7.16.2014

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Forever ago, I posted a reviewlette on Wild by Cheryl Strayed, but in looking through my notes, I feel I haven't done the book or my experience with it justice. Right now, everyone is all abuzz about the movie version starring Reese Witherspoon to be released in December. Have you seen the trailer yet?

Yeah. I'll probably go see that.

I read Wild one weekend in January while I sat with our dog, Finn. He had had a seizure and a mini-stroke and was essentially immobile for 36 hours. I sat and read and cried, certain I was watching him die. As I read, I began to dream and plan. I remembered how much I wanted to thru-hike in college and how Joel and I considered it again right after we got married and how we hardly ever hike with our kids. How was this possible? A thru-hike being impractical at this time, I decided (capital D Decision, there) we would section-hike the AT. And for once, we actually followed through with my hare-brained plan. Of course, as I noted yesterday, we are just barely getting started, and there are miles to go before we sleep, but I am thankful for Strayed's inspiring book.

I wasn't losing my mother, but the sense of loss that pervades this book was appropriate for that weekend of vigil-keeping. Finn rebounded that weekend, miraculously, and was able to hike with us last summer in West Virginia. Losing him last July was so very hard for me, but it was nothing compared to the loss of a parent, specifically a mother. A lot of the book deals with Strayed negotiating that loss, and rather than rehash some of that here, I will just include the passages that jumped out at me:
The amount that she loved us was beyond her reach. It could not be quantified or contained. It was the ten thousand named things in the Tao Te Ching's universe and then ten thousand more. Her love was full-throated and all-encompassing and unadorned. Everyday she blew through her entire reserve (13)

The breaking of so great a thing should make a greater crack (18)

She was monolithic and insurmountable, the keeper of my life (20)
There is so much beauty and strength here, and man, that idea of blowing through your entire reserve every day is so - everything - to me. I don't. I know I don't do enough for my children. I hold back and devote myself to selfish things all too often. But I love this definition of a mother's love, and I aspire to something like it.

Once Strayed hit the trail, the loss became a story of things found, and there was so much to hold onto. Here are my favorite bits:

Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told (51)

Everything but me seemed utterly certain of itself. The sky didn't wonder where it was (142)

This passage where she is in a car, after being on the trail, reminded me of the importance of walking, of reducing our speed and increasing our intimacy with our places:
it still felt to me as if we were moving unaccountably fast, the land made general rather than particular, no longer including me but standing quietly off to the side (145)

And this, THIS, about being in the wild. I couldn't love it more:

It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the world, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way (207).

So, have you read Wild? Are you looking forward to the movie adaptation or dreading it? Do you have a story about a book inspiring some big change in your life? Share, friends!

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