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Writing from the Columbia River Basin

Warms You Twice

Warms You Twice

A few years ago, at the end of a particularly chaotic river season, I went camping alone along a lake in Montana. I was in something like a quarter-life-crisis, which as a twenty-three year old woman tends to circumvent the sports car and instead includes a mix of:

reckoning with people-pleasing behavior,

acknowledging the harm of lack of emotional boundaries,

 a slow realization that we aren't in the post-misogyny society our (wonderful) mothers really, really hoped we would be.

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As I struggled to light my campfire under those turning-yellow larches, I made a promise about giving away my decisions to others. My inner voice had finally cracked through and what she was yelling in my ear was scary shit. From that night, I have the scribbled notes somewhere in a journal that I was going to light fifty fires before I ever let someone start one for me again. I was so disappointed that I, claiming to be a guide and an outdoorswoman, could barely perform this basic life-sustaining task. The smoldering, unlit pile of pine needles and sticks felt like it represented everything. There, along that lake, I didn't recognize myself anymore and the only thing I could think to do was to take myself back, one piece of kindling at a time.

"Strong" women don't always share these moments of reckoning but I think it happens to more of us than we like to admit.

It'd be a story with a pretty bow on top to say I followed through. I'd like to run through the log of the fires I lit while camping, while working, in the wood stoves of cabins and yurts and my family's home. Maybe it would be somewhere near fifty fires. But maybe it was meant to be a metaphor all along.

Light your own fire.

It's only now, splitting wood by headlamp in the driveway that the promise comes back to me.

Light your own damn fire,  Em.

I'm still learning the balance between lighting your own fire and asking for help. I don't know a single woman out there that doesn't struggle with the balance between fighting for yourself and fighting for others. Often, it still feels damned if you do, damned if you don't.

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This was going to just be a trip report about a day in the mountains outside of town, scouting dead lodgepole and tromping around in the season's first snow.

"Chop your own wood and it will warm you twice" - Henry Ford

But sometimes your fingers on the keys have other plans.

So in addition to some photos of firewood gathering this fall, a list for the women in your life experiencing their first WTF moments or month or year.

Resources for a Woman in a Quarter-Life Crisis:

One Hour Radius

One Hour Radius

Summer Roundup

Summer Roundup