Wild

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail - Cheryl Strayed

"Nothing did. Nothing would. Nothing could ever bring my mother back or make it okay that she was gone. Nothing would put me beside her the moment she died. It broke me up. It cut me off. It tumbled me end over end.

It took me years to take my place among the ten thousand things again. To be the woman my mother raised. To remember how she said honey and picture her particular gaze. I would suffer. I would suffer. I would want things to be different than they were. The wanting was a wilderness and I had to find my own way out of the woods. It took me four years, seven months, and three days to do it. I didn’t know where I was going until I got there.

It was a place called the Bridge of the Gods."

 

I loved this book. Not because it was an uber-inspirational, amazing story - if it had been like that, I would not have much time on this book at all. What I loved about the story was that it was honest in its bluntness and that it did not glorify grief. Reading, Cheryl's story was very easy to relate to even though I did not walk the PCT. But then, every one deals with stuff differently.

 

So, apart from the description of how Cheryl found a way to deal with the events in her life that overwhelmed her, the book was a funny, smart, down-to-earth reminder of the huge effect that very small things that can have - the pleasure of tasting a favourite soft drink, the warmth of a shower, the feel of tiny frogs jumping on you, the liberation that is gained from not having to wear shoes that are too small.

 

On that note, as I am writing this review, I have my foot elevated in a position where my heel does not touch anything. I have a (massive) blister from going hiking this past weekend and Cheryl's struggle with her boots is all too real to me. So, whilst I am grateful that Wild - despite the publisher's best marketing efforts - was not the over-dramatised, over-sentimentalised account of a Cheryl's journey, I particularly loved that the book managed to reflect on both grief and practical issues of hiking with a sense of humor and humility. I also now want to visit some of the parts of the PCT, but not before my feet are healed from my recent excursion and not definitely not before I manage to read a map. Map reading skills in particular would have been useful last weekend and would have saved me and my friend from an additional 4 miles of detour. Luckily, neither of us was prone to panicking over the fact that we had - temporarily - gotten lost. Learning not to panic is probably one of the the first things to learn about going hiking.  

 

"It was a deal I’d made with myself months before and the only thing that allowed me to hike alone. I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I heard a sound of unknown origin or felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid."