Water*Women*Wisdom Finish the Second Leg
The pre-trip report is at: Water * Women * Wisdom – A Voyage of Discovery
The dust has settled, somewhat. We’ve been back in Ely for nearly three months. It would be a stretch to say that we are settling back into our routines. Come to think of it, there hasn’t been a routine for about a year now since deciding to participate in a 620-mile, six-week long kayak paddle down the Mississippi River from Red Wing, Minnesota to St. Louis, Missouri with Nancy Scheibe. After months of preparation, we stood on the banks of a backwater marina in Red Wing on September 4, 2007, ready to begin the second leg of the Water*Women*Wisdom expedition. This was my first journey on the Mississippi River, Nancy’s second.
Alanna (one of the volunteer expedition planners) gave me a hug on that shoreline, wishing me the best. She stepped back, looked at me and said, “You don’t have a clue.” At the time, I was taken aback by her comment, and decided later, after more consideration, that I was really offended by her remark. How, after months of preparation (getting up at 4:30 a.m. to go paddling before work, helping plan and carry out fundraising events, attending meetings, preparing lists of food and gear and other ‘stuff’, contacting people and so forth), could she say I don’t have a clue? Well, today I can say she was much wiser than I that day.
Nancy Scheibe and Kitty Kennedy launching out
into the wide Mississippi.
© Nancy Hernessmaa
We embarked on our six week paddle down the Mississippi River in our solo kayaks, with four other boats accompanying us. Joanne sat on the side of the boat ramp, serenading us with a harp as we loaded our equipment into the boats and departed. There were other well wishers on shore as well – friends, family, snowy egrets, great blue herons, eagles and frogs. "The time is here and now" – we are beginning the adventure that has only been a dream for the past few months.
We arrived in St. Louis Missouri under "the Arch" on October 12. It took 42 days to complete the adventure. We were a little weary, excited and grateful as we came off the water.
Grateful for the experience, the people who helped us prepare, the people we met along the way, the birds, the animals, the water, the weather and the list goes on and on.
There were so many components, so many pieces, to this adventure – camping for an extended period of time (longest camping trip so far for me was about ten days and twenty-five years ago), the trains (daily, many times much closer than we would have wished for), the people we met along the way, the wildlife and birds, paddling our solo kayaks up to 30 miles a day. Some days it was like surfing and others it felt like we were paddling up hill. We enjoyed the locks and dams, the river towns and their history, our own personal journeys and last but not least, the river itself.
Okay, confession here, we didn't camp EVERY night. There was a hotel room, a B&B and a couple of private homes interspersed in the 6-week schedule. The campgrounds ranged from recently flooded river bottomlands with outhouses inhabited with hordes of mosquitoes that had us in our tents by 7 PM to some quite nice ones with roads and trails, flush toilets, showers and lights. And I was grateful for every one of them.
And the food – oh my we ate very, very well on this trip. Since we had car support (van support really) that hauled all the camping gear, the materials needed for the women's gatherings, and our food, we ate a bit better than most camping trips I've been on.
Sara Jo Dickens doing yoga in the middle of Lake Pepin on a sandbar. Shore is more than a half mile away! ©Nancy Scheibe
We had three extraordinary women that drove the van for us - Sherry from Red Wing, Minnesota; Gwen from Gillette, Wyoming; and, Nancy H. from Ely, Minnesota. Having access to grocery stores helps keep the "not macaroni and cheese AGAIN' syndrome" away. We were also treated along the way with a variety of goodies – cakes, cookies, breads, and of course our favorites, chocolate.
The purpose of the trip, gathering women’s wisdom, was intertwined throughout the whole adventure. There were a total of nine gatherings for women along the river. Nancy collected stories from over 150 women on the trip that will be shared in her upcoming book “More Voices from the Mississippi River”, the sequel to her first book from the first leg of her journey on the Mississippi river entitled “Voices from the Upper Mississippi River.” The stories that were shared brought us laughter and tears, and always closer together - women supporting women. There were men that supported us on the adventure, during the preparation time, with fundraising and along our way down the river.
Alanna was right, looking back to that first day on the shores of the Mississippi River - I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t have a clue how such an adventure could and would change my perspective on life. I heard sayings along the way that I had heard before – be happy, be authentic, work at a job you like, enjoy life. I had more time than usual to allow those truths to sink in. I was able to strengthen my foundation, reflect on and affirm my values. I was on a journey to my heart. I began the trip with a prayer for myself - that if I am honest, open and willing, my life will move forward in peace. I came back KNOWING this to be true.
A smiling, triumphant Kitty Kennedy and Nancy
Scheibe at the takeout in St. Louis! © Nancy Hernesmaa
As we come ashore on October 12, I remember feeling somewhat sad that the adventure was over. Really, how silly. Life has been very full upon returning home with my ‘new' found and affirmed truths. The adventure continues, moment by moment and day by day. Oh my, does it continue.
Thank you to all who supported us on this journey with thoughts and prayers, sharing of time and self, gear and equipment, financial support and all the hugs and well wishes. And, Mii Gwitch, Nancy Scheibe. What an adventure. I am honored and privileged to have shared this adventure with you. My awareness of the richness of life has been enhanced many fold from this journey. I am much clearer.
May the next leg of your Mississippi River adventure be richer.
Nancy Scheibe is in the process of setting up a non-profit organization to continue on the work she’s begun. The mission statement is: “The Water Women Wisdom venture celebrates the value, power and sacred abilities of women by giving the Grandmothers* a voice, gathering their truths, and sowing those seeds far and wide.”
With help from others who’ve supported the project, she’s selected a new name: Ripples of Wisdom. Here’s what she says the new name represents to her:
- To me it gives a sense of a continuum... never ending, building upon.
- It gives the appearance of our women's wisdom spreading out in ever widening circles to all who come after us.
- It pertains not only to water ripples but to the ripples of healing, growing, and sharing.
- The idea that what a person says does matter and continues to affect others.
- It captures the water element, which is so important to the journey, and also symbolizes the effect that something like what you are doing can have -- string impact for those at the epicenter and navigating out to the fringe where the effects are not as great, but still felt.
- This name brings to mind the interaction of the individuals on the journey with all the wise people they meet along the journey. The circular imagery is tremendously feminine and has resonance in mythic, Gaea, earth imagery.
- It denotes water, motion, and thoughtful repose.
* Grandmother is a term borrowed from Native American culture. It is a title of great respect that recognizes wisdom born out of time and experience. This term embraces women age 50 and older, regardless of whether they have had children or grandchildren.