This post is a long time coming. I actually started this post awhile back, attempted to upload, only to have the upload fail. So, apparently I needed to let my thoughts simmer a bit longer.
Approximately one year ago I put out a desperate call on Facebook, asking any and all of my local friends whether or not anyone would join me to do some hiking. I live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet (imho), and I had long wanted to go explore the Ozarks more. Hiking safely, however, is really something that should be done in groups vs. alone. Three women stepped up, all old high school pals, and said, “We’ll go with you!” with great enthusiasm.
In the ensuing year, our little group has become so much more than a hiking group. We are really more of an outdoor explorers club. Last summer, when it got too hot to hike, we went floating on the Buffalo National River, swimming and boating on Bull Shoals Lake. When the weather cooled off this past fall, we resumed hiking, hitting the trail whenever weather and work schedules permitted. Yesterday, a beautiful February day in the Arkansas Ozarks promised, and delivered, a sunny, balmy day with a gentle, April-like breeze near 70 degrees F. We added a bit of spelunking (or as we called our version, kersplunking), as at the end of Lost Valley trail is a cave where one can squat, crawl and kersplunk a few yards back into a large cavern, complete with a 35′ tall waterfall that creates the headwaters of Clark Creek.
As if all of that were not enough, these amazing women have all voiced to me how grateful they are that I put my desperate plea out there; they all agree that it has been lifesaving.
Wow. I am humbled by this revelation. I went into this just wanting to do some hiking. What I have gained since beginning this venture has far exceeded any expectations. Not only do I have an amazing group of friends who are every bit as enthusiastic about exploring this wonderful region we call home, but also traveling outward to discover even more wonders in our world.
Which leads me to a bigger issue that women (and perhaps men, too. I can’t really speak to that) experience in our modern, technology-laden existence. While technology and modern life have connected some of us in ways we could have never imagined 30 years ago, it has also caused a lot of disconnected-ness. If you look back even 100 years ago, heck even 50 years ago, women used to gather more for activities. Quilting bees, home extension clubs, bridge clubs, cooking clubs, knitting groups, etc., attracted women to gather with a common interest and in so doing created a community of women who supported each other and listened to each others life stories in a way that men cannot. Sadly, these sort of groups are not nearly as common as they once were. As a crocheter/knitter/fiber artist, I have found similar community amongst the fiber arts. The face to face interaction of gathering to do something together vs sitting at home on Facebook, sharing vicariously, is sadly much more rare in our modern age.
As my life rolls on, I find myself embracing new experiences and creating new memories. I spent much of my adult life concerned with everyone else’s needs and welfare. The kids are grown now and I find myself single again, but I am not lacking in love, friendship, support or companionship because of my family, and also in large part to these adventurous women.
As we sat inside the entrance to the cave yesterday, the other three women of our group were debating whether or not to go all the way into the cave or not, as it was wet and slippery. I was sitting quietly, munching my lunch, when one of them asked me, “What do you think? Should we go in?” Without hesitation, I replied, “I’m going in!” They all laughed at my enthusiasm and from that point were all willing to forge ahead.
I have already spent too much of my time on holding back from doing things I wanted to do because of fear, anxiety or simply because someone else in my life who was supposed to be a significant other didn’t want to go with me. While I could have done all of this alone, it is sure a lot more fun with people who are ready to take on the rest of their lives with the same gusto I now feel. I hope you will all find a passion and then find others who share that passion. Unplug from your smart phones, tablets and computers. Connect to each other. Get out there and make life DIY!