When I was young my neighbor/childhood best friend and I would play Gods and Goddesses.
She was always Aphrodite – goddess of love and beauty (she was and still remains to be one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever met) and I was Athena – goddess of wisdom. There was something about Greek Mythology that always interested me. I think it was the concept that they had responsibility over a few focuses, such as music, animals, travel, etc., and magical powers that came with them.
Hiking the Tetons in Wyoming made me feel like a Goddess again. I was Goddess of the Mountains and everything from the streams to the trees was in my control. I belonged there and have never felt so present than during those 10 hours of hiking 20+ miles through the canyon.
The sweet smell of the air, intense heat on my face, ever-changing views, rushing sound of water, and dryness of my mouth brought all my senses to focus at once. I felt smart, strong, and capable. In that time I realized those feelings are why I’ve ventured out into the world unknown – who wouldn’t want to feel smart, strong, and capable?
In the beginning I didn’t feel like a Goddess. I felt fear.
So afraid that I chickened out of hiking, my first day at the park. The park is vigilant about “bear aware” education, to the point it really freaked me out. Bear safety is something I was already hypersensitive about, and all the literature and verbal reinforcement of the issue made it ever more prominent in my mind.
My second attempt at hiking was a rocky start but I managed to hit the trail, whistle and bear spray in tow. Every 5-10 steps I would make two toots of my whistle to scare off the bears. I got the hang of this routine and it gave me a great deal of assurance knowing my whistle was scaring them off…until I ran into a fellow hiker. After saying our “hellos” he asked me, “Have you heard that bird? It’s amazing how loud it is!” Abashed, I tell him that, that very loud bird is indeed me, trying to scare off the bears.
My thinking was if a human thinks my whistle is a bird, the bears probably would too. So I changed my strategy. Every 5-10 steps I started this sort of cheerleader clap to scare the bears off. The clap from my incredibly small, T-Rex hands was about as scary as a fart in the wind, but it was at this point I started feeling like a Goddess. So I thought…”Bring it on bears.”