Austin Davis: Artist & Inspiration

“Watching the leaves change in the Poconos is a lot like watching a human life bud. Attaining a full beauty, a certain ripe quality, the leaves on the mountainside seem to burst, while performing a graceful slow-motion dance in the theater of a constantly changing universe.” Austin Davis

Austin Davis was born March 18, 1987 at Pocono Hospital in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Growing up in the Poconos, she developed a profound love and appreciation for nature. She caught frogs, turtles and fireflies by the pond in her backyard while falling asleep to the spring peepers’ love songs. Austin hiked endless trails that offered breathtaking landscapes complete with waterfalls and mountain views.

“I was lucky to have, in my backyard, a perfect view of the seasonal fall foliage cascade over the folded mountain range of the Appalachian like a tie-dye blanket in the sky. Even then as a child younger than the child I am now, I played with metaphors that overpowered the shine of my own life story.”

Austin started taking art classes in high school and won her first and only contest her freshman year. In her senior year, she and a friend enrolled in a life drawing course at Monroe County Arts Council. Since then, art has been a constant in her life. Her reverence for the natural beauty of her home in the Poconos became one with her art endeavors.

And then everything changed.

On September 1st, 2007, Austin Davis had a diving accident that broke her neck. She was paralyzed from the chest, down. She was diagnosed with C5-6 (C — cervical spine) quadriplegia. Austin has most of the functional use of her arms and wrists, and no function in her hands or fingers.

“I remember lying in my hospital bed staring at the ceiling hooked up to an IV, a feeding tube in my belly and a ventilator in my throat. The drugs gave me horrible, scary hallucinations. When the medication finally began to wear off, I could not stop thinking about all of the things I would never be able to do again—

I’ll never ski again- I’ll never see the waterfalls and hiking spots I love- I’ll never draw or paint again- I’ll never finish school –

When night came, sleep did not. Trapped in my hospital bed, I thought endlessly into the long nights. No one will ever love me again, I’ll never wear a dress again, I will never travel, never see the world. Nothing, never, it’s all over! “

It has been over 2 years since that life changing day. Since then, Austin has gone skiing four times with the Adaptive Program at Camelback Ski Area. She has taken several trips and even got back into a pool over the summer.

You may not see her in a dress very often, but on a nice day she and her boyfriend of three years will go hiking. “I push the limits of my increasingly fragile power chair just as I used to push the limits of my body.”

She is currently attending college.

Austin has also b een able to share her art and story with the public. At a benefit auction for the Pocono Arts Council, she sold her first painting in March of 2009. She was also featured on the cover of the Magee Rehab Art Therapy calendar for 2010.

You can email her at

At the age of 22, Austin has more strength, wisdom and courage than most of us will acquire over a lifetime. Her story of survival and perseverance is one we can all be inspired by and learn from.

“I never thought anything that I have done would ever be possible, but I truly have made the best out of a bad situation.

It is my hope that people will look at my art and feel as though they are not quite as limited as they may have thought. I have to constantly remind myself of all the situations worse than my own and find humor in the day-to-day rigors of being handicapped. My life is a constant test of patience and perseverance.

Thank you for reading, and remember – Don’t be surprised when you surprise yourself.” Austin Davis

Camelback Adaptive Program: Ski Lessons For The Disabled

by Dena Marie Kelly
Dena Marie Kelly is the Assistant Editor of Merlian News. She is a published poet and creative writer. Dena volunteered as an environmentalist with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) for three years serving as a project leader, an intern, and a board representative. She is active in the diabetic community as a type 1 diabetic. She has a BA in Liberal Studies.