Posted by: highmountainmuse | September 14, 2009

On bravery

A view through the trees

A view through the trees

On the morning I left for my first solitary pack trip, my son told me he thought I was brave.  I was glad for this.  A part of most everything I do is for him.  I suppose this is what we do as women, as mothers, as parents.  It is what we want to do. Always in some way caring for those we love, doing all we can to make our children’s lives as positive as we possibly can. And still know when to let go. Or try to know.  I am not very proficient at that part…

He is 16. I can no longer pave every road before him, much as I would like to. What I have tried to do is teach him to pave his own roads.  This is an odd analogy – here we are living in the high mountains and travelling in the back woods, where the nearest paved road to our home is 18 miles away.  But I think you know what I mean…  I’m referring to seeing, following and even smoothing out the path before us.  Finding the right direction in life, and making the right choices to get down that path.  We will never make all the right choices, will we?  But we can, we should, always try.

And so, he called me brave.  And yet, all I felt was scared. I wanted to show him, him more than anyone else except myself, that we can do something even if we are afraid. First, with a great deal of preparation.  I’ve been packing for years.  I have the knowledge, the skills, the tools, the physical ability.  I knew I could, or at least, should be able to do it alone. But fear isn’t always so logical… There are times, no matter how prepared we are, we are still stepping into the unknown, and a secret, silent part deep within us steps and shouts “NO!”

As I wordlessly rode down the trail later that first day, high away in the hills yet so deeply buried in my own tangled thoughts, the horses slipping and sliding up a muddy slope through the last of the dark timber before breaking out above tree line, I looked across a break in the woods to the mountain tops across the valley and saw peaks I know he has scaled… in the winter on his snowmobile!  And I wondered who of us was really brave… Or are we both?  Are we all, any time we step just a little beyond the paved road?

Me and my horses, trying to be brave...

Me and my horses, trying to be brave...



  1. Gin,

    So glad you had a safe and wonderful trip. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us across the board. You definitely looked ready when I visited with you the day before.

    Thanks so much for taking time to let me visit with you, Bob, and Forrest. It was a highlight of my trip to your neck of the woods. Have you guys tried the Swedish krackers yet?

    Lot’s of rain this year while we were in your area. I did manage to catch a 12″ Cut the day after my visit.

    The photos turned out great from my visit.


  2. Hi Al – It was so great to be able to meet you, and thank YOU for taking time on your vacation to come visit. Means a great deal to me. The trip was awesome – and Bob not only forgives me for going it alone, but seems pretty proud now. My parents visited this weekend and brought some Brie – so I plan on trying the krackers this evening… Thanks for the thoughtful treats. POURING rain here now, your timing was good. I bet the waters are even running brown. Beautiful though, as always… Don’t forget you can also write direct at: or Warmly, Gin

  3. Gin – sounds like your trip gave you a gift that can’t compare. I know that when Jamal got on the plane to go to Saudi solo, and I stayed here in Vermont with the kids, not knowing when we’d see him – three or four months? – that there was a deep knowing how much he loved us to be able to do that. I couldn’t go back, and he couldn’t stay at that point. Turns out he planned an early, short trip back to see us, on the sly and rolled up the drive in a rental just 2 months later.

    The knowledge that you can face a difficult challenge alone can bring such a deep, quiet confidence to everything you do. When things get tough, you can pull that memory out…of being on top of the mountain alone and remember how brave you are. 🙂

  4. Wendy, It sounds like the bravery you have found (but I bet still don’t admit) inside with your time away from Jamal is great, strength most of us have not felt, by necessity or choice. My brothers wife too has to spend a great deal of time without her partner, and has learned to have the confidence within that she is still very greatly loved, and the widsom to understand she can do just fine alone… though better of course when he is there with her!

  5. If by ‘brave’ you mean “feeling terrified most of the time”, than I had plenty of that while Jamal was in Saudi. 🙂 I’ve often thought that brave or foolish is only determined by the details of the outcome firmly in hand.

  6. Wendy,
    Oh, you are right – how close “brave” and “foolish” can be.
    I think at times “brave” is no more than survival. If we make it through our personal journey, we come through stronger that how we started. We can not judge our “brave” on our neighbors scale – it is a word as personal as “happiness” – and different for each of us, with a set of different challenges, trials and tribulations, outer conflicts and inner demons, for which we find ourselves challenged.
    “Foolish” is when we don’t make it all work out. Which for me, is still a good deal of the time.

  7. Totally agree – my journey through bravery and foolishness must belong to me, and no one else. I can’t judge the depth of someone else’s emotion based on what I feel – a reminder that so many decisions are based on feelings as much as logic.

    I’m in touch with my inner fool…gotta risk sometimes, to succeed in the end.

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