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.




1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. kidfriendlyyoga
    Mar 25, 2018 @ 11:58:21




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