the pool or some other body of water to swim. It’s one of the few activities I don’t have to strain to do. I can only stand on my own for minutes at a time, yet I can float on my back for hours in the pool. 

Scuba diving with my parents in the British Virgin Islands. (Photo by Paul Miller)

Buoyancy negates my 9.8 m/s² gravitational acceleration toward Earth. It isn’t a burden to be on my feet while I’m in the water, since my weight is supported by the force of water pushing back up at me. Plus, I get the aerobic benefits of using my muscles in a way that is not damaging. It’s the closest thing to a workout I have.

Swimming and being outside require no extra energy, aside from the mental effort to get myself out of my apartment. 

These simple things ground me in my Creator and refresh my mind and body in a way that isn’t possible through TV or video games. It’s easy to seclude myself from the outside world because of my physical inability. I assure you, however, that’s not the best way forward.


Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, Bionews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


Tinah Hofer avatar

Tinah Hofer

Would like to know more about this Enrollment.

Neil avatar


Great article! Great perspective, Hawk!

David Hughes avatar

David Hughes

Really excellent column. Thank you for writing it.

Nick avatar


This is a really beautiful post Hawken. I loved reading it. My wife and I had the pleasure of meeting you and your family at a Cure Duchenne event in Los Angeles and your positivity and openness were very inspiring. Now I have found your column and it had had the same effect.
Thank you

Leah Leilani avatar

Leah Leilani

Awesome article Hawken! I could picture myself sitting by the river under the trees. You’re a great writer.


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