by Kim Church
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Just before I leap into the void, they come to me: let go gracefully. Gracefully. Like the trees dancing above me in that moment. Filled with grace is exactly what I need to be. And I fly off the log, looking down into her eyes and being filled with her smile.
I love my girl. She is 14 and that makes me 38. More than anything, I want her to know how amazing she is and that she has strengths and abilities beyond what she can understand. Sometimes I find myself living in her, through her and beside her, and because I know that will change in the coming years, I treasure seeing the world through her eyes.
I’m spending the day in one of my favorite places in the world — a grove of old-growth timber on Whidbey Island. A place of learning, loving, stretching, failing, courage, and growth. I’ve been to this challenge course many times. Today I’m here with 14 young women, looking at this particular work through their bright eyes.
I am happy here, excited to share this experience. I wonder what will show up for each of the girls, because something mystical always happens on a ropes course. Just being in this place is enough for me. I love to stand still and stretch my neck back until I can see the tops of the pine trees hovering 150 feet in the air. I watch as they move gently together even though there is no wind. The dance they breathe is graceful and I find myself swaying with them to music not heard, but deeply felt.
The day is warm, the pine scent strong, the paths soft with bark spread thickly along each trail. The green envelopes me and I lose my thoughts as I walk along the paths from one challenge to the next, my only job a witness to these beautiful girls as they learn about themselves and overcome fears with new-found confidence.
Memories of past experiences in this sacred place flood my mind and heart. Here I learned to challenge and trust myself, witnessing others’ courage and commitment to one another — stretched beyond what we thought was possible for us to achieve together. Each time I come, the physical challenges take me to new heights, new pain and new insights that I wouldn’t likely explore on my own. But in connection with others, it’s magic.
All of a sudden, the late afternoon sun begins to loosen its grip on the forest. Each girl is emotionally spent after climbing 40 feet up a tree and stepping out onto a log to walk across and jump off. Now it is my turn. As I begin the climb, I am reminded to speak an intention from my heart before I jump from the “safety” of the suspended log. I know how to overcome the fear of a physical challenge. In fact, I look forward to it. But the fear for me today is summoning words. Words I need to sustain me as my girl grows up and leaves me for her real life — the one where I become a bystander, cheering her on from afar. I feel deeply connected to her at this moment, but because she is the last of my children to make this journey to adulthood, I know the separation that will inevitably come.
At the top of the tree, I step onto the log that is much narrower than I expected and feel a familiar fear rise inside my belly. I take a couple of tentative steps and try to relax as I walk back and forth across the log, eventually gaining some sense of balance. My knees are so wobbly I should have fallen. But I didn’t. There is warm sunlight shining through the trees and I feel eyes and hearts, including hers, witnessing my journey from below. I pray to find words that will give me peace along my path. Just before I leap into the void, they come to me: let go gracefully. Gracefully. Like the trees dancing above me in that moment. Filled with grace is exactly what I need to be. And I fly off the log, looking down into her eyes and being filled with her smile.
I love my girl. She is 38 and that makes me 62. She doesn’t remember much about that day: just glimmers of girls who were there, a couple of the challenges, and walking along the soft green paths between the elements. Nothing about her own intention or the one I spoke that day. But I remember. And I feel the beauty of those sacred words stored carefully in my heart for times like these when I haven’t seen her in over a year. My arms long to wrap around her and I want to look into her beautiful eyes in person rather than on a screen. Instead, I focus on the grace that continues to thread through the years and the trees and the memories that will always be grounded in that place and in my heart.
I am a personal and executive leadership coach with an emphasis on women in transition. I recently retired from a 40-year career as a legal administrator for an international law firm. I live on beautiful Bainbridge Island, Washington, and love to ski, sing, knit, hike and read. My husband and I have been married for 25 years and, between us, we have five wonderful children and 13 beautiful grandchildren. We just returned from serving as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Florida, Fort Lauderdale Mission.
Because writing isn’t on the list of things I love to do … yet, I joined Susie’s class to see if I could begin to learn about and develop some of the skills I lacked. My goal is to feel more engaged with my personal journey as a result of writing about my life experiences but I have had a lot of resistance to doing that. I loved the depth of this course and the carefully held space where we could bring our voices forward through our writing. I was particularly inspired by my fellow students and it was just the kickstart I needed to establish a practice I intend to continue.