This week I finished “Wild.” The beautifully written memoir by Cheryl Strayed tells her roller coaster story of her multi-month hike along the gorgeous Pacific Crest Trail — as well as the events that inspired her journey.
The book starts out with 20-something Cheryl reflecting on her life with her mother — discussing her childhood up until the point when her mother passes. She also touches on her marriage, which she said she got into too young. This is the point when she begins her journey.
While there are aspects of the book that I really relate to — one of the big ones being losing her mother, whom she was really close with to cancer — this book should be on anyone’s reading list. After her marriage fails, she gets into drugs and feels lost in the world. She doesn’t really know what she wants to do, but after noticing a book on the Pacific Crest Trail in her local REI store, and the series of events that come right after seeing it, she decides this is what she must do. The first few days of the journey are difficult. The backpack is heavy and her boots are too small, but she moves forward anyway, learning how to live off the land — and live on her own.
When in nature, Strayed slows down, and takes a look around her, proving that the only way to find yourself is to get away from it all and go to what’s calling you. She takes in the scenery, she meets many people — most of whom are wondeful and kind. She gets to know them, and gets to know herself. She has the company of her books, burning them along the way as she finishes them (except “The Dream of a Common Language), and learning to live more simply than she ever has before.
While what she did seems a little crazy — attempting one of the most difficult hikes in existence with no backpacking experience or physical training whatsoever — it was just what she needed to find her way in the world again. From the dry heat to freezing cold slippery mountains, coming into contact with bears to rattlesnakes, Cheryl’s journey is not easy, which makes the ending — when she finally reaches Portland — that much more beautiful. As treacherous as the journey had been, the mountains and nature had become her home. Completing it was bitter sweet, and the simplicity of crossing the beautiful bridge to her enjoy an ice cream cone in the very spot that she would one day take her husband and children to share her story was just such a great way to end the book.
In addition to its message, this book is beautifully written and there are lovely metaphors on every page. It is full of emotion and really tugs on the heartstrings — I cried, got angry, felt happy and laughed throughout the 311 pages. Cheryl does a great job of telling her story, seeming to relate each section of her hike to another part of her life. And in the end, after her long and difficult journey that she realizes she has to leave behind, she’s learned a lot about herself — that her life was what it was, and that was all ok. Things happened for a reason, and life is about the unknown.
“How wild it was to let it be.”