A memoir bridges the gap between people, finding connection in the ways we are different yet still the same. Wild, the incredibly vulnerable story of a young woman's hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, is such a bridge. We have all had a burden that was too heavy to bear, found ourselves lost in a wilderness of grief, and come out the other side with a measure of healing.
This tale begins with a hiking boot, tragically lost, close to the end of a long and intense journey. A slow-motion boot tumbling from the top of a ledge - down, down, down until it cannot possibly be retrieved. Despair is evident and we find ourselves wondering with true curiosity and concern - what will she do? What would I do? Left to ponder this, we are taken to the beginning of this story. Back to the time a young woman decided to hike through California and Oregon, alone.
When Cheryl Strayed was in her mid-20s, her youthful mother lost a battle to cancer, swift and vicious. A life that had once had some semblance of order and understanding began to unravel. She was no longer able to hold her siblings together as a family or even stay in her own unseasoned marriage. Raw and bitter pain surfaced and played out in adultery, drugs and reckless behavior. A divorce, an abortion, and an impulsive choice to hike the newly completed Pacific Crest Trail tumbled together in a collection of decisive moments.
The history of the trail is woven in a beautiful tapestry of Cheryl's tumultuous past, frayed and ragged present, and hopes for a simple and unadorned peace. The details that stitch this tale together are specific, honest, and raw. Dauntless, candidness is what connects reader and writer. Cheryl develops a narrative that reminds us that "fear, to a great extent, is the story we tell ourselves."
The pilgrimage beyond grief, to our truest selves, is borne of wanting. "The wanting was the wilderness and I had to find my own way out of the woods." Cheryl finished her 1,100 mile-long hike at the Bridge of the Gods in Oregon. Along the way, there were gifts from others: peaches, T-shirts, showers, rides, and escapes from imminent danger, but the gift she gave herself was the adventure, the discovery of the woman her mother had raised her to be, "from lost to found."
Her gift to us?
It is this memoir.
This article was originally published in The Canon City Daily Record.
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