Women in the Wild

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred
miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of
your body love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours,
and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear
pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese,
high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
— Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

This beloved poem was recently shared on the banks of the Keele River three days into a twelve-day expedition with ten women.  These words are loved by many and I am certainly not the first to feel them resonate.  Each winter around this time (March is definitely still winter where I live) I find myself looking forward to passing summer days watching the sun dance on the water. To the feeling of deep peace I feel as I finish a day of guiding at the river’s edge brushing my teeth and watching the current move by.

Photos from a Women's Exclusive adventure on the Keele River:

It is a privilege to spend time in places like the Nahanni and to help others experience them.  It was a privilege to have grown up in a family that offered me the chance to learn skills alongside my two brothers.  I was encouraged to try the stern, rather than to accept the bow seat.  To take the oars whenever I could.  And I am proud to now work alongside many empowered women in our family business and watch them take their place as gracious leaders in the outdoor industry.  What I see in these women is not just a confidence in their ability to run rapids, manage challenging situations  or teach canoeing skills but a deep love for the river, for weeks on end spent outside, and a recognition of the connection between nature and their well-being.

In addition to my work with Nahanni Wild I have had the great joy of working on experiential education and rafting programs for youth in Northwest BC.  Seeing young women accept an offer to try the oars, to toss a throw bag for the first time or to try a flip off the stern of the raft has allowed me to come full circle and understand more deeply the privilege I have received and the benefits it continues to bestow on me.  

Along with the skills I impart to these young women I share my belief that the river is there for them as a place of respite, sanctuary and inspiration.  That they too can walk down and sit by its edge, splash cold water on their faces and feel their place ‘in the family of things’.  This is something I wish for everyone, especially women, for as Mary Oliver reminds us:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
— Wild Geese by Mary Oliver