Once per week going forward I’m going to share one of my “SHEROES”. The wisdoms of women who have shaped my thinking and hoed the path ahead of me.
One of my absolute sheroes and a woman who has had a huge impact on my attitude in the outdoors is Audrey Sutherland. As a single mother of 4 she took up solo paddling in her 60s and paddled over 8,000 miles of the Alaskan and British Columbian wilds, crossing gentle paths with bears and wolves and foraging her food as she went. I could write many things about Audrey, but I would love to share a list she wrote for her children that offers an insight into her extraordinary leadership as a mother.
“What Every Kid Should Be Able to Do by Age Sixteen”
- Swim 400 yards easily
- Do dishes in a strange house, and your own
- Cook a simple meal
- See work to be done and do it
- Care for tools and always put them away after use
- Splice or put a fixture on an electric cord
- Know basic information about five careers that suit you
- Volunteer to work for a month in each of those fields
- Clean a paintbrush after use
- Change a diaper, and a tire
- Listen to an adult talk with interest and empathy
- Take initiative and responsibility for school work and home chores
- Dance with any age
- Clean a fish and dress a chicken
- Drive a car with skill and sanity
- Know and take responsibility for sexual conception and protection when needed
- Know the basic five of first aid: restore breathing and heartbeat, control bleeding, dilute poisons, immobilize fractures, treat for shock
- Write a business letter
- Spend the family income for all bills and necessities for two months
- Know basic auto mechanics and simple repair
- Find your way across a strange city using public transportation
- Be happy and comfortable alone for ten days, ten miles from the nearest other person
- Save someone drowning using available equipment
- Find a paying job and hold it for a month
- Read at a tenth grade level
- Read a topographic map and a chart
- Know the local drug scene for yourself
- Handle a boat safely and competently (canoe, kayak, skiff, sailboat)
- Operate a sewing machine and mend your own clothes
- Operate a computer as needed
- Do your own laundry
I highly recommend her books PADDLING HAWAII, PADDLING NORTH AND PADDLING MY OWN CANOE. Or for a quick fix, READ MORE ABOUT AUDREY on the Patagonia blog HERE
Be kind always, even in the face of fear, even if you feel repulsed. Prepare to be amazed and you will be. Be interested in your surroundings. When you are interested you can care. When you care you can find meaning. When you find meaning you can act. When you act, you actualise your purpose. When you actualise your purpose, you find secret tunnels to happiness.
Do the thing you think you cannot. Try the things you haven’t tried. Step beyond your comfort zone. Fear bows to experience. Experience creates confidence. Confidence gives you the power to follow through on your ideas. Bringing your ideas to fruition can help people. Helping people makes you humble. Humility makes you radiate love.
This will make me proud.
This will make you happy.
This is all I want.
These things I hope to teach you my sweet boys. Incrementally. In moments as otherwise meaningless, as holding a snake.
In a world that daily diffuses our concept of value and holds our focus hostage if we’re not vigilant, I’m passionate about the truth of the wild and the remedial effects it has on our souls and the respite it offers our overloaded minds. Surviving in nature cannot be faked. We cannot live off the identities we create for ourselves. We’re not at the top of any man-made, civilised food chain rolling around in a safety net of certainty and comfort. We’re part of an intricately designed eco-circle, an ancient land, holy waters, rich with power, history and culture, frontiers of potential and unknowns. I love that. We all ache for truth on some level, and many of us lose ourselves searching for it in the wrong places. It’s hard not to fall in love with our planet when we’re immersed in its splendours, and if we want it to last for generations, it’s going to take A LOT of love.
I want to pique the interest of my teenage friends, our precious youth, some of whom are doing it pretty tough, not so they look at me, but so they might pause their troubles and dream about their own “river”. I want to lead by example for my sons. I want to offer a perspective for women, particularly for mothers. Having children is challenging, but dreams don’t die when a mother is born, they’re only just beginning- because we understand having a reason to fight and no time to waste. One thing I firmly believe is that we can’t possibly teach if we stop learning. And one of my greatest teachers of all continues to be my Mother : Nature.