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Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Outdoor Sisterhood - Cooperation, Collaboration, Compassion

My " Outdoor Sister" Jane
I had the pleasure this week of spending the day out with my good friend Jane. We aren't just colleagues, although I love doing business with her graphics company - Action Graphics; we aren't just friends - although she's a darn good one; we are also "Outdoor Sisters".

What I've noticed over the years is that the outdoor sisters behave a little differently than the outdoor brothers; I'm not about to say better - just differently.

It seems to me that the women of the outdoors I've had the pleasure of spending time with understand cooperation, collaboration, and compassion a bit better and put it into practice more often. We tend to teach, and share, and nurture each other along the trails.

Sharing was what this trip was about. Often, Jane had spoken to me about "her thinking rock" the creek beds and bottoms, the high limestone bluffs and secret karst caves where she had grown up. I got it- I knew - this was Jane's dirt church. This was who Jane was and what had given her a love of the outdoors.

I could feel the change - this was the sacred ground
There was no plan for collaboration, it just evolved as it so often does with the outdoor sisterhood. There was no plan for cooperation, but there were spots along the way where we needed  each other for a hand for balance, a gentle nudge, to answer each others questions about what we didn't know but wanted to learn. There was no plan for compassion, but Jane kept her eagle eyes on me, judging my endurance, my ability to climb some of the bluffs, and making sure I didn't have some MS "moment" out there away from it all.

What evolved was this touching note that Jane shared with me, and my photos of Jane, where she belongs; which in turn evolved into this post. Yet another collaboration between Jane and I- her words, my  photos - I hope you enjoy Jane's reflections on going to her sacred place as much as I did!

The creek we traveled this week

As I am driving to work this morning after dropping my daughter off at school I realize that my spirit is soaring.  I guess I am not surprised, the “after-glow” of spending a day in the woods is normal for me. My high usually lasts about 3 days.  But this was special because I got to share the adventure with an “Outdoor Sister”. 

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take Gretchen Steele to my “Holy Land” or “Sacred Ground”.  I haven’t lived there since I was 23, but I believe this place to be the root of who I am.  I return regularly, because I have no choice.  I am drawn back time and time again – often and regularly.  Actually, I haven’t really ever left.  And Gretchen is just one of those people who just “gets it” when it comes to the woods and the soul.

I grew up in these “woods with water”.  Luckily, my mother (being city raised) believed that as long as I was away from people, I was safe.  So that meant years of discovering and wondering around a beautiful and unique wilderness from sun up to sun down.  

My mother and I had a system.  I always wrote a note before she got up telling her what I had taken from the refrigerator (usually apples and hot dogs) and she blew the horn letting me know the sun was setting and it was time to come in.  I returned from my daily romps covered in bug bites, browned by the sun and my kinky yellow hair tangled and matted with dirty sweat.    I had so many bruises my mom wouldn’t let me wear shorts in public for fear people would thinks she beat me.  Good thing the woods were empty back then or the discovery of a dirty 8 year old girl, alone in the woods could have made headlines.  I can hear still her voice telling me to “go brush your hair or I am going to cut it off and get in the bath tub NOW”.  I felt so brave back then, armed against all evil with my hunting knife and BB gun.

In the creek cut just down the bluff from where Jane grew up

I have since traveled to many places, all over the world and still consider my childhood home the most beautiful place on earth.    These woods are filled with landmarks of my past ponderings like love, family, hope, health, and spirituality.  It is the place I think most clearly, and it is my soul.   There are many people I have shared it with through the years, but few people that can comprehend the depth of meaning this place has for me.  It is the place I was made and still, it renews me.
Our day was filled with my pointing finger, “there is where I had my first  kiss; that is where I sat for hours and sketched (leading to my current career);  my grandparents ashes are scattered on that hill; that rock is my special place where I felt my first love and my first broken heart; that wet hole is what I used as a live basket for the fish I caught; there is a cold spring right here….”  you get the idea, right?

Jane's "thinking rock"

Since my parents sold the place a few years back, I have felt a little bit like an orphan.  Luckily for me, some of the land keepers have allowed me to come back at my will.  If they didn’t, I would probably get arrested for trespassing…. I’m just sayin’.  Because I just can’t help it, I am pulled there.

Jane sending an update to our other outdoors sisters- sharing - it's an outdoor sister thing

I have shared this place with many people and my children, each one individually.  It’s a good thing I ended up having so many kids because it is going to take them all to carry my old and broken body down to the creek when I can’t make it on my own anymore.  And if I am blessed enough to choose my last words I have no doubt they will be “I love you all so much, now take me home to the woods”.  

As far back as I can remember remembering, I was aware that I was not the first person here and I know I won’t be the last.  I have spent countless hours contemplating who felt the spirit of this place before me.  How many others, through countless ages, have considered this their “special place”?  I feel confident that they all happily share it with me knowing how much I love it.

As Gretchen and I sat on a rocky bank listening to rushing water and feeling refreshed by the cool breeze, I looked down between my feet and found the most beautiful arrowhead.  Some may consider this a coincidence, but I knew it was a sign.  A sign that this place knows me and is happy I am back. 

The woods with water..and so much more, never fail Jane

A close up look at the beautiful point that was nestled right at Jane's feet

Thanks Gretchen, it was wonderful “Walkin’ with the Wild Woman”.

 Thank YOU Jane, for the collaboration, the cooperation, the compassion, and for sharing your sacred ground with me.


  1. She planted that point there you know :-) So glad you had such a great day together.. 

  2. Looking forward to many more adventures together my friend ~!

  3. Thanks for sharing a bit of your special place with us! Wonderful words and beautiful pictures.

  4. I should know by now not to read your posts when I'm in my office. I end up sitting at my desk all misty eyed and people probably think I'm crazy. I can't tell you how much it means to me that I was able to meet and spend time with both of you, Gretchen and Jane. The Outdoor Sisterhood is an amazing bond. I'm glad that I can share this with you. I only wish we lived closer so that I could see you more often.
    Thank you for sharing your adventures (and beautiful photos) with us!

  5. I'm voting no on the point planting - I was lucky and found part of one too Jane just has the eye for finding artifacts :)

  6. As am I my friend, as am I !

  7. Aw Brit - you are always so kind.. we are very blessed to be part of the outdoor sisterhood aren't we?

  8. Thanks Marti! Feel lucky to have such good friends as you and Jane who are always willing to share "the good spots" :)

  9. I am Jane's cousin and was lucky enough to experience that "sacred ground" quite a few times growing up. I still yearn to go back. It is a truly special and spiritual place. Of course, we had our adventures there too like the time I was squeezing through a tight space in the rocks and looked up to see a copperhead curled up in the rock and staring at me. :-) I found my own thinking rock in a little stream bed on my parent's property when I moved to DeSoto when I was twelve. I am always drawn back there when my spirit needs refreshing. Thank you both for sharing your experience in words with all of us.  Trish

  10. Trish, that is so funny! There were a couple of places we couldn't get to due to high water (the dam) and I was showing her the way through that spot from the Millpond.  I said,  we can either go through the water or through those fallen rocks - but the space in between the rocks is a snake pit.  That is the same spot you are referring to  - and of course, just as I said that a snake came swimming by - lol!  So we skipped the dam for the day.  I hate snakes ~ sorry Gretchen, I know you love them.

  11. How fun, and what a beautiful place to spend time at!  It looks so relaxing.