Thursday, May 03, 2018

Gathering in Zion

"The daughters of Zion are haughty...." Isaiah 3:16
"The daughter's of Zion are hotties..." possible modern day translation? You decide. 

One of the gifts of having lived all over these great United States are the amazing friendships I have dotting this blessed land. I have so many good people in my life. And if you have good people, no matter how far away, you should make an effort to gather. From the time I was young I learned to hold onto dear friendships for dear life. Keeping in touch--unapologeticly and shamelessly--is one of my gifts. I text, I call, I email, I FaceBook, I Marco Polo, I carrier pigeon, I cat call, I yodel, I smoke signal, I morse code... you get the idea. Whatever it takes, I keep in touch. But there is nothing like coming together, being in each other's presence, breaking bread, and having a shared experience. Keeping in touch is good, but there is magic in gathering.

Last weekend I rendezvoused with 2 of my best girls--Fran and Missy--in the middle of the desert at Zion National Park in southern Utah for adventure, friendship, exercise, relaxation, death defying feats, deep conversation, laughs, and of course ice cream. There are some people in your life that when they say, "Let's get together," you immediately say, "When and where?" These girls are those people. They are my people. The call was sent out and we gathered. The sisters gathered in Zion.
Also, I'd like to share a fantastic strategy for traveling to new places, which is especially useful when you're not the one planning the trip. It's a tactic I have done time and time again and it proves to be an excellent strategy. I call it the Zero Research Method. Do zero research about where you are going--no googling, reading or talking to people who have been there--and you will be delightfully awestruck and amazed when you get there. I did this when I moved to Hawaii at age 19. I did this when visiting Rome 5 years ago. And again I employed this strategy last weekend when visiting Zion National Park and let me tell you, zero research beforehand ----> zero expectations ---> MIND BLOWING REALIZATION THAT YOU ARE IN ONE OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES ON THE PLANET AND WHY DIDN'T ANYONE EVER TELL YOU ABOUT THIS PLACE OH YEAH THEY DID BUT YOU DIDN'T REALLY ABSORB THIS INFORMATION UNTIL JUST NOW. That has been my experience with the "zero research" method of travel. You're welcome.

Anywho, there are two main reasons one comes to Zion National Park: to hike The Narrows and to hike Angel's landing. Again, I had heard of both of these hikes, but didn't really have any idea what they entailed. (However, in the days leading up to the hike my friends and my husband started talking up the dangers of Angel's landing, so I did know there was some risk going in.)

The first hike we did is The Narrows. If you come to Zion National Park and can only do one thing, I would recommend The Narrows. You are essentially walking through water with red rock cliffs on either side, with twists and turns and beautiful scenery for miles and miles. You can go as near or far as you want to go. Now I have done a similar hike in Oregon called Oneata Falls and it was amazing. Beautiful, lush, cliffs on either side, walking through water, at one point chest deep even. But the entirety of Oneonta Falls is 1/2 a mile. The Narrows, by contrast, is long. Miles and miles long. We still don't know exactly how many miles we went, but we started our hike at 9:15 in the morning, and we finished around 2:30 in the afternoon--that's over 5 hours of hiking through these beautiful canyon walls. It was rather chilly in the morning, but the light was perfect. There were rays of sun streaming through cracks in the steep red walls, creating a beautiful, gentle light. We were much warmer as the sun creeped overhead around noon, but honestly I preferred the chilly, perfect light. The water that was often mid-calf, but also up to our waist at times. Had we gone up even further we would have been chest deep. As I said, the water was cold but we rented booties and boots, along with walking sticks--all of which I highly recommend--and our feet held up well.



Of course we talked quite a bit and topics ranged from politics, to religion to our kids and who knows what else what. But the true measure of a good friendship is how much we can also be silent with each other and feel just as comfortable. Yes we had lots to say, but at times we just want to let the water, the light, and the rocks do the talking. We could talk or not talk all day. (Name that movie.) 


Saturday was our day to hike Angel's Landing. As mentioned previously I had no idea what I was really getting into. Where The Narrows was low, wet and cold, Angel's landing was high, dry and hot. And dangerous. No really. It has often been cited as one of the most dangerous hikes in the US. But being the haughty daughters we are, we hiked it. We bragged about it and a week later I'm still feeling like a bad apple. Was it scary? Yes. There was in fact our friend Fran almost didn't go. She was actually petrified (Fran, if you're reading this, is that fair to say? I feel like petrified is a fair word to use.) See the first part of the hike is 2 miles, steep and with a lot of switchbacks. And while technically you could fall off the side of that trail, it's wide, flat and paved. You'd have to really not be paying attention to fall. But once you get to the top there is a turnaround before the last half mile where it gets real ya'll. Real real.

You're climbing up steep terrain with 1000 ft drop offs on either side, with a chain in the middle to hold onto. It's intimidating at best. And knowing that people have died there--tragically even just this past February--you take it seriously. So when we got to the top of the turnaround Fran's fear kicked in high gear. She didn't know if she could do it. She was seriously scared. Missy and I both said, "Don't feel like you have to do it! You can totally stay here! It's no big deal..." And then we both started walking in the direction of the summit. When we talked about this moment later and Fran was like, "I thought we were going to talk about it. I thought you guys were going to sit with me and and hash it out....but both of you were like, 'You can stay, it's totally fine,' and then you walked away so I just followed you." And we laughed so hard realizing we had both done this to her. We absolutely meant it, she could stay if she wanted, but we were going this way. And since we didn't give her any time to talk herself out of it, she came. She didn't look down the entire time, she white knuckled the chain and the rocks, but she did it. And she made us laugh--including many other hikers around us--with her hilarious commentary on the way.


This is "petrified  Fran" clutching the chain and hugging the rock, not looking down while we take a quick break. And while we she made jokes the whole way up and we laughed at the photos afterward, I love her freaking guts and I respect the hell out of her for doing this when she truly quite terrified. That's as bad ass as it gets. 
Missy, who has hiked Angel's Landing before, was less afraid. As pictured. Also a bad ass. 





We had planned to do a couple more hikes, but honestly we were pretty wiped after each day. While Angel's Landing was significantly shorter (a little over 3 hours I think) there was more emotional energy spent. We spent the rest of our time eating, relaxing, hot tubbing, getting a massage (heaven after both those hikes!), laying in the sun and talking.

My family, my spouse and my children, will always be my #1. They are my priority, my loves, and my home base. But there is something really special about my women friends. Most women I know have a deep need for other women in their lives. There always seems to be a lot of chatter about women tearing other women down and the competitiveness among women, and certainly that happens, but in my experience those are the exceptions, not the rule. And while I haven't had an office job in over a decade, my experience with other women in the office was by far mostly positive, and it is also my experience in the blogging world. More often than not I see women helping other women. I see women pulling each other up knowing that there is enough for everyone. I love this quote from Roxanne Gay, "Abandon the cultural myth that all female friendships must be bitchy, toxic, or competitive. This myth is like heels and purses--pretty, but designed to SLOW women down.”

I couldn't agree more. The only women I've ever been hesitant to be friends with are the women who claim they don't get along with other women, often with the insinuation that other women are jealous of them. I never buy it as I've been friends with plenty beautiful, smart, successful women who are also equally kind, loving, and warm. I know a girl's trip can feel like a luxury, but it also feels like something I really need every now and then. Getting away with women who I feel a connection to, women who I can talk about marriage, children, family, work/life balance, passion projects, etc. is something I really gain strength and momentum from.  I think there are a lot of things I could do without in my life, but female friends isn't one of them.

“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves, it is not my nature.” ― Jane Austen

How about you? Do you have strong female friendships in your life and do you get together regularly? Do you ever feel guilty or like you have to justify taking the time and money away from your family? Do you wish you had stronger female friendships? What about those of you who are close with your sisters and mothers--do you find that you have less female friends because you get what you need from your sisters and family? Dish!

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