I spent last weekend among the rocks of Mount Erie near the point where Washington brushes against Canada with ten raucous, thoughtful middle school girls and two rock-mad, heartful instructors. I was volunteering with a program called Girl’s Rock!, helping young ladies explore leadership through real-life experiences.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my amazing two days, as it is the reason why I am hiking across the entire continental United States beginning in April. I’m doing the trip to support the wild growing up Girl’s Rock! encourages and to foster my own blooming too.
The most vibrant, luscious memories I have of my childhood are in the outdoors. I spent the best years of my kid-dom learning how to be at Urban Stables, a rowdy barn filled with dust covered kids my own age and horses, pigs, chickens, rabbits, goats, and a whole gaggle of other non-humans. I learned how you stagger up and get back in the saddle after bouncing on the back of a pony who won’t canter until you get flung off and experience the kind of death you feel when the wind is knocked right out of you. I learned the monster of a feeling you feel when you steal a wild baby turkey from its mom and cage it and find it dead in the morning. I learned how to be with myself, with nature, with others.
And, after years of lying dormant, I remember the pain and the joy that came when I got on my bike and felt what happens when you move your body in time with the world outside, three summers ago when I took off across the country with 30 young people and my bike. I was alive again when I was reacquainted with the natural world.
What I want, more than anything else, is to offer that up to the next generation. I want these girls and others like them to fall in love with the wild and carry it in their hearts through their entire life. I want them to learn who they are and what weakness, pain, fear, and pleasure feels like as they work through a problem. I want them to get in tune with their bodies and learn for themselves what beauty is and how they want to be seen in the world.
I feel lucky to have been given the outdoors by my parents as a young person, and I think all young people deserve that gift. That’s why, when getting outside is often an insurmountable economic hardship for families, I am raising money for GOLD/BOLD this summer. Because young people of all backgrounds need to learn about themselves and the world around them — and I am not sure where better they can learn but with their bodies in the wild.