Growing into Womanhood
I imagine I’m not the only one who was terrorized by terrible girl behavior in middle school and junior high. You know, the kind of girl behavior that excludes, ignores, isolates. The kind of girl behavior that seems to support one day, but then leaves you totally alone the next. That type of girl behavior taught me that that there wasn’t enough room for everyone and I became guilty of some of that same behavior at times.
Suzi is the exact opposite of terrible girl behavior. She is the model of grown woman behavior. She is the antidote to feeling excluded, ignored, isolated. Suzi, in a word, is welcoming.
Suzi and Hannah are working together to achieve their Glastonbury-based Women's Circle and TreeSister Grove's goals of gathering girls and women in strength and authenticity; enjoying earth and others through women and earth wisdom; celebrating the land through ceremony; and rewilding, storytelling, tree planting, and appreciating beauty. They are women “working for the future of the earth and the next generation of women.” They are there to welcome both girls and women, to tell them there is room for them.
Let me back up a bit to tell you about how Suzi and I came to meet. I discovered Suzi through TreeSisters’ website. She responded to a message I sent about my plans to embark on an ancestral pilgrimage, which would bring me to England the summer of 2017. I knew she was an active organizer and led a local group through TreeSisters. The local groups are called "Groves" and I asked if she would be interested in sharing her Grove’s stories. Suzi was not only willing to meet, she was also willing to feed me, and welcome me into her home on farm land outside of Glastonbury, UK.
During the time I stayed with Suzi, she was grading exams, supporting two young children, attending school plays, sharing carpool duties, working with her local government to encourage tree planting, planning The Tree Conference, hosting dinner guests, meeting up with her extensive network of friends, and speaking at a local school on the behalf of trees. And she still welcomed me, joyfully.
There's an energy about Suzi that gets a person inspired, impassioned, and energized. And she is never intimidated by or jealous of other’s passion, knowledge, or success. She can juggle many things in a short period of time, and still make space for those in her community. From my limited perspective, her life is one of continuous movement between the emotional, spirit-world and the practical, physical-world, and she navigates that path with a nurturing and welcoming heart.
On the evening I arrived in Glastonbury, Suzi picked me up from the train station and brought me to her home, which was already full of dinner guests. Everyone shifted down to make room for me, a total stranger from the USA. I was given a full plate and a full glass and I spent my first evening among philosophers and poets. I was welcomed into the mix and made a connection with another artist who did a tree-based photography project several years back. It was like I was coming home in a completely unfamiliar place. And, as the socializing went into the night, I felt totally comfortable retreating to “my” room before the other guests left without the fear of being left out.
I was also welcomed the next day when Suzi and I arrived at her friend’s house for lunch. Walking into a group of 10-15 women who all had prior connections could have been one of the most intimidating things to experience, but I ended up having an amazing conversation with a woman whose work crossed my own work as an English teacher to refugees and immigrants. We had a deep conversation about immigration, refugee camps, and modern-day slavery over light lunch and tea. I left feeling comforted meeting other people who are doing hard work for the world. When a group of women decided to go for a swim, I decided to explore on my own and spent time among giant oaks, redwoods, and cedars. I enjoyed my time among the trees without ever once feeling that I would be unwelcome upon my return.
On another day, I was quite exhausted from all the new experiences and so, when we took Suzi’s children to an earth-based, creative learning workshop, I went off on my own and photographed the surrounding farm land. Feeling refreshed, I returned to find a new group of unfamiliar women who had also brought their children to the workshop. I was, again, immediately welcomed. We talked about politics in the US and UK and shared our concerns over the way leadership is handling environmental issues, among many other things.
On my favorite day, I went with Suzi as she spoke to a class at Frome’s Steiner Academy about UK’s forests. She presented information to a group of teenagers about the real implications of climate change while also sharing a process for communicating directly with trees. Suzi shared manners and respect, cultural norms, and ideas for nurturing tree relationships. Experiencing Suzi express very real concerns based on facts from "Combating Global Climate Change: A role for UK forests," while also giving teenagers hope through a direct connection to tree friends was a clear demonstration of her ability to make all feel welcome. And for me, as an educator, possibilities for earth-based education got me buzzing as Suzi and I spent time discussing curriculum ideas.
As we headed home that afternoon, Suzi noticed a different energy about me and expressed this observation. At that exact moment, I had become fully aware of a pattern I had seen repeatedly during our drive – the letters KMP spray painted in red on every block. KMP. My initials. In red. All over town. When Suzi asked me what I felt the significance may be, I shared that I felt they were telling me it was OK to take up space, OK to stand out, OK to be noticed, OK to share my knowledge. I think that terrible girl behavior had also taught me to lay low, act small, and try to sneak by unnoticed.
After spending so many days being welcomed by loads of women, even while talking about deep and, at times, uncomfortable things, I was welcomed. As I was sharing my accomplishments and my knowledge, I was welcomed. As I shared my ideas, I was welcomed. As I was taking little time-outs away from everyone, I was welcomed.
During my time with Suzi, I was growing into the idea that it was no longer necessary to play it small. I could take up space, I could stand out, I could share my thoughts, I could ask people to take notice, and I could still be welcomed. There was room for me.
And there is room for you, too.