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Sunday, April 1, 2012

Bless That Broken, Twisted, Road

Nothing but grace, gratitude, and blue skies these days
There are moments, days, weeks and if you are truly lucky whole chunks of  time when life just rains down blessings, goodness,  and grace.

Times when people enter your life that make a difference and bring you far more than you ever thought was possible. Times when Mother Nature offers up her bounties and beauty in heart stopping wonder. Times when you know that outdoors, the woods, the water , the forests and the fields are exactly where you belong and you are home .

Even in fury there is comfort in nature

There are also moments, days, weeks, and periods when life rains down sadness and hurt, fear and frustration. But like the blessed and bountiful times - returning to the woods and water, the forest and the fields to face the fury filled fates will remind you that outdoors, outside, is home and there will be comfort there.

It seems that I am the lucky one  these days - my life is filled with beauty, bounty, and the best things keep happening. I feel like I am home. Finally.

Growing, ever learning, evolving into "The Wild Woman" over this last half century has been a long journey down  many a broken and twisted road, but it's been journey worth every step and has finally led me to where I fit in, where I feel right, where I belong.

I never used to think about being a "woman in the outdoors", an outdoor sister. It was just what I did. I learned from role models such as my strong , brilliant, tough as a bison hide, mother; and my gravelly voiced, cancer surviving, rattlesnake hunting friend  Velma; - "The Old Lady in the Woods" ; the plants, the mushrooms, the skills needed to fashion a life from the outdoors. I learned to fish, hunt, snare and skin. My uncles and their friends taught me tricks and guided me along my journey to be self sufficient. All we needed could be found there - food, medicine, shelter, healing of hearts and heads. It was the way people lived in our neighborhood. It wasn't trendy, it wasn't a need to connect more closely with our food , or go green - it was simply how we lived.  Some may have erroneously thought it was how we subsisted. But it was far more than subsistence, it was satisfaction with being self sufficient.

Harvesting early fall oyster mushrooms to put up for winter

I learned that Mother Nature could feed, clothe, and heal me. It brought me comfort in times of sorrow, it enhanced my joy and happiness during the good periods. It was my home.

But sadly, it was often a lonely journey becoming the a wild woman. The true outdoors women, women hunters, anglers, trappers,  were few and far between. There wasn't the ever growing outdoor sisterhood  30 years ago that there is today. It was still very much an old boys club, a male dominated world where a woman who could out shoot, out  hunt and out fish them was too often a rarity and not always tolerated or accepted well.

While I was blessed with  some very fine male companions afield; I longed for female companionship while slinging turtle lines, gathering plants, and skinning squirrels. I longed for equipment that would work with my smaller hands and frame, for good hunting clothes  that fit, I wanted what the men had, what made their days afield easier and better. I wanted  a level playing field dammit.

Then somehow miraculously a few short years ago I met a woman called Barbara Baird,  Publisher of Women's Outdoor News  and instantly something clicked. I'd been spending so much time out there.. away from the real world in the woods that I had completely missed the revolution. There were women invading the outdoors in thundering herds! There was this thing called the Outdoor Sisterhood, there were women like me!

A fun afternoon chasing carp with the Bad Ass Slingbow with fellow Prois Staffers Barb Baird and Stacey Huston

When  Barb  opened that door, invited me in to the sisterhood,  the broken twisted road to being a wild  woman suddenly become a smooth sailing straight county blacktop.  Through that door came wonderful, smart, funny, skilled, strong, women that build each other up, teach each other well, and spend countless hours afield together,  - to quote my favorite Prois Hunting and Field Apparel saying "Taking Pride in Not Being One of The Guys."

Just a small sample of my "Prois Gear Pile"

It was Barb that also introduced me to Prois, to the finest  outdoor and field clothing made for women in the industry. I was in heaven. Finally I had clothing that worked, was tough and durable, made my days afield easier, better, more productive. But most importantly, Prois is not just about gear;   Prois is not just a faceless corporation spitting out glossy ads with pretty models. It's about the Outdoor Sisterhood, it's a community, it's a family. It's a company that supports women in the outdoors, and all that  goes along with being a confident, strong and successful outdoors woman.

The more women from the "Prois Posse" that I met, the more I felt that I had found my home. My circle. My tribe.

This new tribe - they understood how fun catching crawdads is!

Just a few short days ago I learned I had been selected as part of the fabulous Field Staff for Prois. I cried. I must be honest - I'm still a little confused, because in my eyes, I'm just some batty old lady roaming around the wilderness with a goofy dog in tow, nothing like the other extremely accomplished, classy, talented women who's fill the ranks of Prois' Pro, Field , and Event staff. But make no mistake, I am honored and humbled, and grateful.

And of course Willie is excited - he thinks he's famous now!

As heartfelt welcomes to the staff and messages of congratulations poured in, I realized just what a force  the women of Prois truly are, and what a  caring, compassionate, and cohesive sisterhood they have formed.

Of all the messages, notes, and texts, it was the one from Barb that made the most sense.

She simply said, "Welcome Home".

Please have a little listen to this song ( The Wildest Heart by The Elms)  - for me, it's about all the Prois women, all the outdoor sisters, all  the girls  afield in camo, boots, and waders, toting shotguns, bows, and running dogs. All the wonderful women who have fallen into my life the last few years - they truly have "The Wildest Hearts" .

I sleep well these recent nights, feeling I am home and knowing that those little girls out there now- wide eyed with wonder will not struggle alone  finding their way, that the Outdoor Sisterhood is thriving, mentoring, and giving them the level playing field I longed for so long ago.

Madison King , young Retrievers Unlimited  Handler/Owner;   part  of our  Outdoor Sisterhood future

Prois -  "Proof positive that it's no longer a man's world!"  -  Kelly Heard, Prois Field Staff


  1. Gretchen, You give as good as you get ... and then some. Thank you, though, for this fine collection (and well ordered, even!) of your thoughts. We are all so fortunate that you reached out to us, as well. Looking forward to catching some crappie and finding more 'shrooms with you in the near future. Your pal ... across the border.

  2. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post, Gretchen. Just wanted to tell you how much of an inspiration you have been to me over the past year. I'm truly blessed to know you. Thank you for your friendship.

  3. Love your pictures! I should have some morel mushroom posts coming up. Headed from NYC to Indiana to follow my dad on a hunt this weekend.

  4. Brit - you are one of those special blessings...

  5. Looking forward to hearing about your morel adventures!

  6. Tweeted pic of morel I found today.  Drove from NYC to Indiana because my dad said they were coming up.  We found 30 or so today.  It's enough that it will work for the documentary I'm working on when it comes to mushrooms. Probably just a short doc about my dad and his buddies.  I'm planning on writing more on my blog over the next week or so.