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Week 1: Anila Haq

As part of Prime Time for Women I decided to do a hiking challenge I’m calling, “A Year of Hikes: 52 Weeks, 52 Women, Same Trail.”

You see, I have a hunch that what we experience and what we learn on life’s journey depends on who we are traveling with. I plan to hike the same section of the AT every week for a year but with a different companion to see if my assumption is correct. Over the course of the year, I will have the opportunity to observe the change of seasons, note the variations in temperature from freezing cold to stinking hot and different weather conditions from snow storms and high winds to cool sunny days to unbearably hot and humid.  I’m looking forward to all of that plus tracking the angle of the sun as it shifts in the sky from January to December, identifying trees and wildflowers as they leaf out and bloom and the seeing wildlife up close in their natural habitat (birds, deer, bears, snakes, chipmunks, and skunks.). If I’m being honest, I don’t really want to see all of the critters up close. I prefer to see the snakes, bears and skunks from a safe distance!

Mostly, though I want to experience different perspectives as I walk and talk and learn from other women. I am looking forward to listening to the stories of my hiking companions because I believe every woman’s story is worthy and deserves to be heard. When women really listen to each other and hear beyond the words, amazing things happen…lives are enriched, perspectives are broadened, and personal growth occurs.  I want all of that!

During the first week of 2021, I hiked with my dear friend, Anila Jee. We talked a little bit about politics but mostly about our children, grandkids, spouses and family holiday traditions.  We also talked a lot about our religious upbringings, Anila is a devout Muslim, and I am a former Catholic who is now a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church.  Though we have had different faith journeys, we share a strong conviction that all people reflect an aspect of the Divine.  It’s interesting that despite growing up in different cultures and being raised in different faiths, we agree that spirituality represents an experience of the Divine while religion is the vehicle for expressing that experience.  Anila, who has a passion for finding common ground, suggested exploring Europe and Asia with women from diverse backgrounds. I loved the idea! Such a trip would allow the women a chance to see new countries, share their stories, understand and celebrate their differences and rejoice in shared experiences as women.  Once, the world opens up again (whenever that will be!) Prime Time for Women is going to work with a travel company to do just that!   Get ready to pack your suitcases!

As we hiked, Anila caught me up on her daughter, Maheen, who I hadn’t seen since she was the featured poet on an episode of Prime Time for Women TV.  Maheen is a committed activist and an incredibly talented and passionate poet.  She writes and shares her poetry as an expression of her faith and her desire to heal the world.  Just talking with Anila, it is obvious that her daughter is a source of great joy.  And for me, it was such a joy to hear about Maheen’s recent marriage celebration. I wish I had been there!

Though the angle of the January sun was low in the sky, we marveled that we could feel its warmth by the stream at Warner Hollow.  It reminded me of a recent camping expedition with my husband, which I shared with Anila. At the end of my story she replied, “Great, when can we go camping.”  She is absolutely fearless!

Since the stream was low, we climbed on the rocks for a while, took a few pictures and then began the return hike back to where we had left our cars.  It was a great way to begin a new year! I’m wishing everyone who reads this blog the same good fortune I had on my first hike: “May you walk with friends on your journey through life. May your companions empower you and enrich your life.  May you be ever more aware of the beauty around you.”

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