Every couple of days, the need to get outdoors overcomes me. It isn’t the need to go “outside,” which is just the external of being inside the house – the outdoors is a place that is everywhere and nowhere. It can be on the edge of the neighboring woods or in a farmer’s field. It can be on the summit of a mountain, if that’s how far it takes to feel spaciousness and serenity. Being outdoors means being beyond the edge of the modern world. It’s a place where there are rhythms instead of language, cycles instead of signs and, suddenly, you pass through an invisible door that is not like the one that exists on a house. It’s a door that closes everything that is behind you and you are finally free. Once you find that place, you never stop looking for it.
There are plenty of legendary outdoorsmen who have crossed that threshold and never come back. They are the storied mountain men of another era or even the cautionary tales of today. Most of us have to come back from our outdoor trips. We have families and jobs. We have to find a balance between the need to experience the great outdoors and still keep the lights on back home. Sometimes, it seems like it would be ideal to live a techno-primitive lifestyle – a remote cabin with an internet connection and espresso machine. As cool as it would be to scrawl out a note that says my gun “kilt the bear that kilt me,” the best thing I can do is just try to get outdoors at least every couple of days.
Several years ago, at the Vancouver Peace Summit, the Dalai Lama famously said, “The world will be saved by the western woman.” His words were in the context of global and humanitarian issues, but his words rang true for something else as well. This isn’t to say that women aren’t powerful globally or there is an impending apocalypse we all need saving from. It just so happened that I read his words after reading a similar quote in a conservation journal: It had said that women were the future of hunting.
In the context of the outdoor industry, more women hunters means more hunters and more hunters means the salvation of hunting. Statistics then showed women were the only growing demographic and the rate in which children were apt to hunt increased when their mothers hunted (more so than their fathers). What interested me most in these numbers, however, was the potential for quality instead of quantity. Women have always hunted, but what would the growing number of women bring in terms of the female values of compassion, connectedness, and community? As articles went to press about the downward trend of the “vanishing hunter,” I was more interested in the hunter that was emerging.
In the same way that western women have a sociopolitical position that allows us to take a leading role in humanitarian efforts and business, hunters also have the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation on our side. Even as media began promoting women as the new sportsmen, we had already been connecting socially online and creating communities some writers have called “the underground sisterhood.” It wasn’t anything so clandestine as far as I could tell. But, something was happening, and we were all part of an emerging industry that matters.
As much as it is fun to share the outdoor experiences that connect us, the adventure happens in the field. That’s where we find that place that is a Neverland of sorts, where we walk through the invisible boundary between our human world and the world that always was and will be. It’s a place for new beginnings and restoration. For those who crave reality, there is nothing more real, more life-affirming, than the outdoors. It was there before the indoors, afterall and before a word like “outside” became possible.