Meeting your idols is an odd concept. I think of movie stars, musicians, Martin Luther King, Dr’s Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle. When Hugh Jackman came into my coffee shop several weeks ago, I turned bright red, refused to make eye contact, and then proceeded to giggle to myself for thirty minutes. The few times I’ve met people from instagram, I’ve either been the one they recognized or we had discussed the meeting in advance, allowing my introverted self to prepare fully. Going to the No Man’s Land Film Festival felt like I was about to be shoved into a room full of Hugh Jackmans and Jane Goodalls. I was preparing for a weekend of being red faced and hiding behind my significantly more outgoing Mom.
Amongst the other women at the festival I felt like a child. I’m not outgoing, and even writing blog posts can become exhausting to me. When I heard that Katie Boué would being speaking on her experiences with outdoor advocacy, I told myself to get over my fear of talking to strangers and ask her every burning question I had. Immediately, I saw myself honking at her like a goose before mumbling my name and running away. Instead, Kathy Karlo pulled me over and introduced me (no goose honking involved), and I told Katie that I was thrilled to be there listening to her story. She spoke of her own journey, of months spent on the road in a yellow van, of the ups and downs life threw at her, of her own determined banging down of doors. When the time for questions came, I told her of my own story, briefly. I asked her about her undergrad major. That was it. That was the only question I could think of, after listening to plenty of other women ask engaging and thoughtful questions, I asked her if her major mattered. She told me exactly what I needed to hear.
Katie told me that she had also been a creative writing major. She told me that until now, no one had asked her what her major was in years. She talked about the lack of cohesion within the outdoor advocacy community- the excited gungho nature and passion to conserve coupled with a lack of knowledge regarding impacts and consequences. She flat out told me that I should pursue being an environmental lawyer. I tried not to shout, in all my goose honking glory, that I thought she was made of sunshine and gummi bears. This was only the first day.
I am embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Kat Carney until Kathy told me she was leading the photography clinic. The last time I had altered anything on a camera relating ISO or aperture was in high school. The second day of the NMLFF consisted of Kat Carney, five other women, my mom, and myself hiking up a short trail to a small overlook. We sat, circled around Kat, for several hours as she explained her history with photography, what all those fancy buttons mean, and how to take photos of the stars. She let us ask her questions and sent us home with guides she designed to help us practice. I still have mine in my camera bag just in case I forget anything. Perhaps I wasn’t the most serious photographer in that group, but in that moment, the little flame of passion for capturing the world’s wild spaces and the people engaging with them, lit up.
There is something special when groups of women come together to learn and encourage. After the first Flash Foxy Women’s Climbing Festival, articles were written about the surprise at the lack of passive aggressive, catty behavior women are “known” for. When Kathy Karlo suggested I fly to Carbondale, CO for the No Man’s Land Film Festival, a weekend of adventure films and a photography clinic, there was very little bribing necessary. A few weeks before my flight out, the preview for Pretty Strong was released. These women are all movers and shakers, inspiring more of us to stand up and create our own adventure films; no longer relying on Reel Rock to offer us a glimpse into the lives of climbing celebrities. Perhaps the best part of the films presented by NMLFF was that not only did the films portray women succeeding, they also showed women failing, women having to decide for themselves to back down. They showed women with disabilities winning medals, women of different colors pushing themselves beyond what they thought they could do, and women pushing the boundaries of what is expected of them. If you get the opportunity to see them, go. If you can manage a flight to Carbondale next year, I urge you to do it. If you can pull together a group of encouraging women on your own and hold a small screening of only youtube videos of women “pursuing the radical”, do that.