A Woman's Path
edited by Lucy McCauley, Amy G. Carlson & Jennifer Leo


Travelers' Tales, 2000. ISBN 1885211481.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 08/22/2004

Anthologies/Collections; Nonfiction: Travel/Adventure; Nonfiction: Nature/Place/Environment

Story Circle Network sponsored a Schmooze, a day of writing about how travel can inspire our muse. To get myself on track, I read A Woman's Path, and I could not have picked a better book. It includes essays by published women writers covering "Awakening," "Ways of Journeying," "Transforming the Self," "Walking the Shadow Side," and "Emerging into the Light." The authors include Anne Lamott, Maya Angelou, Diane Ackerman, Natalie Goldberg, Linda Elderbee, Kim Chernin and many more.

Spunky women have traveled in wondrous countries and written about their travels since the 19th century. Freya Stark bounced between Italy, the Middle East and the Orient writing letters and books in the mid twentieth century. The women in this volume write of travel in modern times—enriching, humorous, courageous, and sometimes very difficult. The editors write in the introduction:

"In the act of moving from one place to another, somehow a space is created where, if we're lucky, a moment of clarity alights on us and offers a window into our natures, and the nature of everything around us."

Cherilyn Parsons writes of working in Mother Teresa's orphanage in Calcutta. She calls Calcutta the "most intense, horrible, wonderful place in the world." She writes of how it feels to hold and feed a dying child. "It was easier for me to jump alone on a bus to a remote village—an act which many people would call courageous—than to travel the inner territory where my heart might be broken and I just might grow up."

Maya Angelou writes of a trip to Ghana where she finds woman after woman who looks so much like her that they had to be family. Those women could not believe that she was an American Negro, and they wept with the knowledge that despite the trauma of past generations, they were still kin.

In "Ways of Journeying," Kelly Booth writes of "El Maestro's Magic Water" and tells of a healing ceremony, a physical ordeal in Peru, with vividness and humor. Others write of swimming with dolphins, sweat lodges, visiting villages hanging on the sides of mountains and living in a kibbutz.

Transformation is the theme of the next section. Woman after woman writes of the very, very small and the enormous ways that travel becomes pilgrimage and awakening. Kim Tinsley writes of her experience in Marrakesh, "a kindness and graciousness that defied boundaries of religion and language." And later, writing of Gnawa music from Morocco, "I don't think I ever appreciated the degree to which our sound environment influences our ability to cope with the trials of life."

All in all, a delicious book. Not all journeys are to faraway countries. Still if we find ourselves in a different place, be it physical or spiritual, the journey has helped us stretch and grow and has given us the capacity to become more whole.

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