I spent some time this afternoon preparing a document for a quartet of women who will be paddling and portaging with me in Algonquin this summer. The document included a tentative itinerary, info regarding basic protocols (drinking water, campfires, use of soap, ‘toilet’ facilities, and food prep) as well as essential gear lists for each woman to consider when packing. This year, I included a weight threshold. I’m trying to be clearer about what is expected and required.

I’m learning, at long last, that real empowerment (for myself and for those with whom I am in relationship) requires me to state clearly what it is I am NOT willing to carry for someone else. Empowerment is not at all about taking more and more onto my self, even if I can, but entrusting the other to carry their own weight.

It sounds so very old-fashioned, not terribly compassionate, a bit individualistic and even somewhat surly.  If I am honest, it can be difficult for me to say it out loud, even here.  After all, not isolated beings are we but interdependent ones. We are called to hold one another up, right? Yes, love is a verb and we are not always equally gifted or yoked. 

I’ve been learning about the secret life of trees, the amazing ways that they support one another. It seems that a forest is not a group of individuals but an interconnected organism. Canopy trees take in nutrients and feed it to understory trees. Conifers tend to deciduous trees throughout the long winter. And immunity to disease and infestation, even dna adaptations, are transferred from specimen to specimen through vast underground networks that resemble brains, with nodes and axons of transmission.  Forests are healthier when they contain diverse species, each one contributing something unique that is nurturing and protective to the whole.

Okay, so I’ve just about talked myself out of my empowerment ideas.



I know that if I carry for another what they ‘should’ be carrying for themselves, I make them dependent in ways that are not healthy for them or for me. Carrying weight makes us stronger – our bones, our muscles, our hearts, our minds, our confidence, our resilience, our sense of self worth.  Carrying too much (or inappropriate) weight wears us down—the weight of the world, as they say? Yes, I have felt the weight of that. On the other hand, not carrying what we are capable of carrying weakens us. Give me a chair lift and soon enough my legs cannot push my butt up from the seat cushion.

There is something about a wilderness trip, where I must take only what I can carry and must carry what I take, that is deeply instructive. I learn a lot about myself. I learn about my fears of not having what I’ll need, but then I learn how creative I am when I don’t have what I thought I needed to carry.  I learn how to set things down, leave them behind. I learn about how the what-ifs can paralyze me, until I just push off from the shore and trust that I am enough. I learn that simplicity is true freedom. I learn that less is easier than more. I learn to pay attention and keep track of where I put things. I learn to rely upon my resourcefulness, but also to get out of my fear-laden self-sufficiency and pay attention to the vast support network that surrounds me.

In beauty we walk, in beauty we walk. With beauty before us, we walk. With beauty behind us, we walk. With beauty above us, we walk. With beauty about us, we walk.

I learn that I am much stronger than I believe myself to be.

I will trust that these are the gifts that I offer to my sisters –my daughters, my mothers-  when I suggest to them that they also must carry what they need and carry only what is theirs to take. I will trust that this expectation and confidence in both their wisdom and strength is yet another way that my love for them becomes a verb, transmitting to them the strength they will need to stand rooted and resilient and strong.





The date on the calendar indicates that it is spring, as does the location in its orbit round the sun of the earth in its tilted plane, as does the fact that the number of daylight hours now exceeds the number of night time hours in the northern hemisphere. Where I live, we begin to look for trout rising and frog eggs floating, for skunk cabbage and fiddleheads emerging, to listen for wood frogs quacking and wood thrush trilling, for peepers peeping and cardinals courting – the songs of the awakening earth.

But the first day of spring this year brought a foot of fresh snow, and I spent the day treading in snowshoes looking for evidence of life in the subtler tracks of fox, rabbit and deer (and perhaps a trailing coyote too).

I am reminded that life is not a command performance and that sometimes I must look for other, less coveted, signs that something is moving atop this frozen terrain, while underneath seeds await the thaw. I shall trust that the earth knows what she needs now, that there is wisdom in her ‘not yet’.

This evening I read these words “you need to stop listening to people who are in vastly different life circumstances and life stages than you tell you that you’re just not doing or being enough.” I wonder if that is something like telling the earth that she is not blossoming in the way and the time that we want her to, when we can’t possibly understand the deeper wisdom of her unfolding. As if we know better what is needed – to suit our own preferences. As if our wisdom is in any possible way more perfect than her own .

I want to allow my spirit to unfold as it will, to trust in the goodness of this season.

Last evening, curled up next to the fire, I came to a sudden realization that I am quite simply tired of the drama, weary of everything needing to be an outrage, a crisis, or something broken (or wrong) needing fixing. The noise of that spirals around me like a whirling nor-easter – in family and community, in news and technology- and threatens to drown out the song of this awakening spring. And so this blanket enfolds, quite wisely protecting the seed that has gone underground, until it is time, until those storms cease.

Because I am weary of the drama above does not mean I am weary of life here below though. At this season I simply want to be in love, not in turmoil. I want to revel in wonder, not in chaos. And I will emerge when the wisdom within me knows it is time, like a fiddlehead or a flower unfurling, and I will simply delight.

Because the earth needs quiet beauty more than it needs clashing cymbals.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

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