I woke up in the wee hours this morning and like a minor epiphany, it occurred to me that I am always fascinated by the same sort of woman. As I laid awake thinking about my most recent heroine, it came to me.
It started in the early eighties after I saw the movie Out of Africa. I was smitten with the character played by Meryl Streep - Karen Von Blixen. She was exactly the sort of woman I admired. Strong, quirkily beautiful, courageous, adventurous and hopelessly romantic. She was a writer, a business woman, an advocate for the local people and a poet all wrapped up in one dynamic woman. The movie was based on her memoir written under the pen name Isak Dinesen.
She became Baroness von Blixen-Finecke when she set off for Kenya to marry her Swedish second cousin, Bror von Blixen-Finecke in 1913 at the age of 27. She wrote of her 17 year adventure in British East Africa (as it was known then) in the memoir published in 1937. Her years there were not without hardships including her struggles with her coffee plantation, her failed marriage, the shame brought upon her by her philandering husband and her less than popular views of how the Kikuyu ( the local tribespeople) should be treated.
She was determined, tenacious and fiercely independent.
In Baroness Blixen’s descriptions of the Africa she knew, a note of mourning for this irretrievably lost world frequently colours her stories of magnificent isolation and the redemptive qualities of a life lived in partnership with nature.
The quote above struck such an enormous chord with me when I read it, as I have always felt that no matter how difficult your life can get, the "redemptive qualities" of nature can eventually heal even the deepest wounds.
After her, it took years before I came across anyone who even came close to her ideal, until I read Eat Pray Love and Elizabeth Gilbert joined her in my mind and heart. She did not face the same sort of adversity, but she had followed her gut and lived her truth and it required courage and soul searching and several missteps before she came out the other side knowing her most authentic self and is/was determined to live that way.
Joining Karen and Liz currently in my list of admired women is Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild. Another brave and courageous gal who faced her demons and came out stronger after hiking the Pacific Crest Trail following the death of her mother and her own downward spiral of self-abuse. She stepped off the beaten track and endured hardships of an entirely different nature alone and unprepared. She did it with nothing more than sheer determination to face herself and consequently save herself.
All three of these women have resonated with me on a level that feels eerily personal, as though their stories are now carried within me and have become a part of me. I may not be alone in this considering their stories are available to anyone who wishes to explore them, but it is clear to me that their adventures have had an impact on me. They have buoyed me when I felt like I could not move forward and put my obstacles in perspective.
My epiphany regarding these women and my admiration for them was interesting in its simplicity. They seem like me. Or rather, I seem like them. And by loving them, does that mean that for once and for all, I really love me? Have I finally forgiven myself? Don't get me wrong here. I am not comparing the scale of their accomplishments with mine. No. What I am comparing are some of their traits. And not just the admirable qualities. As courageous as they were they could be stubborn. As adventurous as they seem, they were oft filled with fear. As romantic as they were, they failed as often as they succeeded with love. As strong as they were, they could be weak. They faced financial adversity as well as abundance. They questioned their motives as often as they felt assured. But in the end, they were all perfectly imperfect.
And it was OK.
More than OK.
So, I will leave you with this, one of my favourite poet's quotes, another voice that often rises up in me at just the right moment...