It’s the early 90’s, late summer. My husband and I are with our kids on our annual primitive camping trip at Forked Lake in the Adirondacks. The regular haze of August has set in, but we’re fully embracing the dog days as we row our boat over to the island and set up the tent that will serve as our home for a few days.
We’ll read books, paint, and build the campfire over which we’ll cook our meals and roast our marshmallows each night.
There are no cell phones. There are no vehicles. There are no distractions. It’s the perfect breeding ground for setting an intention, and fully exploring it.
We did this each and every year, for several. But one year stood out from the rest: The year I took time during our trip to meet Anne LaBastille.
I’d long admired Anne after discovering her work in college and reading her first book, Woodswoman. Here was a woman who’d devoted her life to environmental conservation. She was a 5-foot-1, 100-pound woman who single-handedly worked to save the (now extinct) giant grebes birds in Guatemala; who authored 16 books, more than 150 articles for magazines, and over two dozen scientific papers; who held a PhD in wildlife ecology from Cornell University, where she also taught; who traveled the world as an environmental consultant; and who served as a commissioner for the Adirondack Park Agency from 1975-1993.
But while her list of accomplishments could go on (and on), what amazed me most is how she had the courage, as a woman in a male-dominated field, to define her own terms, and live by them unapologetically.
She lived solo, save for her trusty German Shepherds, in an electricity- and plumbing-free cabin built by herself and a few friends, in the middle of the Adirondack woods. She never went out in public without her dogs or her red-and-black flannel shirt. She had a practiced, yet natural way of interacting with fans at book signings. (I was one of them.)
Yet despite her chosen solitude and her deliberate way of presenting herself -- or perhaps because of these things -- Anne LaBastille created a world-renowned brand and legacy for herself.
It wasn’t without courage. The courage to live on her own terms. It wasn’t without conviction. The conviction to fight for what she believed in, despite its perceived popularity, or lack thereof. And it wasn’t without persistence. The persistence to keep going when things weren’t easy.
Anne’s courage can serve as a lesson for us all.
Whether I’m back on that island living primitively for just a few days as Anne did full-time, or I’m standing behind my easel capturing the magical landscapes of the Finger Lakes en plein air, I know that I, too, can -- and must -- do everything in my power to fight for what I believe in, to choose how I live my day-to-day life, and to live courageously in alignment with the things that matter most to me.
In fact, we all can -- and I hope you choose to, as well.
P.S. In honor of Anne, I just finished “2 Sides of Anne LaBastille”, the painting you see above, celebrating both her love for the Adirondacks and Guatemala.