A Woman’s Day

Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and I chose to spend it hiking in the Santa Barbara mountains with some very strong women. A couple of us sported red tops, whether by chance or intent, but we didn’t make proclamations, talk about politics, or stage any demonstrations apart from the quiet demonstration of resilience required to traverse eight miles of rugged backcountry. We walked along narrow brushy trails in the heat of mid-day, and crossed several fairly deep and rocky streams whose forceful currents nearly pushed me off balance.  I should add that not a one of us is younger than sixty, so we’re not exactly spring chickens, as my mother used to say. No one complained. All we ever felt was glad to be there, and grateful for our mobility.

I looked around fondly at these hiking companions, all a bit faded and weathered, but sturdy and persistent, bearing backpacks and walking poles and interesting histories. These are women who have been teachers and nurses, mothers and wives and grandmothers too. There’s a skilled sailor among them, a church docent, a botanist. One is from Austria, and she is as agile as a young girl on an Alpine trek.  Another spent her childhood in a small Canadian town, and one used to walk in these very mountains while a student at UCSB in the 1960s. These women came of age during second-wave feminism, before Title IX and the Equal Rights Amendment, and they’ve seen a lot of changes, some of it welcome, some insufficient, and some of it wrong-headed. They are well-versed in patience as well as disappointment, smart enough to appreciate the good contained in an ordinary day, and highly attuned to the wonders of being outdoors in a beautiful place like this. All have known sorrows, glimpsed joy, and hope the future will be better. They do their part.

So yes, we know what’s going on, but yesterday was about hiking in the backcountry and coming back physically exhausted and mentally renewed. No one mentioned that name that we don’t even like to say, and there was no outrage or hand-wringing about the current issues. We had no cell phone service, no updates or alerts, no distressing news to distract us from the land and the streams and the sky.

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