This was my first BOW (Becoming an Outdoors Woman) Michigan event, and to make the trip more fun (and complement my occasional introvert tendencies) I invited one of my favorite outdoors-loving ladies, Sarah Pike, to come along. Like me, Sarah is left-handed, hates snoring and is chronically early, three of my favorite qualities in a person.
The Bay Cliff Health Camp is a little piece of Upper Peninsula paradise, situated on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior (many of us gathered in the mornings to take in the view before breakfast – see picture above). It was originally founded by two nurses in 1934 as a camp for sick children, and still operates today.
I signed up for three courses: Wilderness Survival, Kayaking, Hiking & Backpacking and Map & Compass. I really wanted to take Mountain Biking and Wilderness First Aid, but alas, there were only so many hours in the day.
Taught by husband and wife team Tara and David, the class was designed to give us the skills to keep us alive for a couple of days — not to survive out in the woods long-term (so much for my dreams of surviving zombie apocalypse). We went through the key elements of a survival kit, built an emergency shelter, tried out several fire starters and emergency tinder (including corn chips and cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly), and learned the single most critical survival skill:tell someone where you’ll be going and when you’ll be back.
After class, Sarah and I promptly forgot this advice jumped on our mountain bikes and pedaled out to a nearby lighthouse before dinner, without telling a soul. We also found this strange Lord-of-the-Rings-gone-wrong marker, which Sarah and Lauren (more on her in a minute) obsessed about all weekend, much to my dismay. I don’t even know why I’m mentioning this, because it will do nothing but encourage them. Whatever, it was so weird I have to share:
Ann, Monica and Linda brought such an amazing energy to the class, I didn’t really mind the fact that the wind was blowing so hard across Lake Independence as to make paddling a real chore. When teaching us how to move our bodies, Linda used the metaphor “Like farting on a bar stool,” which was so awesome and unexpected that I doubt any of us will ever paddle — or sit on a bar stool — the same way again. Lauren, who’s dry sense of humor pretty much made the weekend, took this picture.
After lunch on Saturday was hiking with instructors Kate and Michelle, who were both incredibly knowledgable (and funny, in a very UP-tastic sort of way). Since Kate regularly leads Boy Scouts on backpacking trips, we all got our own frame backpack, and then headed out to a portion of the North Country Trailfor a short hike along the Little Garlic river, which was the highlight of the trip for me. The woods were gorgeous, and I learned about what kind of trail food packs best, what both Kate and Michelle considered their “luxury” items (as a vegetarian, Kate likes her own cooking pot, where Michelle brings a sleeping mat that also converts into a camp chair) and how to read trail blazes along the way.
Map & compass
A very basic course in reading maps and using a compass, this was essentially the third time I’ve tried to learn how to use a compass (the first being when I was in the Army and the second when I participated in an adventure race a few years ago). Guys, I’m REALLY bad with a map. After taking the class, I do feel like I know more about maps & compasses, but I’ve also decided that maybe I’m just a GPS kind of gal.
It’s worth mentioning that on Saturday night Sarah and I, along with our awesome roommate/Forest Service employee/snowboard instructor Tara, decided to go into town for drinks. We met a few rowdy ladies from Toledo (and we thought WE had a long drive), including aforementioned Lauren, at the Lumberjack bar (which was the site of a murder and subsequent Gregory Peck movie). Sarah, Tara and I then went on a rather ambitious night hike with a group from BOW to a local waterfall, which forced me to become friendly with no less than 1,865,402 upper peninsula mosquitos. Thank God for DEET (and Tara, who all but picked the mosquito carcasses out of my eyeballs).
Overall, it was a great experience and a great deal too, at $180. The event was well run, staff friendly, and the facilities were clean and comfortable (we stayed in dorm-style rooms). There were women from all over the state, with plenty of representation from the baby boomer generation. I think Sarah probably would have liked some more advanced classes, but that’s what the Beyond BOW programs are for — I’m looking forward to participating in November’s backing trip in the Porcupine Mountains this fall.
Can’t wait to do it again in the Winter program!
Recording your thoughts and intentions is one of the most powerful personal (not to mention cheap and easy) growth tools available. Not only does it reduce stress and increase self-esteem, it creates a framework on which you can build not only your day — but also your life. Morning pages, a specific exercise design by Julia Cameron, in her book The Artist's Way, offers a way to record your thoughts and intentions in a very specific way. Here's how the daily process works:
Essentially, morning pages are just a way of emptying your head, especially if your head is full of anxiety and judginess and mean little thoughts. Clean all that negativity out with the mental mop that is morning pages. Here's why it works:
Morning pages force you to be honest with yourself
And let's face it, we all spend a lot of time being less than honest with ourselves. With a regular practice of morning pages, you start to realize the truth about what's working and not working in your life. Really, you can only complain about something so long before you feel motivated to do something about it, even if complaining is only in secret, tucked away in a notebook that only you can see.
Morning pages force you to brainstorm solutions
For many people, those "ah-ha moments" often show up during showers, commutes and runs — those times when your brain has a little space to move around and stretch. Morning pages put those moments into overdrive, giving you more direct access to your creative, subconscious self, where often all the good stuff hides. You'll gain clarity and new insights, simply by writing things down and analyzing them. It's a special kind of magic, where you get big, powerful ideas or inspiration to take action through a relatively simple process, where brilliant flashes of insight show up right in the middle of the sentence you're writing.
Once you've arrived, it's hard to go back.
The journey of writing your morning pages regularly (dare I say religiously?) will create a change in you that is irreversible. By writing down your hopes, fears and how annoying your sister can be, you give yourself permission to be exactly who you are, practicing radical self-acceptance in a safe and limited environment. The next natural step is to take it beyond your journal out into the real world, where you can honor your truth and express what it means to be you. Going back to your old life isn't really an option.
9 tips to enhance your morning pages experience
Don't know where to start? Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Start writing about where you are in your life at this moment. Start where you are. That's good advice for life in general. Write about what's bothering you, why you're stuck, where'd you like to go, when you'd like to get there and how that might happen. Start with the weather, if you have to.
2. Don't edit, censor yourself or worry about grammar. Worrying about that stuff is unneccessary and blocks you from where you're trying to go. Just let it flow, allowing stream-of-consciousness to take over. The more you censor yourself, the less effective you'll be, especially at first.
3. Try writing with your non-dominant hand. Oh, hello there inner child! You were here hanging out all along? Wow, you've got some issues I didn't even know were there! Writing with your non-dominant hand is just another path to your subconscious. Try it and see what happens.
4. End with gratitude. The research here is pretty clear: by writing down and clearly acknowledging the things you're grateful for, you'll increase your happiness and well-being. It doesn't have to be complicated, just a few bullet points is fine.
5. Doodle. Even if it's just stick figures or that puppy you learned to draw in middle school using six circles (does anyone else know what I'm talking about here?), drawing shapes and even using color engages a different part of your brain. Sometimes a picture just better conveys what it is you're feeling.
6. Go outside. We here at the Outdoor Book Club are obviously big proponents of taking it outside. Even if it's just on your porch or your picnic table, connecting with the sky, the seasons and the weather reminds you that the world is a big and mysterious place.
7. Acknowledge your successes every once in a while. It doesn't have to get in the way of your stream-of-consciousness honesty session, but don't forget to add a little sunshine when appropriate. So many of us fail to see where we're making progress and how hard that progress was to achieve. Writing it in your morning pages might remind you of exactly how far you've come.
8. Try writing in the third person. Writing in the third person gives you some distance and perspective you might not otherwise see, especially if it's something hard or something that's really bothering you.
9. Buy a beautiful journal or a nice pen. I've gotten to the point where a drugstore spiral bound notebook works perfectly for me, but I really do love writing with a nice pen. Whatever it is that's going to motivate you to keep up the practice, especially in those first few critical weeks (remember, it takes 30 days to create a habit).
Sounds simple, right?
It is. Don't make it harder than it has to be. Just get up a little bit early and do yourself this one favor. It's one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to improve your life. It doesn't matter if you're a writer or a scientist or a prisoner, morning pages will give you the context and clarity you need to make some real change in your life.
A decidedly hipster twist on the hobo pie
So I just came across this recipe on Sunset's website (have you ordered your subscription yet?), and just had to share: Eggplant and tofu hobo bundles. Enjoy!
TOFU AND EGGPLANT
SALAD AND SERVING
Jill Hinton Wolfe