Lucys of the World, Unite!

copyright Charles Schulz Lucy

copyright Charles Schulz

When I was  in high school and college, I had a picture of Lucy (from the Charlie Brown comic strip series) on my night stand. The little meme (I guess you would call it today) said “If you can’t be right, be wrong at the top of your voice!”  For the most part, that’s how I rolled, but it wasn’t encouraged and sometimes it got pretty ugly.  That’s why the recent Ban Bossy campaign intrigues me. Even dyed-in-the-wool  “bossy” girls will benefit from the conversation that the nascent movement has already started.

No doubt by now you’ve heard about  Ban Bossy, the latest female empowerment venture by Facebook COO and founder of, Sheryl Sandberg. The campaign has a laudable goal – to help girls feel more confident and comfortable as leaders.

So why did Sandberg and other female heavy hitters like Condeleeza Rice and Beyonce choose  “Ban Bossy” as the slogan for their movement?  “Bossy” is a pejorative expression and a negative character trait, usually gender specific, used most frequently  to describe a type girl. In our society, girls are said to be bossy if they demonstrate any type of leadership.  Girls’ self-esteem is said to be wrapped up in being liked and accepted and they therefore avoid doing things which may result in their not being liked. For example – they don’t step up for leadership type roles for fear of being labeled “bossy”. This mindset follows them from school into the workplace. The creators of the Ban Bossy campaign  strongly discourage the use of the word “bossy,” and any other words which disparage leadership-type qualities in women. Hence the “ban” on the word, not the girls.

Since the introduction of the Ban Bossy campaign, there has been a very robust conversation in the media, and although the slogan itself has met with derision, the consensus has been to embrace the word “bossy”  rather than ban it. Like others, I cringe at the ill-conceived title but support the message.

Clearly, the time has come for a serious campaign that encourages girls towards leadership positions.  Parents and educators routinely see pre-teen and teenage girls avoid leadership-type roles in school and extracurricular activities where they often eschew a run for class office, infrequently raise a hand in class, and consistently allow themselves to be interrupted if and when they speak.

As  a former middle school teacher and the mother of two daughters and,  I can personally attest to the accuracy and prevalence of girls not putting themselves forward. Furthermore, studies have consistently documented this disquieting/disturbing phenomenon. For years, skilled classroom teachers have been using a variety of methods to ensure that gender bias is absent from the classroom. In fact, one of the requirements in attaining National Board Teacher Certification is to regularly videotape your own classroom practices to observe (and change) any tendencies you have, as the classroom teacher,  to call on boys more than girls,  to allow girls to be interrupted and to analyze the type and manner of feedback given to students of different genders.

It’s important for people to know that the Ban Bossy agenda is based on a legitimate concern and that there has been serious and sustained effort to remediate it for many years, at least in education. Of course there is still much work to be done. I hope the campaign can keep the heat turned up on this issue, moving the conversation forward into all spheres where girls and women interact with boys and men. As Lucy might say – You can’t be right (or wrong) if you don’t voice it.

Two blogs that I enjoy reading have also weighed in on Ban Bossy. Broadside  and I Am Bossy.


Right Where I Want to Be

L Field

L Field

When I abruptly quit my teaching job a little over two years ago, I had no plans other than to keep breathing and never ever work for someone else again.  After a lifetime of rushing into things without serious consideration, I determined  to keep a weather eye out for anything that could possibly derail my resolve to let things pass me by and just keep breathing easy.

Over these two years I’ve opened the door to a few commitments which interestingly are things I liked doing in the past. There were always reasons why I abandoned these activities. Looking back I suppose a lack of determination to work through the challenges (where was  James Clear when I needed him?) or permitting other perceived needs to take precedence.

These days I’ve been taking photographs, writing short stories, essays or blogs and riding and working with horses. The one new thing to which I’ve committed is staying active (everybody knows that sitting is the new smoking) and changing my eating habits.

Lucas at Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue

Lucas at Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue

The other day I was at Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue in Mt. Airy, Maryland where I volunteer.  My fellow volunteer and I turned out the recovering rescues that are stabled in the Recuperation Barn and mucked out their stalls, we did the same at the Main Barn. Around noon we were over at Beetz field waiting for the Clydesdales, Belgians and cross-breeds to finish up the meals we had prepared for them, which includes their meds and supplements. I looked beyond the high field I was standing in, across to the Quarantine field. It was also meal time for the thin new arrivals to the Rescue. A staff member was overseeing their introduction to the nutrition they required. It has been a pretty severe winter around here, but that day, standing on top of the hilled pasture, the sun warmed the air to a pleasant 35 degrees. The silence of wide open spaces, which is becoming familiar to me as I spend more time in these places, was broken only by a soft wind and the sound of rescued horses, safe and comfortable, head first in their feed buckets.

Atop that field, I instinctively exhaled. I was right where I wanted to be.

Rain at Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue

Rain at Gentle Giants Draft Horse Rescue

West of Here

My husband and I flew into Bozeman International Airport (yep, INTERNATIONAL airport), picked up the rental and headed straight for Yellowstone National Park. An hour later we were driving through the spectacular landscape of the world’s first national park.

Near the North Entrance of Yellowstone NationalPark, area of Mammoth Hot Springs
Near the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.
Aspens  Yellowstone National Park
Aspens in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park

Anyone who has spent any time in Yellowstone knows that the best way for a beginner to see wildlife is to follow the crowd. The scopes and telephotos of this group along the North Road were focused on a black Gray Wolf. The folks from the Yellowstone Wolf Project had identified it as being about 4 miles away. Serious equipment was required to catch a glimpse.

Searching for the Black Wolf
Scoping out the black Gray Wolf

All of a sudden someone yells out “Bison coming your way”.

Bison Crossing
Stampede! Bison crossing the road.

Looking for Grizzly, but satisfied with Wapiti (elk to the rest of us).

Elk Atop a Ridge
Elk atop a ridge.

Finally we see our first Grizzly. It was old Scarface, a long time resident of Yellowstone with a storied past and a ravaged face to prove it. One woman announced that she had seen him four years before and thought he was on his last legs at that time. Word quickly spread throughout the Park that there was a Grizzly at Petrified Tree and for two days Scarface drew crowds of admirers. He had found a fresh carcass and claimed it. The old Grizzly lay on top of it, ate it, slept on it, eliminated on it, watched the tourists from it and then ate some more of it until there was nothing left but bone. The park ranger said Scarface was too old to fight for his food these days, so he knew a good thing when he found it. Even prone and at his advanced age, Scarface commands respect. At one point a black bear lurked in the nearby woods, but thinking the better of it, waddled off and left Scarface alone.

Word got around about a Grizzly at Petrified Tree.
Word got around about a Grizzly at Petrified Tree.
24 year old Grizzly named Scarface.
Twenty-four year old Grizzly named Scarface.

Very pleased with our sightings for the first day in Yellowstone, we headed back to our cabin at Mammoth Hot Springs. It was wonderful waking early the next morning to the stillness of a dusting of snow.

Cabins at Monmouth Falls, first snowfall
Cabins at Mammoth Hot Springs (taken with my iPhone).

The weather changes fast in Yellowstone and by mid-morning we were on the trail of another Grizzly (or at least the trail of others looking for a Grizzly).

Stopping to See the Grizzly
Stopping to see the young Grizzly between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris.

This young grizzly made it easy for us to watch him. He was eating in a meadow about 50 yards from the road seemingly without a care in the world.

Grizzly in a Meadow

We still had not seen a moose. It appeared that moose sightings were hard to come by in Yellowstone this year. “If you want to see moose,” we were frequently advised, “go to the Tetons.”  Our plans had us heading south, but not that far south. Late the second day, we headed down to the Hayden Valley and the stunning Lake Yellowstone.

The refined, Victorian ambiance of the historic Lake Yellowstone Hotel, with its stunning vantage point overlooking Lake Yellowstone, was a marked departure from our first night’s accommodations at the cabins. There had been a time in my life when staying at such a grand 19th century hotel, taking in the landscape from the inside, would have satisfied my requirements for “being out in nature.” It occurred to me while we were at the hotel that I’m changing out of that person; I belong elsewhere, now. Walls and windows are creating an interruption or a disturbance in the field between myself and the outside landscape.

The Sitting Room at Lake Yellowstone Hotel.
The Sitting Room at Lake Yellowstone Hotel.
Lake Yellowstone
Lake Yellowstone

After spending two great days in Yellowstone, it was time for a short visit with our friends in Bozeman. A few of us drove out to the Spanish Peaks of the Madison Range of the Rocky Mountains. Ted Turner’s Flying D Ranch takes up 114,000 acres of this awe-inspiring landscape and although we weren’t invited in, parts of the ranch can be viewed from the National Forest Service road that borders it. We spent a couple of hours up there; doing what we always do – look for wildlife and take photos. Once again the Montana weather turned and as dusk approached, a cold rain settled in as the descending fog and mist softened the contour of the Spanish Peaks. The enormity of this unfamiliar  landscape left me with an isolation that I can only describe as electrifying.

Ted Turner Ranch in the Spanish Peaks, Gallatin Range, Bozeman, MT
Ted Turner Ranch in the Spanish Peaks, Madison Range, Bozeman, MT

On Monday, my husband left Montana for a meeting in Seattle. I planned to go up to Lolo, MT, around Missoula, and do a little horseback riding.  A friend decided to come along and I’m glad she did. I knew my trip would be enjoyable with her because she is a Montanan but more importantly, she is one of those people with loads of ideas and energy. On our way to Missoula, past Butte, she suggested we get off the highway and head towards Dillon, MT (Patagonia Outlet!) to see the “ghost town” of Bannack in Bannack State Park.  Bannack was the first capital of the Montana territory and was a successful mining town, as well. Today Bannack is owned by and is being authentically preserved by the Montana State Parks Department  – “Gold Town to Ghost Town”.  The day we rode into town, Bannack was quiet and we had the place to ourselves. We ambled down the planked walkways, peeking through the original glass panes and going inside the saloon, schoolhouse, jail and hotel.  Throughout the year special events take place there, in particular the very popular Bannack Days, when “the old ghost town comes to life” in a two-day celebration of life on the Montana frontier. Bannack Days is held the third week-end each July.

Jail in Bannock, Montana Territory, 1870

This is the Bannack jail with a sod roof and Aspens in the background.

Hotel Meade flanked by one of Montana's ubiquitous Cottonwood trees.
Hotel Meade flanked by one of Montana’s ubiquitous Cottonwood trees.

As we continued our ascent towards Lolo, the dry air we had enjoyed around Dillon disappeared and the temperature dropped.  The road became icy as we drove through the pass along the Idaho-Montana border. Good thing the weather caused us to slow down because we rather suddenly came upon a cow moose in the middle of the road. Her calf was back in the woods off the road.

Finally, the elusive moose sighting, Idaho-Montana border
Finally, the elusive moose sighting along the Idaho-Montana border.

We arrived in Lolo MT and  Dunrovin Ranch after dark and knocked down a few Rainiers before sleep. Next morning it was off for a horseback ride up into the Bitterroot Mountains. Dunrovin is an intimate ranch with comfortable, modern, fully furnished and stocked cabins. There are special programs throughout the year, a very friendly and accommodating staff and a myriad of animals. One of the aspects of the ranch that owner SuZan Miller takes great pride in is the osprey nesting cam which allows people from the world over to monitor the nesting osprey and chicks. There are also cams of the barn and the horses. I can always catch up on how Whiskey, the horse I rode while there, is doing. Great Place!

We  crossed the Bitterroot River with the horses. What an interesting sensation it was, too.  The trick is to not look down!

Our trail ride took us to a beautiful vantage point in the Bitterroot Mountains.
Our trail ride took us to a beautiful vantage point in the Bitterroot Mountains.

I hope you enjoyed seeing my photographs and reading about my time – well spent -“west of here.”

Robert Macfarlane, author of The Old Ways – A Journey on Foot, succinctly and cogently reminds us that “landscape has long offered us keen ways of figuring (out) ourselves to ourselves….. (and how) …. particular places might make possible particular thoughts.”

Remembered Landscapes

Red Boathouse Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

Red Boathouse Lake Winnipesaukee, NH

In 1967 I was spending  the “summer of love” at sleep-away camp  in the Poconos with an undiagnosed  case of mononucleosis. One afternoon my cabin mates and I set out to swim to the raft in the middle of the lake when half way across I realized that I wasn’t going to make it. I began to panic.  I can only describe the smell and the taste of the lake water that afternoon as some horrible combination of the liquid in canned vegetables and rust. The still water of the lake actually felt like it was working against my staying afloat. It seemed there was only one  way to go…. Since my rescue that day I’ve had no interest in lakes, preferring instead the salty tasting and swift, often tumultuous moving water of the ocean.

Nonetheless, some of my best friends are loyal lake people. I’m even aware that up north, in places like New England and  the Adirondacks, vacationing at a lake is very popular. These lake vacation places, I’m not surprised to learn, are referred to as “camps”.

Unlikely as it seems, last week I drove eleven hours north to do what was for me, the unthinkable: to spend a few days at a friend’s camp at a lake in New Hampshire where I was to see for myself that “camps” are not synonomous  with “camping” and, in fact, the comforts of some of these lakeside “camps” belie any  definition of  the word. More importantly, I was to discover that there exists a lake in New Hampshire that holds a pleasant pull on me.

Lake Wentworth New Hampshire 5AM

My friend’s camp on Lake Wentworth  has been in her family since 1905.  Upon entering the bright modern great room, the lake came into view. After so many hours in a car, I was helpless in resisting the pull of this inviting body of water. As I moved onto the screened porch, a mere ten feet from the lake, I finally exhaled. I quickly made up my mind: I would be sleeping out on that porch during my stay. There we stayed for the remainder of the afternoon, enjoying a Smuttynose or two. As the sun set we  headed into town for dinner.

Wolfeboro, New Hampshire seems a pleasant lakeside town of courteous adults and well-behaved youth. Shops sell fine art, books, boutique chocolates and a lot of high end moose-inspired merchandise. In keeping with the traditions of New England towns, the center of town has a church with a clock tower and a bandstand.  After dinner that first evening we strolled towards the bandstand where a group of musicians was entertaining  both young and old with popular songs  the words to which everyone seemed to know. The band wrapped up at 9:30, thanked everyone for coming and within 30 minutes the main street of Wolfeboro was rolled up. Like I said, all very well-behaved.

Vacationers, renters and second-home-owners, come to Wolfeboro all year long for  Lake Winnipesaukee.  It offers a range of traditional summer water sports, and since the lake freezes, there is snowmobiling and ice-fishing – as well as skiing in the nearby Belknap Mountains – during the winter.   The Romneys have a camp

Lake Wentworth

Lake Wentworth

along the shore of this lake and the scene in On Golden Pond in which the character played by Henry Fonda capsizes his boat with his on-screen grandson was filmed here. I know this because the captain of the  Winnipesaukee Belle explained it all to us on our  tour around the lake (and a lot more). That’s another blog entry, though.

Back at the camp, the sleeping arrangements were very agreeable. The screened porch was mine all mine. Each evening I fell asleep to the sound of the lake lapping against the shore and the gentle clatter of small boats and rafts knocking against each other in time to the rythym of the water. Sound carried over the lake in an unfamiliar but comforting way  and  I caught bits and pieces of conversation from neighboring camps as I drifted off to sleep.  One evening it rained and the gentle lake rhythm was replaced by a more steady, insistent  tapping.  Several times each night  I was awakened by the haunting calls of the several pairs of loons that lived on Lake Wentworth.  After a few evenings sleeping on the screened porch I came to realize that the loons had several different calls that communicated different things.

On my last morning, the loons woke me. All that was required of me that morning at 5;15 was to open my eyes. I was greeted by a still weak early morning sun rising over the mist covered Green Mountains and soft shades of pink coating the placid surface of Lake Wentworth. This was a sight I had only seen in

Wolfeboro, NH

Wolfeboro, NH

photographs. I was torn between lying there, appreciating how unique this moment was for me or getting up and trying to capture this beauty in my own photograph.  Being as I have a web site and business cards that both identify me as a photographer  I got my camera. I have posted a few of the best images here but none captures the serenity of that place and that moment.

I would like to be able to tell you that my relationship with lakes came full circle during those four days at Lake Wentworth, that I finally completed that aborted swim to the raft from nearly 40 years ago. Certainly the opportunity presented itself as you can see from the photograph above. But that would not be true. In fact, not expecting to use it, I didn’t even bring my bathing suit with me up to New Hampshire. I did happily splash around in the lake like a kid, in a T-shirt, with my friends and for the time being that’s how the story ends.

Lake Wentworth Dock at Fern