Sunday, June 10, 2012

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

Inspired by Oprah's book club, I recently read this beautiful memoir by Cheryl Strayed about finding herself after the unexpected death of her mother and the crumbling apart of her family by turning to the wilderness. Armed with a "monster" of a bacpkack (weighing more than half of her own body weight) and with a naive understanding of what it would mean to take on such a journey, Cheryl bravely--in a "remotely vertical position"--stepped forward, one foot after the other, for three months along the Pacific Crest Trail.

Parts of the story made me laugh out loud, especially the self-deprecating passages that were so honest and so human. Among these was the moment a Texas longhorn charges her, and in a state of shock, Cheryl shouts, "Moose! Moose!" Other parts of the story made me weep with gut-wrenching, body-quavering sobs. One such moment occurred when Cheryl describes the approach of a fox, and without any intention of doing it, she cries, "Mom! Mom!"

Along with the soul-finding experiences of living and breathing the land and its elements, going weeks without showers and anything but dehydrated food and filtered lake water, the book also demonstrates the spectrum of human interactions. The majority of these are warm and hospitable, reminding readers of the prevailing love and compassion people have for their fellow beings. We also see the sensual, earthy, heady kind of interactions and the ominous, threatening, predator kind.

In spite of the scary and painful parts, the book makes me long to connect with the wilderness. I fantasize about getting book club women from all over the country together to follow in Cheryl's footsteps--maybe not for three whole months (we can't all be Cheryl), but perhaps for one month, if our husbands can manage that long without us.

I highly recommend this book.