I was in the Lost Sierra last spring. It is only ninety minutes west of Lake Tahoe, but it’s a very remote region. It's a hauntingly wild and beautiful place with pristine forests, John Muir's echo everywhere, and a spiritual energy so rich and supple you can rub it into your skin like juniper lotion. I was there to ride Downieville and Quincy, two famous trail networks on my Mountain Bike Hit List that are literally in the middle of this nowhere. Magically, between the two towns, sits an exquisite aberration: a luxury resort named Nakoma. Nakoma is a spectacular Frank Lloyd Wright creation–a grand, woodsy, fairy-tale palace hiding in the middle of the deep, dark forest. In keeping with my travel motto 'Dirt by day, lux by night' I must admit, I was insanely delighted to discover Nakoma.
Right away I was enchanted with the word 'Nakoma.' I am a nut about words. I collect them, especially if they are from another culture and express something not available in English. As pervasive as English is, we don't have nearly enough words to express our full range of nuanced human emotions and intentions. Look at the word love–we need A LOT more ways to say that one. Nakoma is Chippewa in origin. Through some sleuthing, I cobbled it into a rough amalgam of my favorite life themes: 'Great spirit' 'I do as I promise' and 'We will stand together'. Nakoma made me swoon with happiness–what a word!
My intention right away was to embrace this gem with a deep reverence for its Native American roots. I figured Frank Lloyd Wright's meticulous white wake was safe enough to follow since he'd kept the idea of Nakoma alive for all of us to share. I wanted to shape 'Nakoma' into a macro love bomb: combine the complementary ethos to form a muscular new word that could be grasped, referred to, and useful in the service of our collective higher good. This is why I love new words so much–they can make seemingly disparate feelings and elusive notions suddenly tangible and available for our higher expression.
1. Great Spirit: Nakoma had me at spirit–this one is pretty straight up, I am a Spirit Scout. For me, great spirit is an attitude, a state of mind, a heart's truth. It is energy and attraction and momentum. Spirit energy is a trillion dazzling bits of light pinging off of the human exchange board in search of our tribe, in search of our kindred spirits. It is the energy guiding us towards the people who enrich and encourage us, for whom the words truth and trust and integrity are paramount.
2. I do as I promise: is as universal as 'My bond is my word' or the beloved Four Agreements 'Be impeccable with your word'. We know instinctively who is accountable and who has our back. We know who is going to show up each time they say they will. We know to whom we can confide our deepest, darkest, dirtiest stuff and they will not betray our confidence, nor will they judge us. These are our soul-people. If you have even one person in your life like this, you are wealthy beyond dreams. Do you have multiple folks? Then you are Nakoma-blessed and in the service of raising each other's sacred consciousness.
3. We will stand together: I have long felt that integrity is the fundamental value, the fertile soil that hosts and grows our human connections. Without integrity, and the trust that word conveys, it is impossible to sustain the bounty of love, loyalty, or much else for the long-term. Integrity is the fruit of being deeply rooted in oneself so that we can genuinely nurture others at the soul level. Consistently having each other's back and wholeheartedly witnessing the lives of our loved ones is how we build trust and bond.
Rilke said 'I live my life in widening circles.' With the commodification of friendship via social media many of the deep, gratifying elements of authentic connection have been diluted into something cheap and easy. What does being friends with someone even mean in today's culture? I submit it is time to find fresh ways to embrace that which is essential for friendship: a deeper bond that is not for sale or for mass consumption. I offer up the word Nakoma as a path to deep, true intimacy—as in, you are my Nakoma.
‘I have zero tolerance for the chit-chats in the cheap seats...’
How does one go about creating deeper, more satisfying connections? In its simplest form, we make good Nakoma by practicing good Nakoma: treating others as we would like to be treated. Quantity is not quality and sharp discernment is essential. Here's a quick party test: if you want to know about somebody, ask them about someone else. Listen very carefully. The response is a strong indicator of what you can expect from this person going forward. You will hear, and your gut will feel, what you need for your discernment detector to kick in. Maya Angelou said it best: 'When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.'
While I have suffered through my fair share of relationship drama over my sixty-plus years, I have also been inordinately blessed with a beautiful bounty of soul sisters. Socially I'm a bit of a paradox–a natural connector who prefers to go it alone much of the time–yet I always make time for my Nakoma Women. Mostly it is adventuring in nature or cooking and eating delicious food. I find this is when the beautiful magic of true bonding happens most profoundly.
'In friendship let there be laughter and the sharing of pleasures.' –Kahlil Gibran
Friendship–first and foremost–is for FUN, and aren't we lucky that there are lots of wonderful people to enjoy in this great, big world. These folks are generally our second and third social circles–pals, relatives, and acquaintances. Committing to a conscious first circle relationship, Nakoma-style, requires practice and patience, and it yields next-level rewards. This is the safe (and sometimes scary) place where we can really let our true selves be known–burps, beauty marks, warts and all. For me, this is when discernment is vital: does this person understand and share my Nakoma values? Is this friendship a safe, fertile place for us to grow together?
Think about taking a friendship inventory and then listen very carefully to your gut. Once we awaken to that which is not serving us, we simply can't unknow it. All relationships have a cycle. We are not destined to permanently bond with every soul we like. It is not a mark of our goodness when we hang on to what no longer serves us. People flow in and out of our spirit paths for the purpose of helping us to evolve to our greatest good; it's okay to let go sometimes. It’s all good.
If someone makes me laugh, supports and challenges me, and radiates positive energy, then they may be on my Nakoma path. Only time and experience together will tell. If the energy is critical, inconsistent, drama-driven, or disrespectful–then I respectfully decline. Also, I have zero tolerance for the chit-chats in the cheap seats. Gossip and disparagement of others is poisonous and a direct reflection of the person perpetrating it. I send active love to these suffering souls, and invite them to step into the actualization arena. It is a wonderful place to be surrounded by wild-hearted women with a zest for challenge in the Third Age. Generous, vulnerable spitfires regularly willing to risk the scary stuff: pride, ignorance, shame, comfort, fear, prejudices, heart strings—in their creative pursuit of intellectual, physical, and emotional growth.
‘You were once wild here–don't let them tame you.’ -Isadora Duncan
I am attracted to the irreverent hearts: the lady rebels, the tom-girl jocks, the passionate nerds, the badass bitches, the F-bomb-throwers. All of these astonishing, insatiable women—wonderfully nasty, nasty women that make me laugh my guts out and stretch as a person. These are my people. As I grow older and bolder I need their juicy hijinks and their divine feminine energy all the more. I crave their passionate hearts—spunky rabble-rousers, quest-queens, and truth-tellers. I take genuine pleasure in the full powers of their quirks, strengths, and spirits.
These women create beauty out of thin air; they are kindness on steroids; they heal with magic fingers; they hunt for the desperate and the dead; they resuscitate joy; they connect hearts even when theirs may be lonely or broken. They know when to speak the naked truth, and when to bite their tongue. Their feminine wisdom manifests as confidence and it is wonderfully contagious. They embody grace and dignity. They are no-nonsense and divinely intuitive. They ignore perfection and celebrate excellence. They learn the most when they are falling down. They are smart and savvy and loving beyond measure.
BITCH: Babe In Total Charge of Herself
My badass bitches double down on life with sass: we don't tolerate disingenuous crap or mean people; we smoke ciggies (even if they are the fake ones from the party store); and we are always packing books, paper, paint, and opinions. If we don't like the answer to something, we'll keep asking the question. When we cry together, we hold hands and plunge into a sparkling pool of vulnerability. We leave no one behind.
Adventuring in nature is our highest expression of joy. Locked and loaded for every season, our cars carry full quivers of skis, bikes, racquets, helmets, headlamps, kathoolas and Rx Bars. We hike in -3 degrees because we can; because it makes the other hard stuff in our lives seem a little easier. We live life quietly eviscerating our comfort zones as we steadily tramp towards elderhood. We strap our fears to the shotgun seat and permit them passage–but we never, ever let fear take the wheel. We steer the story to the high ground, most especially when naysayers threaten to undo any of the goodness. Narrative is our power—when we speak our unique truths, we are heard. Our word is our bond. My tiger-hearted goddesses, my divine divas, my Nakoma Women—you are my braving tribe who always has my back in the Lost Sierra of life.
My Nakoma Creed
In Nakoma let there be a melding of the mind and a mating of the hearts. May the laughter be uproarious and fill our beings with good will and joy. May Nakoma awaken our senses and help our spirits to soar. May it shelter us in the storm even as we dance in the eye of the hurricane. Nakoma, sweet nectar of life, may we be blessed with your loving spirit many times over.—KMD
I’d love to hear from you—feel free to send your comments to me!