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  • Writer's pictureKirsten Johnson

Reflecting on our Act of Courage: Mountain Climbing in Glacier National Park

One of the practices we’ve adopted as a collective is to participate in acts of courage together. In August, we undertook our latest act of courage - traveling to Glacier National Park and climbing a mountain (or a butte to be exact.)

We are trying to always be living into our name of being the Courageous Change Collective. What does it really mean to be a collective? Beyond just the day to day work - really leaning into our relationships and leaning into courage together. Here are some of our reflections on what we are learning:

What did we learn about ourselves or each other?

We hiked to the top of Haystack Butte (elevation 7,486 feet) which is on the Highline Trail. We started our hike before sunrise. There was a moment when we reached the bottom of the butte, it was still early in the day, and said “maybe after we hike up this we could go further around the bend”. When we came back down, we laughed at ourselves.

We had aspired to go further - but as we paid attention to our bodies we recognized that we had done enough. We leaned into being okay with that. Letting go of those aspirations.

Not being driven by over achievement but being able to embrace "enough".

We hiked the four miles back (putting our round trip around 10 miles). It started raining just as we finished. We were so glad that we hadn’t pushed ourselves farther. The rain felt like a sign that we had trusted ourselves and it was good.

You can always push yourself further. We chose to be pleased with the richness that enough has to offer. This felt like a new narrative for us. To do enough and be pleased.

What did we lean into?

We leaned into thinking about the collective. We thought about the needs of everyone and it allowed us to accommodate and support those needs.

Building connections between our family members. We have leaned into building relationships between the three of us. Now we are building the connections of our village. Part of our commitment to one another is to think about the well-being of one another's families.

What supported us when we were in moments of courage? How did we support one another?

We had a series of conversations before we left. What do we need? Where might we be challenged? The pre-planning allowed us to loop back to those conversations when we needed them. So then when moments of courage surfaced we knew how to support each other.

On the morning of our hike to the top of Haystack Butte we checked in again. What was alive for us? What were our hopes? What were our concerns?

What is nature sharing with us or revealing to us?

The water was so beautiful, clean and inviting and then FRIGID. We weren't ready for the cold, because the context was warm and sunny. The context is so different in the mountains of Montana from Minnesota. We see the world from our lens and we go to a different place and we think it’s the same - but it’s not. Even the squirrels are different!`

The grass on the butte was so deeply rooted. It both helped provide us traction as we went up the steep incline but also was so thick as to be challenging to keep sight of the trail. We don’t often think of grass as being strong, but it was clearly so strong and rooted.

In some areas there was grass and in others trees. At some point the trees stopped and only grasses grew and then at some point it gave way to only rock. There is a natural selection of what fits where. The trees were such a welcome shade along the trail. Each thing played its part. We loved learning from the mountain ecosystem.

It was beautiful to see all the new trees that had grown where the forest fires had burned. Even in death there is rebirth. It’s all part of a cycle rather than just an ending.

What are we learning that can support us to love bravely in our work?

Different things open up for us in different contexts. It was helpful to experience each other in a different way as we were traveling with our families. We saw each other differently than if we had traveled just the three of us.

You are going to see what I’m like when I’m tired, when I’m hungry - you are going to see me in my vulnerability. Like the grass, this deepens the roots for stronger relationships.

A new place and a new context helps us see new dimensions of each other, helps us understand more, helps us be more compassionate. This gives us more dimensions when things get challenging or when things get stagnant. It gives us courage to say: "we want something more."

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