Nature Girl 2.0

While always enjoying long walks on the beach or a picnic under a large shade tree, I was not what someone would call the “outdoorsy” type.  Four dear friends and a trip to Tofte Lake Center changed all of that.  

My friends opened a hidden inner door.  Rita, my oldest and dearest college friend and avid hiker took one hand.  Lauri, an avid hiker took the other.  Together they walked me to the door.   Mara, an avid hiker (note the recurring theme) put my hand on the knob and Liz Engelman pulled me through to the other side – the nature side. And thus began a personal transformation.

Liz, a former colleague from McCarter Theatre, had enlisted me to join the TLC board. This meant traveling to the Northwoods of Minnesota for the annual on-site meeting.  Prior to that first trip, Liz warned me the mosquitos were particularly bad that summer.  I think she actually said they were the size of small dogs.  I took her seriously. Armed with maximum strength Deet, No-Fly Zone clothing, mosquito netting, Benadryl, my Epipen - and a fair amount of trepidation - I made the trek.  

When I arrived, Liz and Mara (another McCarter colleague and TLC board member), gently coaxed me to embrace Tofte Lake.  As a TLC trustee, I learned how the power and peace of nature can nurture an artist.  Sometimes kayaking among the lily pads helps the playwright find the answer to the problems in Act 2.  Maybe it is the yoga class in the dance studio that leads the choreographer in the right direction. Whatever the challenge, a solution is often found at TLC - with Liz dishing out a large portion of her own brand of tender loving care. 

It is on this TLC side of the door that the beauty and majesty, the peace and solitude of nature, frees the artist to do her best work.  And while not an artist (but a lover of artists), it freed me as well.  Shortly after my trip to Tofte Lake, Lauri asked me to hike with her in Rocky Mountain National Park.  It was my first time seeing the mountains of the American West, and I cried.  In 2014, to celebrate Rita’s 5-year cancer-free anniversary, we hiked in Mount Rainier National Park.  I thanked the mountain for her life. We continue to celebrate her anniversaries and have traveled to the Everglades, Biscayne, Voyageurs, Cuyahoga Valley, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Parks.  She had best live a long time since we have many more to visit.  On a recent trip to Napa California Wine Country, my husband and I had to make a detour to Pinnacles NP.  My sister and I took a sea plane from Key West, FL to Dry Tortuga NP to snorkel.  My daughter and I hiked among the giant cacti in Saguaro NP this March.  

My adventures continue - and my inner Nature Girl is unleashed - thanks to Rita, Lauri, Mara and Liz and that first trip to Tofte Lake. 

- Kathleen Nolan, Board of Trustees (2010-2013)