Women Outward Bound

One of my (perhaps favorite) duties at FilmNorth is working with the fiscal sponsorship projects. It's been great to see Max Davis' film Women Outward Bound develop over the last couple of years, and tonight I got to attend a viewing party at TPT for it (it's playing this month on TPT, you should look it up and see it, it's a fantastic documentary!)

It's hard to conceive of the fact that 50 years ago women were not allowed to participate in Outward Bound, or really many outdoor or sporting activities at all. Women Outward Bound is the story of the first group of girls to be allowed to participate in the program, in 1965.

What many of you my not know about me (though some do, I'm looking at you, Nina Koch!) is that I spent my teen years doing very similar program at Camp Widjiwagan. For 2-4 weeks every summer I travelled through the northwoods lakelands at the Canadian border, mainly in the Quetico though sometimes in the BWCA. With a group of 6-7 other girls and a counselor, I paddled miles every day, portaged rod after rod (generally carrying the food pack), got windbound, caught fish, built fires, sang crazy camp songs, went days without seeing anyone else, saw cute baby moose and mad moose mamas, had so many mosquito bites I didn't know what my skin looked like, at trail lunch every day, got grimy and gritty, was cold and wet and miserable, and had some of the most amazing experiences of my life. Much as the women in the film tonight, those experiences really forged me into the determined, strong woman that I am today.

Those experiences are buried deep inside of me, but deep as they are, they are the inherent core of me. I instinctively know how to best feather a paddle so it cuts through the air efficiently before going back into the water. The counselors at girl scout camp when I went with Beatrix were quick to remark that I knew my way around a canoe when I flipped it down and fed it hand over hand across my thighs and gently into the water. And absolutely nothing gives me peace like a northwoods lake and the mist over the water.

This is all a natural part of my life, even as it's something I don't do as much anymore. But it struck me hard tonight that these women, these very first to do Outward Bound, made that groundbreaking history less than 15 years before I began at Widji. In a very real way, these women made it possible for me to experience my own coming-of-age in the wilderness, not all that many years later.

I think I need some time in a canoe, on a lake....


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