On Saturday, July 18, 2009, I am leading my final Women in the Woods hike for the year. We meet at 8am at the Francis Anderson Center in Edmonds. We'll be back in town by 5pm. For this hike we'll be going to Federation Forest State Park, an old growth reserve along the White River. The trails are flat and easy, the park is peaceful and shady. Following is a description of what a hike is like for me. I hope that those of you in the Seattle area can join me! To register, follow this link and search for Women in the Woods (under Outdoor Recreation.)
We meet in front of the Community Center, strangers on the sidewalk. We are all slightly uncomfortable as we introduce ourselves, but we pile in the van and head out. The women chat, get to know each other, ask about me and my family. They talk of work, husbands, children and grandchildren. Everyone starts to relax as we drive out of the city. There begins to be less talk and more reflection as they spend more time gazing out the windows.
We arrive at the trailhead and climb out of the van, stretching. I mentally rehearse my plans, making sure I haven't forgotten anything. As we begin our hike, I test the waters, see how fast we should walk. I feel my senses coming alive as I focus more on my surroundings and less on myself. I wonder how much of what I see I should point out to them. I hope that as we do the first activity the women will enjoy it and reap the benefits of calming their minds, expanding their eyes and ears.
The exertion of hiking and the time away in the woods seems to clear our brains. My troubles seem farther away, less problematic, less overwhelming. By lunch the women are in a different place. They still talk about family and work, but there is space in their sentences. They reflect on what they have seen so far, and ask me questions about gear and other hikes. They are thinking ahead, wondering if they will hike again, visioning themselves on another path.
When the afternoon moves along, we stop for an hour of quiet time. How often do we, as women, stop what we are doing for an hour and just BE? Each time I relearn how to do nothing, and find that the time passes too quickly. I feel energized and relaxed. Too soon it is time to walk back to the van, to drive our way back into our lives. But each woman has changed a little bit. Everyone feels more relaxed, reflective, renewed. We are ready to embrace our lives again, until the next time.