I finished Wild by Cheryl Strayed this morning.
Doug took the kids to school so I could have a few minutes before the Valentine’s Day parties descended. I read this book because a friend told me it was worth reading. And of course now I want to add hiking the PCT to my bucket list—something Doug and I can do together once all our kids are up and away. Is that something that’s unique to me? Or do other readers all of a sudden find themselves considering things because they read about it in a book?
So I probably won’t actually hike the whole PCT. But I would like to get my backpack out of the garage, dust it off, invest in a new pair of hiking shoes and go on a few trips with my family while we have this time together.
When I added this book to my Goodreads list, I noticed some reviewers giving one or two stars to the book. Curious, I clicked on their comments. Keeping in mind that the author/narrator is a real person, I found their comments hateful. There are a myriad of ways to respond to grief. It takes something out of us—and it’s unique to the individual. Grief is an impossible emotion with which to empathize. And I am so thankful to the author for being honest about the depths to which her grief took her.
She didn’t gloss over anything—not the way she hurt herself or others, the drugs, or the affairs. She lost. She grieved. And here, she recounts her journey out of that darkness—a tangible journey along the PCT. I found her experience moving, full of falls and re-starts. Untrained, and full of desperation, she did something many of us would never attempt.
I wanted to share some of my favorite quotes I found along the way…
I ached for the shelter of my tent, for the smallest sense that something was shielding me from the entire rest of the world, keeping me safe not from danger, but from vastness itself.
As close as we’d been when we were together, we were closer in our unraveling, telling each other everything at last, words that seemed to us might never have been spoken between two human beings before, so deep we went, saying everything that was beautiful and ugly and true.
As if everything gained was inevitably lost.
Perhaps by now I’d come far enough that I had the guts to be afraid.
The kindness with which it was given blunted the heat and tedium of the day.
That was my father: the man who hadn’t fathered me. It amazed me every time. Again and again and again. Of all the wild things, his failure to love me the way he should have had always been the wildest thing of all.
They opened up inside 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. 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 didn’t want to hurt for him anymore, to wonder whether in leaving him I’d made a mistake, to torment myself with all the ways I’d wronged him. What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? … What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?
Her death had obliterated that. It had obliterated me. It had cut me short at the very height of my youthful arrogance. It had forced me to instantly grow up and forgive her every motherly fault at the same time that it kept me forever a child, my life both ended and begun in that premature place where we’d left off. She was my mother, but I was motherless.
There was only the stillness and silence of that water: what a mountain and a wasteland and an empty bowl turned into after the healing began.
He hadn’t loved me well in the end, but he’d loved me well when it mattered.
Where was my mother? I wondered. I’d carried her so long, staggering beneath her weight. On the other side of the river, I let myself think. And something inside of me released.
There was no way to go back, to make it stay. There was never that.
Thank you, I thought over and over again. Thank you. Not just for the long walk, but for everything I could feel finally gathered up inside of me; for everything the trail had taught me and everything I couldn’t yet know, though I felt it somehow already contained within me.
Have you read Wild? What did you take away?