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Posted by: maria | February 11, 2018

Women’s Kayak Trip: Nine of Us Together

There were nine of us together on the beach. Where to put our tent? We chose a spot under the tree and later learned the tree belonged to a pair of eagles, who sat above us, lost in the green lace of the branches. They graced us with their call, and took our breath away when they soared up into the sky, white heads directed, carried by the high currents, out over the water, to survey, to glide, to dive, to hunt. So magestic, so stunning. And so we had our totem and our inspiration. Could we send our hearts free and soaring, wild, but directed, hunting for gladness and diving into life?

There were nine of us together on the island. We had kayaked there in a flock, a school, a pod. A wad, Sigi suggested, was what you would call a group of women. Wild and daring women. A hot wad we were, a tight wad, a brilliant wad, and we worked it, and we overcame, and we deepened and we shared and it was glorious.

Nine of us together. The trip had been planned for so long and represented so much effort and thought. So much organizing and pulling the details from work-tired brains. It was like a child for Spring Courtright and me, we had conceived it and brought it into being, and wondered why we were crazy enough to do it, and were so grateful for our craziness. We brought nine of us together and we all prospered and our spirits soared.

There were many challenges, first making the commitment. Once that was done, so many things shifted. There are unseen forces working on our behalf, once we commit, once we take a step, not asking how it will happen but knowing it will. There were so many concerns, the weather report was not good, the wind was going to be high, it was supposed to rain, how could we remember everything, how could we buy everything and sort it and pack it and lug it and lay it out and look at the bulk of it and how could we possibly fit it into the boats. But there were nine of us together, and somehow, somehow, we got the boats loaded and everything crammed into the kayaks, now so heavy, and somehow, somehow, we got the kayaks carried to the water’s edge, and somehow, somehow, we got all nine of us, geared up, and ready to launch.

And nine of us together, we made our slow way across the passage. And the wind was not too strong, and it didn’t rain, and the ferries went by and we crossed over to the other side and made our slow way to the island, paddle stroke by paddle stroke, through the long smooth places and through the rough chop where the currents converged, and the boats bucked and danced and felt alive beneath us, testing and teasing. The waves cast salt spray up into our faces as we sat deep, riding the water. The sky was luminous- patches of blue and glimpses of sun, but dark grey masses that reached from the sky to the water off to the south, the north, the west, but we were dry, we were happy. And finally, the last stretch, where the island looms and it seems to take forever, but then we landed, nine of us together.

And I was still wondering what if, and still wondering how we would ever manage, still wondering if I was crazy. We landed on the island and our usual campsite was taken. For the first time ever, we wouldn’t have our place, and everything would be different, even if the wind did stay friendly and the rain clouds did avoid us. But I looked around and I found another spot that could work, and yes, we could put our tent under an eagle’s tree, and there we were, nine of us together in heaven.

That was when I realized that these trips are protected. I had heard it said about other things, but never took it in, never felt the truth of it before. These trips are protected. We are held in grace, this is sacred work. We were taking women to set their spirits free on this wild island after paddling their hearts out. We sat around the fire in the evening and the stories came forth about the angel in the house, the women we were supposed to be, the unhappiness of being stuck, and the joy of claiming ones own self, and putting oneself first. We laughed and cried and shared. We open windows into our souls and invited each other in. There were nine of us together and it became a small group, a tight knit family of sisters of all ages. A small group with a shared wild woman’s heart, with the heartbeat of a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, and all the roles that seek to define us, but with a wild heart that soars above them all. There were many stories and they belonged to all of us, stories of struggles, and obstacles overcome, of fears faced, and dreams realized and others as yet unfulfilled. And we offered up our stories and ourselves to the goddess of wildness and spontaneity.

We stretched our bodies on the beach and held the warrior’s pose, looking forward into the future towards our dreams, our feet planted on the firm foundation of our life, the past behind us, with its learning, its challenges, all that it gave us to make us who we are. We made art with shells and driftwood and we shared readings and poems. We feasted on the most wonderful food and relished serving and being served. We sang our song and added verses: I’m gonna to let life move me, I’m gonna let it stir me deep. I’m gonna let it wake me up from that ancient sleep. I’m gonna laugh all my laughter, I’m gonna cry all my tears, I’m gonna love the rain, just as much as the sun, when it clears. And there was chocolate and there was wine, and there were nine of us together, being our wonderful selves.

We paddled again the second day, around the island, in the bright sunshine and still water, this time, seeing the clearness of the shallows, the life below, watching the ferries in the distance, and feeling our strength. We were experienced now. We took in the beauty of the blue sky against the green trees reaching toward heaven, and the shining water, moving and carrying us. The hot sun kissed our skin and the cool breeze was like the most expensive silk. The air was a delicious feast. There were the rough patches as we crossed over the bar, and it was hard for folks to turn to come into the harbor, and their was the young boy in the canoe who capsized in front of me and started to cry and panic, and all manner of things unfolding, but it was all ok. Glorious wad of women, nine of us together on the water.

And back to our campsite, in the evening hours, our familiar home now, we made more fabulous food and luxuriated in the abundance of all we had brought and all the detailed plans we had made. We had everything we needed. When we had first come together and were talking about what to expect, I shared that we would all help make the meals and clean up, and then I knew that to help set hearts free for these wonderful women, to help free themselves from the angel within that could burden their wildness, I had to encourage them not to help as much as they wanted to, to skip a meal and let someone else do it, to sit in the sun and write in their journal and do nothing, to receive and fill up. Because I knew that these women would show up and give their best every minute, and I knew that they needed to show up for themselves more and give their best to their own wild spirit and this was the point. This was the gift of the journey, to give ourselves the chance to be, to play, to forget our duty, our roles, and to find our soul. And to support each other in this, to share and to witness, nine of us together.

We packed up on the third day, after a glorious sharing of gratitudes, after a brilliant sunshine morning of fabulous egg scramble and a warm campfire in the cool shade, after a sweet soft eyed gazing at eagle’s flight, butterfly’s flit, graceful deer, and the tide taking its long out-breath to reveal the seaweed green beach. We packed up and we were merry, and there was more lifting and stuffing, and lugging, but not nearly so much stuff. And we paddled back and the wind calmed, and we worked our way out of the choppy areas, and watched the ferries pass, and we glided with the current’s help, and passed the seals’ curious faces, and the rocks revealed by the tide. And we came home: happy, wilder, and very grateful, nine of us together, our wonderful wad of women.

Maria Cook

July 6, 2016


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