Editor's note: Lisa Vaas, former board director of Women Outdoors and member of the Eastern Massachusetts region, wrote this remembrance of Jan Brown, one of the founding mothers of Women Outdoors.
I'm writing this on Monday evening, April 14, 2014. It's a day after we got the news that our dear friend Jan Brown, one of the founding members of Women Outdoors, has died.
Oddly, I'm more happy than sad. I think it's because I searched through my photos and found an album from The 2010 Gathering, and the first photo in that album is one of Jan, doing something that's very Jan. In the photo, she's pinning black and white clippings to a bulletin board in the Sargent Center, to illustrate her fabulous, thorough, rich and deep bibliography of books written by and about women adventurers.
In the second photo, she's turned to look at me, and she's smiling, full bore, one finger still pointing to a photo of what looks like a Victorian-era adventurer, posing with a flock of nearly naked children in what must be a tropical country - Africa, maybe? - and holding one of the children in her arms. In another photo, the subject (and author, maybe?) of "Sled Dog Trails" is bundled up, rosy cheeked in some cold land, but she seems to be looking right at Jan from across the ages, beaming with exuberance and zest, while Jan is turned to the camera, beaming that same energy at us.
How odd, to think that the energy has been extinguished.
But no, I
guess I don't really believe that it has. I think that she lit a flame in many of us. With her kindness, with her hard work with Franny to keep Women Outdoors Magazines coming, with her archival work, with her generous loans of books about women explorers, with the inspiring photo albums documenting the many trips she took with her partner, Margaret, whom Jan lost in the past few years.
Jan was generous with stories, generous with books, generous with her love of other cultures and other lands, generous with enthusiasm.
a glow when I look at this photo of Jan's smile.
Jan, I'll miss you. Thank you for birding walks. I never had the right binoculars, but you shared, and I thank you.
Thank you for the wildflower walks. I'm sending along photos of flowers we found at Sargent Center. May they be a bouquet to lay in your arms.
Thank you so much, from the bottom of our hearts, for lighting us up with your exquisite soul and your wonderful life.