After 35 years of thinking about OB, Shirley finally took on the challenge of a 21 day course. Read more about her journey.
To begin with at fifty two and three quarters years of age I was a little nervous of how I would handle it and thought that the learning would be such that I could use when working with my students in our Life Education classrooms rather than myself as I’ve lived a few years and had a few years’ experience. How wrong that proved to be…
Yes I was one of the eldest and the others all looked younger and fitter but I came to realise it was about “plus est en vous”. The first afternoon running around then rolling in that gorgeous Anakiwa mud and washing the mask off with the first wee dip off the jetty and initial introduction to the “Baltic” cold shower set the scene for the next 21 days .I was no longer someone’s partner, mother or teacher. I was me and soon to be part of the famed McKenzie 582.
Some of the things I learned along the way:
- PLUS EST EN VOUS: There sure was. I was amazed what I could do. The rock climbing, high wires, paddling an out of control kayak over a water fall and the final half marathon plus 1km.On the tramps in the snow, during the run and up on the wire I just keep thinking about the story Kathryn told us at 8:20 of the Canadian amputee who ran marathons day after day across Canada when asked how he ran so far he replied just by running to the next lamp post. Marathon day that’s what I did just run to the end of the road, just run back to Anakiwa, just run to the beach, to the next bend then just run home easy as…the first time I have been able to run over 15kms in my life…. done .Now at home when it looks like I have heaps ahead of me it’s going to be just run to the next lamp post.
- LIVE IN THE NOW: Enjoy where you are right now and take the opportunities when they are there. As a control freak teacher not knowing what was coming my way was one of the hardest things I faced in the first week. When I started to forget about what was ahead and just put my energies into the now it was amazing how empowered and content I felt. How much more I enjoyed everything and was able to put more effort and energy into it.
- FIND YOUR TRUE NORTH: Check the direction you are going often. It’s easy to turn back sooner rather than later .On whatever journey you take in life, keep your eye on the needle. We learnt this on the way down Mt Cullen. We headed off on the wrong spur even though we realised the bearing wasn’t right. It was downhill, so easy and we kept going, hoping it would turn soon. We really wanted to believe it was the right way BUT…… the 50 minute uphill climb to get back to where we started was a great natural consequence and huge learning.
- WE CAN COPE WITH THINGS: It was cold in the sea, It was freezing under the shower, we spent 10 hours in a wet suit, we walked in the snow, we fell over, we had sore knees, we slept on hard ground, we carried heavy packs, we cut and benched a track in the pouring rain, we slept squashed in a boat, we used a bucket for a toilet in the open on a cutter with 11 other people around us and we coped. In fact, we loved it. We learnt we can cope with unpleasant things “You can be cold, wet and miserable or you can be cold and wet” The choice was ours. It’s how we think about things that change the way we feel about them. We learnt that dry clothes were clean clothes, that cold, wet and moist were our favourite terms, drying rooms smell bad with wet runners in them but no one died from smells. Too often as adults we live in a very comfortable world and avoid things that may be uncomfortable and as such can miss out on adventures. Yes I will go fishing more in the winter.
- FIND YOUR OWN SOLO: Be alone in a space you can think and re-energize, breathe the fresh air and get to know yourself. Lots of people asked me how I coped with solo. I loved it and so did the whole watch in fact we were quite reluctant to start talking again after. After such a crazy event filled 10 days it was peaceful, calming, healing and the perfect place and time for reflection.( It was rather cold as well but the privilege of being able to lie in a warm sleeping bag for as long as we wanted was awesome) As Alan Watts said” To spend a lengthy period alone in the forests or mountains, a period of coming to terms with the solitude and non-humanity of nature is to discover who, or what, one really is – a discovery hardly possible while the community is telling you what you are ,or ought to be.”
- LOOK AFTER THIS AMAZING WORLD WE LIVE IN: We all need to make an effort to leave this world a better place as we are guardians of it for our children. Change yourself then you can help to change the world. Every little bit helps .Recycling, reusing, turning off switches, thinking about what we buy. To live simply and marvel at the natural world around us.
- TO GET READY FOR SOMETHING DOESN’T ALWAYS TAKE 5 DAYS: Just keep it simple. You need to be warm and fed. So take enough clothes and sort out the food. The first few expeditions we took too much food, too much time to get sorted ,left things behind, but by the second week we had a great system and as a group were able to get things packed, then unpacked cleaned and put away by working as a group with great communication and faith in other people’s ability.
- LEARN TO LOVE CUPS OF TEA AND ANAKIWA FLAPJACKS: As a coffee addict when I went down I have become reformed. The large pots of tea in the dining room were life changing. I made a commitment that I wasn’t going to have a coffee until I returned home and I stuck to that. Imagine my horror when now I find I don’t enjoy coffee anymore and so out came Grandma’s china tea pot and tea it is. The flapjacks were legendary and the recipe sits proudly in my cook book. Only as a special treat however. The food at the school was amazing. I don’t think I have eaten so much for years. Every evening meal we had was spectacular so please thank Paul and his team of gorgeous ladies for that. We all really enjoyed being on duty in the kitchen .It was one of our favourite places. (Not just because it was warm).
When we were presented with our certificates and the batons it was bitter sweet. We got to go home to our loved ones (the rocks in our jars) to share our tales of adventure and excitement but it also meant leaving a place that had become our home and a group of people that had become our family for that time. People we had shared a special bond and that we had witnessed take their journey along with us .We had heard and shared many personal moments and seen growth in us all as people. We chose not to turn our phones on when we departed on the launch as we weren’t ready to give up the Anakiwa magic and it wasn’t until we said our goodbyes in Picton that we reluctantly headed back to the “other world.”
People asked me how was it getting back to the real world but I realised I had been in the real world at Anakiwa. A real world with real needs: food, water, fresh air, safety, and shelter. A world with real consequences: no gas bottle equals slow cooking after kayaking, not enough clothes means you get cold, taking the wrong spur means you have to walk back up hill and walk out in the dark. A real world with no make-up, hair straighteners or hours lost looking at silly cat pictures on face book. Instead we talked, walked, laughed, and cried. We lived simply and had adventures. We saw beautiful things and relished the beauty and tranquillity of the Queen Charlotte sounds.
So thank you so much for giving me the chance to fulfil a dream I had 35 years ago. I have gained so much personally and have so many amazing lessons to share.