Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wild By Cheryl Strayed

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
With your one wild and precious life?
                     ~ Mary Oliver
                     "The Summer Day"

From the moment I started reading the first words of the New York Times bestseller, Wild, by Cheryl Strayed, I couldn't put it down.
It has truly been a long time since I have read a book so honest and at the same time so poignant in its telling of a compelling personal story.
In hiking the Pacific Crest Trail all by herself from the Mojave Desert in California to the Bridge of the Gods that crosses the Columbia River at the Oregon-Washington border, Cheryl Strayed tests herself physically, mentally and emotionally in ways that many people never do in their whole lives.  And don't ever want do.  Ever.  Talk about pain!  You will never think about hiking boots the same way after reading Wild.
But Cheryl Strayed is a beautiful writer and through her unfiltered descriptions of what she is feeling and thinking, she is able to grab you and take you along on her powerful journey as though you are right there with her, step by step, the whole time. 
As she treks along the Pacific Crest Trail, Strayed slowly finds her inner resources and becomes stronger as she sleeps outdoors, purifies her water (I could feel her thirst), dreams about Snapple lemonade, adjusts to carrying a heavy backpack for miles and miles every day through intense heat and then snowfalls, deals with rattlesnakes and black bears and sometimes just being the only girl on the trail.  As she occasionally meets fellow hikers along the way, I was amazed by the immediate trust and support that most of them felt for each other; as if there was an inner radar that told each of them who was friend and who was foe in the great outdoors.

Grief is what puts Strayed on the Pacific Crest Trail and she describes every raw emotion of it: the falling apart, the sadness, the regrets, the anger, the exhaustion, the inability to wrap your brain around reality.

Just to give you a taste of how Strayed writes, here is a short except:

"There were so many other amazing things in this world.

They opened up inside of me like a river.  Like I didn't know I could take a breath and then I breathed.  I laughed with the joy of it, and the next moment I was crying my first tears on the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail).  I cried and I cried and I cried.  I wasn't crying because I was happy.  I wasn't crying because I was sad.  I wasn't crying because of my mother or my father or Paul.  I was crying because I was full.  Of those fifty-some hard days on the trail and of the 9,760 days that had come before them too.

I was entering.  I was leaving.  California streamed behind me like a long silk veil.  I didn't feel like a big fat idiot anymore.  And I didn't feel like a hard-ass motherfucking Amazonian queen.  I felt fierce and humble and gathered up inside, like I was safe in this world too."

I don't want to give away what happens to Cheryl Strayed in her amazing book so I will not reveal the particulars of her long distance adventure in the wilderness. You must read it for yourself!

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