in the good company of women
In 2002, I went to Alaska to hike. I was with nine other women from all over the country; Mary, our guide from Fairbanks; and Marian Marbury, CEO of Adventures in Good Company.
I’m in the brown cap next to the “I.”
I discovered the pleasure of traveling alone.
I became reacquainted with my nearly lifelong need to write.
With the rest of the group spread out in front of and behind me on a trail near the Talkeetna River, a little bit afraid that
I had taken a wrong turn, ultimately sure that I was in exactly the
right place, I sensed the presence of God as never before.
I watched bears, Dall sheep, beaver, and caribou. I was in awe of the grace of moose.
I slipped on rocks but did not fall.
I ate a peanut butter and cheese sandwich.
I bent down to photograph wild rose, lupine, and bluebells, dwarf fireweed, Eskimo potato, and moss campion, tundra plants whose elaborate coping mechanisms for living in difficult conditions produce unique beauty.
I read the poetry of Mary Oliver and Robert Service for the first time.
I walked along a train trestle and stomped through mud, playing more than I did as a child.
I told the truth about my life, and the shame I feared did not materialize.
I laughed out loud and cried openly.
I returned home to spend another five years on the failed project of my marriage. Part of me wants to type “Big. Mistake.” But it wasn’t. It was the path I needed to travel to get here.
“Here” I recognize the importance of spending time with other women, of tending to friendships with women as much as I tend to my relationship with a man. My new relationship is with a man who is slightly incredulous when I wonder if he minds if I travel.
This year I flew alone to New York City and to Columbia SC to visit women friends. And in November I’m going on another trip with Adventures in Good Company, this time to Utah to hike in Bryce and Zion National Parks, with women I’ve yet to meet.
Because when women are with other women,we don’t apologize for things we can’t control.
We tell the truth.
We feel peace and space.
We are comfortable in our bodies and our strength.
We are open to ecstatic experience.
We’re less worried that someone else is bored, or
uncomfortable, or hungry, or tired, and more able to make sure that we’re
content, warm, fed, and rested.
We are willing to break taboos that have limited us.
We speak a language that can range from a shorthand code that cuts to the bone of deep truth, to a longhand dissertation that extracts every possible juicy nuance from a look, a book, or a verbal exchange, no matter how small.
I found this scrap, a quote from Oscar Wilde, tucked into my 2002 journal, from a woman who passed through my life for a week but who has returned eight years later to give us a gift:
What a marvelous story. I’d love to do a hike like that. One thing that’s familiar is that I return again and again to Mary Oliver for solace, inspiration, the plain-old sense of being understood. You are so right about the company of women. What a blessing these experiences are. xo
just as i thought: my comment didn’t get sent. well, it was goofy anyway cause i wrote it from my iphone while driving up to have supper with my brother last night.
now this is another spot-on, i-love-this post, my friend.
i, too, am lucky enough to be in relationship with a man who, though he may not totally understand why, doesn’t mind one iota when i go traipsing off to meet and spend time with other women. for me, women provide deep, essential solace and understanding and communication that i just don’t find with men. and maybe at some level he knows that and is relieved when i trot off to be in the company of women.
So lovely. So true.
Alaska is the one place I want to make it to in my life. My top choice. I have not done it yet, but I will, my secret goal is when I’m 50…just a couple of years away.
When I was young I never spent time with women. I am not sure why, now, when I look back, but I remember that I used to tell myself I just liked men better. I was young and foolish and have come to see the error of my ways. This was a great reminder, and I love the quote at the end.
I loved reading about your journey.
I never tire of Oliver either. So often she is “just right.”
Thank you as always for reading and commenting. I’m headed to your blog now, thanks to Jeanne.
I know what you mean. That “preferring men” trend, which I started in high school, kicked off this four-part meditation on women’s friendship. And please go to Alaska for your 50th, if not sooner!
Yes, that’s it–he’s relieved!! He doesn’t have to wear his secret decoder ring for a few days! Thanks and love as always,