A woman solo hiked the PCT. This is her engaging rite-of-passage memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. I could hardly put the book down, strong was my desire to gobble up every trail and survival detail. I love hiking, along with exploring the backcountry on horses, and primitive camping. While my own two feet have traversed sections of both the PCT and the AT (Appalachian Trail), I can only, thus far, live vicariously through those who have actually “thru-hiked.” Cheryl Strayed didn’t exactly hike through, having started in the Mojave Desert in California and finished at the Bridge of the Gods connecting Oregon to Washington, but she covered 1,100 miles on her weary, blistered, nail-less toes, having started out ill-prepared and untrained. That’s nothing to scoff at, by any stretch. That’s gutsy.
**potential spoilers below**
The writing is sharp and the storytelling vivid. I trekked into the pages assuming I could relate to the author as I, too, lost both my parents. I know what it’s like when your family unit sort of disintegrates due to grief; when the strong root is dug up, or the anchor is hoisted leaving you feeling adrift. Yet, I couldn’t grasp the author’s perspective on a number of levels. From her form of recklessness and promiscuity, to feeling a life force—though the size of a grain of rice—recognizing she was pregnant, and then using “I got an abortion” and “learned how to make dehydrated tuna flakes” in the same sentence. I couldn’t comprehend why her editors kept in the dalliance with “rad” man, as it had nothing to do with the story and certainly didn’t move it along. I didn’t understand why she unreasonably obliterated a solid marriage to a great guy, or how she expressed pain. And the incident with her mom’s horse, Lady: horrid. Choices, choices!
Still, her descriptions of nature when compared to her state of being proved starkly eloquent. When she hadn’t seen another human for weeks. When silence was tremendous. When she expressed that she was nothing to pebbles, leaves, and branches, yet they were everything to her. “Everything but me seems utterly certain of itself. The sky didn’t wonder where it was.”
When she did have encounters with other characters, they were interesting. Clyde’s words moved me while he said he didn’t believe in reincarnation when Cheryl had asked him. He said, “I believe we’re here once and what we do matters.”
And Cheryl’s mom having cancer that consumed her before she reached 50. I understood the tragedy of it. And the painful truths that came also from the mom’s mouth, about how she never got to conduct her own life—to be in the driver’s seat. She always did what someone else wanted her to do. The most uncomfortable sentiment, “I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife. I’ve never just been me.” Sorrowful authenticity is a killer.
So, you see, Wild was a weighty, ugly-beautiful book. Hard to rate. It’s like life, you take the good with the bad—which I suppose is the theme of this chronicle. Although I’m a different-thinking person from that of the author, with a contrasting belief system and grief display, and I didn’t quite see in my mind a “healing” take place, I admire Strayed who “strayed” and wrote for us a compelling memoir to digest.
About an hour from where I live, carved within the earth’s oldest mountain chain is a caving system consisting of one of the largest caverns in the eastern United States. Within Tuckaleechee Caverns is the most sensitive seismic station detecting earthquakes, as well. There are so many incredible things about this experience. I happen to live in a region boasting of caves to explore! Since I’m fascinated with caves and had family visiting, you guessed it, we went caving.
We also road the Lookout Mountain’s Incline Railway with a 72.7% grade, one of the world’s steepest passenger railways, a mile long, and also about an hour from where I live (lucky me). But because I’m afraid of heights and needed both hands to hang onto something/anything solid, I didn’t snap any photos. Fortunately, I got into conversation with several vacationing Brits, which distracted me from the dizzying open air and potential fall from the heights to my death. Give me tight, dark spaces to wiggle through in the bowels of the earth any day. But put me on top of the mountains and I turn to jelly. The Brits have no idea, but they saved my life. :D
Some members of my family are quite shy, so no photos shared here. My cool son who is my very own minor had little to say in the matter, so there he is, living large in the cavern.
We capped the week off by motorcycling. Between the humidity, dampness of that particular cavern (ceiling drips, waterfalls, pools and streams), and helmet head, my hair fell very flat. Don’t judge me. :P
Because caves take my breath away, they have made appearances in several of my novels. In fact, my latest thriller takes place exclusively in the subterranean world. Time for a shameless plug for REMNANT:
“Today I thought I’d cave dive, instead opened the world to the dead. Now I’m where I do not belong and don’t know how to get back.”
#Giants #Nephilim #Underworld
The wish to purge my life of anything unused seems to have grown. In fact, the older I get the stronger the desire. With a fresh new season finally here, so is my amped version of “spring cleaning.” Some might already call me a sort of minimalist. I dislike untidiness. I have but a few boxes of keepsakes. Mostly, I don’t like to hang onto things – unless they’re books – and I don’t care for storage. Yet I could stand to give away more: items that swallow up space and weigh a person down. I’m fond of space. Minimalism is not completely what I’m living, but it’s something I fancy.
These days I find I’m reflecting much about certain friends from way back when, a painter and a musician, each successful in their chosen field, who had married and chose an uncluttered life. Instead of getting swept up in accessible opulence they held simplicity in high esteem. I truly valued visits and dinners at their place, not only for their exuberant friendship but for their lifestyle that left an impression on me.
With unencumbered style, these friends of mine enjoyed a unique yet modest home, along with a small selection of fine things, each item carefully chosen and having its proper place. Everything had a purpose and if something lost its purpose they got rid of it. Even their studios accommodating artwork and instruments reflected organization and tidiness. I suppose the only lavishness rested in the privacy they held behind a tree-lined buffer. For other than a few rows of fruit trees, a path through the forest, and a small yet lush vegetable garden, the spread of acreage was untamed, tucked away from the public, and magnificent.
My mind churns today as I think about them, my minimalist friends. I should have followed their example a little more closely over the years. But, if I can start at one little corner and work my way out, perhaps I can achieve what’s true to my inner nature. The prime notion here is that bigger isn't better and accumulation of “stuff” isn't all that important. People are. Relationships, events, making memories…taking pleasure in the moment, in the satisfaction of just existing. Spring has arrived. Enjoy the simplicity.
“We shall make beautiful musicks togezzer…” as spoken by one of my favorite characters, Pepé Le Pew. In observance of Valentine’s Day, here’s a clip of the, dare I say, true nature of love? (Chuckle).
I flew back ad lib to my hometown in the Pacific Northwest. The circumstances that pulled me there weren’t pleasant, but I had pleasant moments. Such as bumping into people I hadn’t seen in years with whom
I had exchanged books, rode horses, frequented art galleries, chuckled over bad poetry readings (usually our own), played music, and danced; individuals who had filled my existence with distinct richness in a well-recognized area for the arts that doesn’t view an individual as a loner but a way of life.
It was during an enlightening conversation over cappuccinos with my dear sister under the sunny, happy-faced (and, okay slightly creepy as if they had ears) sunflowers that towered over us in the café’s garden when it dawned on me. Nostalgia isn’t just homesickness. Nostalgia is evidence
of reality. One I can now appreciate at a whole other level.