Accidental adventure: Part 1-Turtle talk
I use the term accidental adventure a lot. But I realized recently that what I actually encounter are accidental opportunities.
Let me give you a prime example. In my forties, I was in the doctor’s office waiting for my physical, and there on the table was an edition of Outdoor Magazine. Now I was seriously under exercised at that point, working full time and raising a family, but outdoor adventures always sounded kind of fun.
A woman can dream, can’t she?
As I turned the pages, a full page ad caught my attention. The first ever all woman Outward Bound trip was happening in my neck of the woods, the beautiful North Cascades, in two weeks.
Normally, I would not have considered this trip knowing my lack of conditioning and any equipment related to backpacking and canoeing. But here’s what caught my attention. Under the details it said,
Good physical condition not as necessary as a positive mental attitude.
Well, score on both counts! Filled with memories of my backpacking days, I did what all idiots of a certain age do when about to embark on a new backpacking adventure in the wilderness. I bought all new equipment right down to my REI leather boots, telling myself a week would be plenty to wear them in.
And then, in the doctor’s office when my blood pressure reading was too high, I asked her to take it a few more times until I could meditate myself into a lower one, and she could sign off for my “physical” for the trip, just another example of my “positive mental attitude.”
But there was another adventure that whispered underneath the surface of this physical adventure. It would be all women…no men to immediately assume leadership due to their anatomy. No loud, rough voices to drown out the dialogues and opinions of the women in their presence. And no fear of safety, no intrusions into my body space that was mine and mine alone.
And maybe, just maybe, I could learn what it was to be a member of a female tribe, to learn the language and customs of my culture that was as foreign to me as the jungle tribes of the Amazon.
On the start of the trip, ten of us gathered from all over the country and boarded a bus to a group campground near our starting point. Placing our packs on the ground, our two guides told us to dump everything out. They were about to teach us what “essentials” meant, and by the end of the lesson, crates of “critical” supplies would be left behind and our packs lightened considerably by the lesson.
We were a motley crew of varying ages. But one stood out to me from the start. She was young, athletic, a former Outward Bound leader, and she filled the air with a brash confidence that suggested the rest of us would never measure up. I dubbed her, “She Who Needed to Be First,” and kept a wide berth.
My goal was much simpler than hers: to not be the weakest link on the team.
Spoiler alert: I failed.
Dropped off at the top of the trail, I placed myself at the rear of the pack, which I deemed would be best for observation of others and which would position me to not be noticed. The forest was filled with summer bird sounds and the buzz of insects. But more beautiful than these was a new sound that filled the air on the rocky path:
The sound of women’s voices.
It was musical and soft and filled with laughter and camaraderie. It was welcoming and joyful and free. And it beckoned to me as though an adopted child from another culture, I had finally traced my roots and found home.
She Who Needed to Be First led the pack, a position each of us would be encouraged to take on during our week of canoeing and backpacking. It was made clear that none of us would be asked to do the job…we would just have to step up and claim the leadership mantle.
But for now, I was content to just wallow in the voices drifting up the trail. I knew a time would come when the internal pressure to step into leadership on the trail would overtake me, and I made a vow that when it did, I would be The Woman Who Walks Like A Turtle.
Slow and steady would be my mantra.
Slow and steady wins the race.
In the distance, She Who Needed Be First had stopped and waited for the rest to catch up. Her disappointment at the first hike’s pace was palpable. But it was, as in all adventures, the honeymoon phase.
And something told me this was going to be a short honeymoon.