This week’s Quester Corner is by Jan Menzie who I call the Menzanator! She is amazing, and Women’s Quest really did change her life! Read her story below:
This year is my 25 year anniversary of my first Women’s Quest camp. I had no idea how it would change me. What did I learn at that first Women’s Quest camp? Resilience and a can-do attitude. Yoga and meditation are still part of my practice. Colleen told us stories of fairies and magical things. At that point of my life while living in Toledo, Ohio, I didn’t quite believe it all, but I have been convinced otherwise. I experienced the energy, love, and magic that Colleen talked about in 1995. As I have gotten older, when I became a grandmother (four times), one sees the joys of living and life and the magic of positive energy. And I truly believe Colleen is an earthbound fairy spreading joy everywhere…
When I was a kid, I learned the solution to every problem according to my dad. If I was unhappy, perplexed, hurt or felt lonely, I would go to my dad. I would come in the house, and he would yell, “did you shut the screen door?” I would proceed to tell him about my adventures and misadventures. All in all, he listened carefully and then he would say, “Go outside and play.” His advice was not wrong. Outside was the place a kid went to forget all problems, to discover the world, and to problem-solve. There was magic outside, healing magic. What sage advice my dad gave. Keep in mind that this was in the 1950’s. As we grew older, many of us had stopped going outside to play altogether. We were focused on the perfect job, perfect life, the perfect husband, the perfect family, the perfect community. We forgot how much fun and how freeing some childish things could be such as riding one’s bike, running along a stream, jumping in a mud puddle, and just laughing oneself silly.
I was lucky. I married someone who likes to dream and play. To this day, we’re still doing it. We have been married 49 years, and I turned 70 in June. In 1995, my husband attended a swimming camp in Granby, Colorado, and he noticed a sign about Women’s Quest, which was to take place in Winter Park, Colorado. He asked me if I was interested. I loved the idea. Little did I know that Colleen Canon was the personification of “go outside and play,” and all the wonder and mystery of childhood. All the things that I had forgotten when I “grew up”. Little did I know how this one event would change my life.
When camp started on that day, I can still remember Colleen’s laugh and her bouncing blond ponytail. She introduced us to the staff and then gave us the schedule for the rest of the day. There was no television, no anything but the next few minutes, the beauty of the mountains, and the promise of adventure and living in the moment.
The next day we went swimming with an instructor, hiked, ran, did yoga, and learned how to ride mountain bikes. Over the week, I fell in love with the bike and the total experience. I learned to surrender to the mountain, not fight them stiff and scared on the bike. I learned that sometimes I needed to walk the bike when it was too steep or too dangerous for my body or ability. Becky, the teacher, said that it’s not the angle of the hill; it is what your mind is telling you that you can or cannot do. I learned to use the physics of the hill, the gearing on my bike, and my core, and that many of my limitations are in my mind. The beauty of the mountain bike was that I could only think about the next ten feet and where I must go. There was no crisis or outside interference. I learned where to put my feet, focus my eyes, loosen up my arms to act as shock absorbers, how to get up off the seat as I cornered or went downhill. I learned from many of the instructors that negative thoughts expend unnecessary energy. This is an allegory for life itself. That week with Women’s Quest, I learned more about myself and what I could become, and how I have the power to make myself happier and better. Later in the week, we did a ropes course and zip line at YMCA Camp of the Rockies in Granby, Colorado. If we wanted to do this, we had to climb 70 feet up a tree (roped in, but scary all the same), get hooked in, and then across the valley we went. It was unforgettable.
When I returned home, I told my friends about the adventure, and one of my friends asked me why anybody would want to do that for a vacation? Eventually, this friend went to one of Coleen’s surfing camps, and told me she wished she listened to me years earlier. She felt that this camp changed her also — convinced her to go outside and play. She recently in her 60’s became a functional primary care physician.
My mountain-biking adventures are not over, as well as many adventures. I am usually slower than molasses in January and always have been. I have developmental issues on where to place my feet next, and sometimes balance. The biking as well as the attitude adjustment helps this immensely. The bike became part of my school year (teacher for 44 years). Weather permitting, I would often ride 6 miles one way to school carrying a backpack. It is the one thing my former students always ask me: “are you still riding your bike?” They often identified me with the ride…
My husband and I now ride 29 inch hardtails, carbon fiber. Ohio is so flat, but just north of us are a series of metro parks that have challenging mountain bike trails. More than 100 times a year, we put the bikes on the back of the car and go. Over the past ten years now, we have entered a 30+ mile mountain bike race in Traverse City, Michigan at the end of November. It is called the IceMan and is appropriately named. During several of the races, it hailed more than half the time. I have finished these, and I am happy that I did it (keep in mind I was in my 60’s). I can hear my biking instructor (at Women’s Quest) Becky yelling, “Pedal, pedal, pedal” as I go up the never ending hills. One quick note about mountain biking in Michigan: it is often sandy or gravel filled, as well as the rocks, logs, and tree roots. I love it just the same.
We have also taken several European (and one across Ireland) bike tours and were supposed to bike through Germany, Austria, and Switzerland this year, but for obvious reasons did not make it. Next summer.
Over the years, there have been other activities that I dared to try, and I blame Colleen for it! I learned how to snowboard, and my husband and I learned how to whitewater kayak! People ask “are you crazy?” The answer is always yes. In a biking accident four years ago, I tore through my rotator cuff and had to have it reattached. The fall was nothing big and dramatic. My back tire slipped out in a sand pile. I’ve had it fixed, therapy, and I’m fine. What hurt the most was being sidelined. I call my scars “Badges of Honor” or my tattoos. Actually, I don’t have any tattoos, but the scars have a much more interesting story behind them.
This year is my 25 year anniversary of my first Women’s Quest camp. I had no idea how it would change me. What did I learn at that first Women’s Quest camp? Resilience and a can do attitude. Yoga and meditation are still part of my practice. Colleen told us stories of fairies and magical things. At that point of my life and living in Toledo Ohio, I didn’t quite believe it all, but have been convinced otherwise. I experienced the energy, love, and magic that Colleen talked about in 1995. As I have gotten older, when I became a grandmother (four times), one sees the joys of living and life and the magic of positive energy. And I truly believe Colleen is an earthbound fairy spreading joy everywhere.
I have saved all the materials that I got from Women’s Quest, and in the 1995 booklet was this quote that I dearly love and believe: