Why Embr8ce The Ch8se?
Ch8sing Waterfalls is intentionally changing the narrative of outdoors, forging diversity and healing.
I have been asked a lot lately what is ch8sing waterfalls? And why the eight?
Each time I am asked these questions, it takes me to a special place. A place of reflection of the pain and the passion. It forces me to face reality and recognize the healing. The questions empower me to share, to motivate, and to encourage. They allow me transparency without walls, and evokes unexplainable emotions.
Yes, there is a story. There is a real story and it is mine to tell. Am I unique to the circumstance that birthed ch8sing waterfalls? No, I am not millions of women have suffered my same loss. Each of us have chosen how we process and live with it. This is my story, and as my friend Veronica Very, of WonderofWomen.com would say, "My story is a wonder."
You see, I had no idea this would be my story. I could never have authored these chapters of my life way back in 1992 when my world changed. I would never have dreamt of meeting such amazing women who were both hurting and hungry for healing, like me and who looked just like me. Never in my wildest dreams, could I have written this story. Nevertheless, here I am sharing it with you.
When I first launched this website in 2017, I shared the four blog posts. Today, I revisit them and have revised what was four separate blogs into this one collective conversation. Of course since 2017, though the story remains the same, the depth of the details has expanded, as I have evolved into this space.
Allow me to share with you my story.
I published ch8singwaterfalls.com in 201. it was the beginning of a new chapter for our lives. It was the beginning of a new movement of healing, restoration, and real black girl magic. This original entry was titled as such because the story and the evolution of this website began over twenty-five years ago; however, it was only in 2017 that I discovered my story is a wonder, and worth sharing.
It is amazing how life events unfold and remain untold and many are carried to the grave. Yet somehow the universe saw fit for me to share our story and bring life to it's purpose. The original entry was dated for the date my article was published and shared on BlackDoctor.org, titled: #BLACKGIRLHEALING: AFTER THE SUDDEN DEATH OF HER DAUGHTER, THIS MOTHER HELPS OTHER WOMEN FIND HEALING IN MOTHER NATURE.
The experience and the article proved to be life changing for myself and many around me, and hopefully many I may never meet, yet have touched through the words shared in my truth.
Within the story you will find what brought me to Ch8singWaterfalls, and the truth of BlackGirlHealing with GirlTrek. The story will unfold the importance of being sensitive and in tune with the spirit, of knowing and acknowledging, of hearing and accepting, while living and being.
Ch8singWaterfalls is an experience of greatness, far beyond the act of exploring nature, and far beyond the Sisterhood and togetherness it represents. Ch8singWaterfalls is healing and strengthening the lives of women in an effortless manner of simply being receptive to nature and her healing vices.
Ch8singWaterfalls is just as magical as it sounds. We are a inspiration, on a mission to ch8se as many waterfalls, and experience as many of the beauties of nature as this life will allow.
You are kind of at the beginning, in that this is where we chose to start, and this is where we are. Follow us as we unfold the countless chapters of Ch8singWaterfalls. Each has her own healing and her own story, I am sure you will enjoy.
November 11, 1991 to February 9, 1992 was our angel season. It was the time chosen by God for what later became our spiritual evolution. This was the birth and death of our daughter D’Anika LaShay. The doctors called it SIDS, we called it purposed, ordained, part of HIS plan. Now, it took some time for us to grasp this reality and call it anything other than wrong. We couldn’t see past the hurt. We couldn’t stop screaming why, and passively blaming one another to stop and acknowledge the plan. There is nothing in life that can prepare you to birth and bury a child. Despite what you think, and regardless to what you’ve heard, there is no manual to heal such hurt. There is no 10-step program, and no magical words to bring understanding to the parents of an angel.
Throughout the years, Richie and I found ourselves, both collectively and individually seeking wisdom and guidance. We read, prayed, and we cried, which was a constant series that stayed on repeat or rewind. Spiritually we found peace, yet emotionally, we escaped into pockets of our own comforts, which grew into over twenty years of denial and avoidance.
A few years ago, I began running, broke my ankle, needed something physical to stay ahead of Fibromyalgia, so to Google I went. A search for healthy alternatives to running led me to GirlTrek and Atlanta’s City Captain, at the time, The Captivating Carla Haynesworth Harris. I was immediately enamored with the GirlTrek movement and was elated to find something that all of my friends could do with me. Discovering GirlTrek helped me, to evolve into Dynamic Deb, that’s my GirlTrek, Super Shero name, by the way! I unfolded layers of self, I forgot were there, and some, I truly never knew existed. I found passion and surprisingly, yes, surprisingly, I found a true sisterhood engulfed in certified #BlackGirlHealing. One step at a time, thirty minutes a day and Saturday strolls in my community, that’s all it takes, I thought, hmmmph, I can do that in my sleep. But wait, these ladies, Morgan & Vanessa, are literally encouraging me, Deborah, to be selfish, and commit to walking thirty minutes, for “my” health, is that all? Count me in! I’m down, and let me tell anyone who would listen about this new self-care phenomenon, that was waiting for me to discover.
Though, this inner-city girl, isn’t a strong swimmer, (translation, can’t swim,) I’ve always been intrigued with water, be it, lakes, oceans, rivers, or streams, I love its beauty and respect it’s strength, but mostly I’m in love with waterfalls; they, are my favorite. I find peace, and a special connection with waterfalls. There is a sense of serenity in the trek to the falls and an excitement of reaching the beauty of the falls, that’s irreplaceable.
Richie, my best-friend and husband, began taking me to the falls of Georgia, to help me heal in 2011, and it was “our thing.” It is in the woods, with the sounds of nature and the unmistakable calm of the waterfalls that I found my connection, a natural place of healing, the perfect place of peace. It is there where nothing else matters and all is well with the world. It is there, that I kinda borrowed TLC’s “chasing waterfalls” idea; however, I chose to chase the waterfalls, and not just “stick to the rivers and the lakes that I’m used to.”
In 2016, as I approached what would have been Nika’s twenty-fifth birthday, I began seeing the number 444, over, and over, and over again. I had researched numerology years ago, and knew enough to know that these numbers had significant meaning; however, I didn’t immediately stop to figure out what that meaning was. I was too busy being busy with my day to day. Days would pass, and I would continue to see 4:44, or 444 on license plates, random signs, in print, and many inconspicuous places. After being hammered over the head with the numbers, I paused and researched it’s meaning. There are different interpretations of the meaning of 444; however, the one that I received simply states 444 is a sign that angels are with me, helping and watching over me. My angel is with me and is assuring me in those moments that she never left.
By now, it’s 11/11/16, and I was moving about my morning, oblivious to the date. I got in my 4am, treadmill 5K, and at 4:44 was slightly slapped across the head again. Off the treadmill I go with a heart racing, epiphany to pull out Nika’s baby book. My world instantly stopped, and I was filled with emotion, yet refused to be shook. On 11/11/16, for the first time in 25 years, I realized I had given birth to our baby girl on 11/11/91 at 4:44. For weeks, my angel girl was reminding me of her purpose, she awakened my consciousness to the realization that we never had a chance, nor did we ever celebrate her birthday. I collected my thoughts, sucked in my emotions and proceeded to dress for work, I had to get to work, you know. No time for self -pity, no time to dwell on an unhealed hurt, no time to stop and nurse an open wound. Off to work I go.
At my desk, trying to work, and the numbers cross my path again, and I’m paralyzed. I can’t see, I can no longer speak, once again, I’m overwhelmed with emotions, in the midst of the ugliest, most painful, soul cleansing cry you can imagine. The can’t catch your breath, near hyperventilation type of cry, all with my manager in the office with me. It just uncontrollably happened. It’s a wrap, the “SBW, (strong black woman) cape is off, I’m no longer in control, simply yielding to the healing. My manager, bless her heart embraces and begins to console me. Ya’ll, she was ready to go give my husband the business, she thought he might be behind such a hurtful cry. She was clueless, until I was finally composed enough to reveal the matter.
It was that day, 11/11/16, what would have been the twenty-fifty birthday of our angel, that I personally celebrated her birthday. With my managers help, I left work, and immediately went to the mall and had two bracelets made in her honor. Each with symbolic reference to the number three, to represent the trinity, each with 11/11/91 on it and yes, each with 444 as well. I used to wear one bracelet every day, and the other for special occasions. That’s where and how it all began. That day, I decided, I would celebrate her bEarthday, my way, every year.
Now remember, I’m a lover of waterfalls, and GirlTrek has me trekking and building relationships, I never would imagine. During a trek, I would tell of my treks to the falls, and several ladies encouraged me to put one on the map, and they would join me. I thought to myself, how about we “chase waterfalls?” I know how healing it is for me, so why don’t I share this experience with my Sista circle? And so the chase began.
With black girl healing in mind, I launched the series of waterfall chases that have so far led us from Georgia to Tennessee to Alabama to the Carolinas. We have had five to thirty-nine ch8sers to hiking and healing. We have had ch8ses turn into moments of astounding black girl healing. We had one Sista send the ashes of her father down the falls, while another sent the ashes of her aunt down the high falls, both into eternal travels. The ladies spoke of their love ones, and allowed us in on their healing. It was so beautiful. We prayed and cried together, and then later, laughed and shared a meal together.
That waterfall chase forced each of us to tap into self, emotionally, physically and spiritually. It proved to be both challenging and rewarding, and I believe continues to heal today. We have experienced so much joy, so much healing and complete amazement while ch8sing waterfalls. I am honored and blessed for the GirlTrek movement and for the life changing experiences I’ve earned. I’m mostly grateful for the amazing Sista Circle that’s become new extensions of my family.
We are now in year four of Ch8sing Waterfalls and so much greatness has unfolded. We have maintained our mission of introducing black women to outdoors, to hiking and to the healing power of waterfalls. We have continued to expand our reach. We have set a standard of what it means to #Embr8ceTheCh8se and we subscribe to its principles. We embr8ce the sights, the sounds, the energy, the smells, and the sisterhood. We stop to look up and just be. We are forging diversity and changing the narrative of outdoors. Ch8sing Waterfalls is increasing the presence of #BrownFacesinGreenSpaces one adventure at a time.
For healing, for peace, for inclusion and community, we choose to embr8ce the ch8se. For our sanity and our healing we choose. Because someone said we could not, we do. Because some believed we should not, we shall.
At the time of this publication, it is Monday, May 3, 2021 at 8:15 pm. I have had the most emotionally charged, energetic day, and I am emotionally exhausted. I started this blog several months ago, and was urged to finish it today for several reasons. Today was a beautiful first, I got to meet an amazing couple and some pretty cool friends. I got to tell of my vision and speak of my goal. I got to share my shine in a way I had often hoped to. Today I got a yes! A yes, that has humbled me tremendously. I got a yes that will pivot our trajectory and expand our reach. Ya'll I got another yes!!!
My friend told me to "ride the wave." I am not a strong swimmer, but I am riding. Another friend said "your harvest is starting to pay off." And another friend said that the day we had was "another confirmation that your steps are ordered and you are walking in your purpose and living it out loud." She encouraged me to "Embr8ce every minute" because I was just getting started. I was named a visionary by my friend Veronica Very. Ya'll need to know that I could never in a million years make this up.
This is my destiny, my passion, her guidance, our love.
Yes, My Story is A Wonder!