The flag above me is flying straight out. Starched. How can a cloth flag do that? Fly with no ripples.

The wind tears at the hood of my rain parka. Tries to rip open my shell of protection. Tries to congeal everything in its path. I cannot gaze into the gale without shielding my eyes. Tiny bullets, pellets of ice, bombard me. Moments earlier they were spray from raging surf, now they are piercing shrapnel.

I turn my head to protect my face from the wind, from the vision of the big lake. I gaze down the expanse of sand beach littered with ice from the long winter. The lake's twelve-foot surf pulverizes the ice; it is eager to destroy the last vestiges of frozen bondage.

A gust of wind blows me backward several feet. I remember the summer past. Gusts of wind that tried to knock the paddle from my hands, tried to blow my kayak over. The many times Lake Superior engaged this kind of fury, and I was not standing safely on shore.

I drop to both knees, bow my head into my body for protection. In the cocoon of my thoughts, I can hear the tiny pellets hitting my jacket, can hear the deep, steady pounding of the surf. Pik, pik, pik, pik, pik, Boom. Pik, pik, pik, pik, Boom.

This is the symphony of She-Who-Is-The-Biggest. The symphony of She-Who-Changed-My-Life. I bow before her. Humble. Respectful. Grateful to be alive.

I wrote those words on March 31,1993, seven months after completing my circumnavigation of Lake Superior by sea kayak. It is the prologue to the account of that 65-day, 1200-mile journey around the world's largest lake in the coldest, wettest summer in 100 years called "Deep Water Passage: A Spiritual Journey at Midlife."

Life deals us challenges for growing the soul. Sometimes we get to choose those challenges; usually we do not. As a 42-year-old lifelong wilderness adventurer, mother of young children, and Midwestern wife, I knew that extended wilderness immersion would open me to the possibility of profound inner change. It is what I went seeking, and it was what I found. Now a 66-year-old grandmother, I lead wilderness vision quests for women and men.

Some people might say my midlife, self-designed wilderness quest changed everything about my life. I would say it enabled me to claim that which was inside me always - the creativity and courage to launch my next piece of life work.

Ann Linnea is a writer and educator with decades of experience serving the art of relationship with nature and people. Her most recent book is "Keepers of the Trees: A Guide to the Re-Greening of North America."

Ann Linnea recommends these books by women authors on soul searching through adventure:
Annapurna: A Woman's Place by Arlene Blume
No Horizon is So Far: Two Women and Their Extraordinary Journey Across Anarctica by Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen with Cheryl Dahle
Canyon Solitude: A Woman's Solo River Journey Through the Grand Canyon by Patricia McCairen
Gunflint: Reflections on the Trail by Justine Kerfoot
Paddling North by Audrey Sutherland

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