Rock Climbing into the Ancient Wisdom of Womanhood

A weekend away with women and children sounded enticing, but not ideal. I have always been more of a “guys’ girl” and gravitated toward masculine energy rather than feminine. I was a bit reserved about a whole weekend away with just women. This retreat was created by the Sierra Club Military Outdoors Program and was designed for female veterans and their children to come together to play, eat, rock climb, hike, and enjoy some time away.

As soon as we entered the Rock and River Lodge in Keene, NY, we were completely taken care of. Every last detail was considered and handled by our incredible coordinators Aaron and Leslie. All we had to do as participants was show up. I figured, I can do that -- I can at least show up.

Waking up in a beautiful and serene Adirondack lodge, strolling across the misty grass toward the breakfast hall, a sense of calm began to seep its way into my body. I allowed it. I felt myself listening more and living more in the moment with these women whom I just met the night before. After we were fully outfitted for the day’s climbing adventure by two very knowledgeable, kind, and patient volunteers (it was a group of women and young children after all), we loaded up the vans and headed toward the climbing area.

Families learning to rock climb.

The time spent outdoors with these strong, brave women cheering each other on, laughing, and just being together was golden. But the real magic was still to come. We headed back to the lodge tired and dirty but full of pride and a bit more self-confident after tackling the new adventure of scaling a rock wall. Our focus shifted toward the evening and the task of cooking together. One of our outings leaders led us to the kitchen to walk us through the recipe and steps for cooking our own three-course meal that evening. Jokingly, I asked if he was sure that he didn’t want to stay and cook for us to which he kindly replied: "The conversation will not be the same if I stay.” This idea gave me pause, and it still does. The conversation will not be the same if he, as a man, stays among us women.

He was tapping into ancient wisdom -- he understood centuries of women’s circles where women gathered to talk, heal, dance, sing, and just be with one another without the gaze of a man. I recently read a quote from Sarah Waxman, founder of At The Well, that resonated. She wrote,  “When we’re in a setting where we’re not going to compete with each other, there’s a hormonal response that we’re safe.”

That inner sensation of safety flooded our upstate lodge as he walked away and we were left to cook, sing, dance, eat, and cry together unabashedly. We tapped into our ancient history and wisdom of our womanhood together. In that kitchen, our immediate history, our rank, our hidden wounds, and our fears did not matter. What mattered was who we were to each other at that very moment, without judgement, without fear, and with all the fierceness in our hearts.

Learning to rock climb.

The next morning we had to take ourselves back to our different homes and different lives but we walked away from each other as sisters because we were invited into a very special space. For one weekend, we allowed ourselves to just be and feel the magic of being a woman without competition.

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