I like to tell people I’m a 5th generation Mainer. I’m proud of my state, my home, my heritage. I live on the land my mother was literally born on, where my grandmother raised her children and where my grandfather worked in the woods. I’ve always thought of myself as a country girl….until this weekend.
A few months back, my sister invited me to attend something she called BOW–Becoming an Outdoors Woman in Maine. She thought it would be fun for us to do together. My first thought was, “Yay! I get to spend the weekend with my sister!” I was psyched because we get very little time to hang out together. We live nearly 2 hours apart and have quite different schedules. We’re 8 years apart in age, and my son is the same age as her grandchildren. We’re in very different life stages right now, so the idea of being able to spend 3 days with my sister sounded fantastic.
But my second thought was, “Wait…what? An OUTDOORS woman?” Just this year I was able to admit to myself that I’m really not an outdoorsy kind of gal. I do like to run outside and I enjoy spending time at the beach in the summer and generally being in the sunshine most of the year, but I don’t enjoy camping or being in the woods where the bugs are so horrendous that they either pick you up and throw you out of their territory or they eat every inch of your skin. At 40, I finally said to myself, “You know what? I don’t like being uncomfortable, damn it!” But I held my tongue until I could see what BOW was offering in workshops. My sister suggested I go to this because of my running. She figured that if I got lost or was injured, then maybe these classes could help. (She was really just humoring me, because I run on roads and not on trails. I do take precautions to at least tell someone where I’m going. But her heart was in the right place. She also said I needed to do something that wasn’t so intellectual, like my Winter Weekend with the Maine Humanities Council last February. We discussed Dickens’ Great Expectations for two days, and I was totally in my element!)
At first glance, I wasn’t sure I’d find anything I wanted to learn about at BOW. Then I started to think about one of my resolutions this year–trying new things. I love to learn, and who says it always needs to be about things I already know I enjoy? How do I know I don’t like archery or marksmanship? I don’t. So….I signed up.
My sister and I arrived at Camp Caribou in Winslow on Friday morning in the pouring rain. We checked in, looked at the raffle items and wandered around for a bit. Lugged our stuff into a cabin that we would share with 9 other women and went back to the lodge to begin our adventure. At first, I felt pretty comfortable with everyone there and the entire idea of the program. About half of this year’s participants were first-timers. Either the word was getting out about the program, or more women wanted a way to reconnect with nature or buff up on survival skills or even just want to learn something new. There were also lots of 4th and 5th timers there, and most of them you could pick out after a bit. They knew each other well just from BOW and they seemed to have this genuine affection and respect for one another. I liked being around those women. They’re good people who were doing something they enjoyed but also challenged by. I think I felt so comfortable with them because they were so comfortable with themselves.
I will admit, though, that I started to feel more out of my element by the next day. I was learning a lot and was anxious to teach my family what I learned, but was also very humbled by what I didn’t know. I learned how to identify trees (something most of us learn in high school, although I had forgotten it), shot arrows with a compound bow (and loved it!), learned that a simple white pine tea has a hit of vitamin C in it and sometimes you learn a lot about your surroundings if you just stop and listen. I also learned that striped maple leaves are the best leaf to use for toilet paper (I’ve already started to look for them on my running routes), I’m a horrible shot with the bow but want to get one and practice, and my sister still knows WAY more about edible plants than I do.
I enjoyed watching my sister at BOW. She was clearly where she belonged. She met people who were really into survival skills and had a “bug out” bag in their car, just like her. She got to shoot guns with other women and learn how to properly use a compass and show off her survival kit (which people were impressed by). I really liked seeing her this way. She was confident and happy and just lovely.
So….would I go again?
Absolutely. Even with occasionally feeling like I didn’t quite belong, I think that was more my lack of self-confidence talking. I love to learn new skills, new knowledge, new perspectives. For me, learning with a large group of women is even better. No one seemed to really care what they looked like (there were lots of hats and hair pulled back, stained clothes, absolute comfort–as you can see by the photo of my sister and myself). Although I didn’t leave with a strong bond with some of the other women, I still felt a comradery with them. My goal was to spend more time with my sister (which I certainly did) and to come away with new life experiences and hopefully new skills.
And since I spent my entire run this morning attempting to identify trees in my neighborhood, then I’d say goal accomplished. 🙂