I originally wrote this article back in July 2012 after I finished reading: Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. I have just come from watching the movie based on the Cheryl Strayed book. I hope you will read this reprint and then the postscript that follows in which I briefly share my review of the movie.
Running With Wild Women!—July 2012
Okay, okay, so it’s just a catchy title that I hope will interest you enough to read on a bit. However, this is about what some would consider as wild women!
In recent years I have read several books that especially interested me. Both were written by, for and/or about women. The first book was Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD (Ballantine Books). It is about the myths and stories of the wild woman archetype and was so interesting to me that I have probably at least 50 pages flagged and I made copious notes that practically amounted to another book. In its over 500 pages I gained wonderful insights to the feminine nature and the quest for meaning and empowerment. This was important to me because I have felt the strong feminine in myself through the years. Sometimes it expresses as the tender, loving nature that is so nurturing in its expression. Other times what I experience is the intuitive and mystical aspect that so symbolizes women to me.
The other book that I just finished is Wild: From Lost to Found On the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed (Knopf). This book is also about finding one’s self, particularly as a woman. This local Portland author set out alone to hike the Pacific Crest Trail which she describes as, “A world that measures two feet wide by 2663 miles long,” stretching from the Mexican border on the south to Canada on the north.
Her almost unbelievable journey would test the endurance and resolve of the hardiest of trekkers. While I could imagine making such a journey, reality quickly sets in with the realization that even in my most fit years I could never have made it. But what is interesting to me is that I could vicariously identify with the author almost step by step. Even though the story is largely about a woman finding her strength in a world of men, it is also about anyone’s journey into self. It is about moments in life that include highs and lows. It is about relationships. It is about doing things that detract from who we really are but with the redeeming actions that put the lessons in their proper place within the life journey as a whole. Finally, it is about empowerment whether you are a woman or man seeking the self.
With the turning of the pages each describing some particular challenge along the path, I would think of people I know who I felt could also identify with this journey, or who I think would at least enjoy the accomplishments recorded day by day. Maybe these thoughts are representative of the old saying that if you find yourself wishing some other person in your life could know this, it is really you that needs the experience. I can accept that, but still, there are people I know and love that I wish could share this journey, perhaps with the realization that we are on that journey together.
So often, particularly in close relationships, things begin to be taken for granted. In that period something is lost in those relationships because expectations begin to diverge almost unnoticed until you find yourself on a different path all together. The author volitionally chose the most difficult path one could imagine. On that path she found herself. She discovered the roots and development of her relationships, particularly with her mother and siblings, but also with others in her life.
Her story telling about the trek is richly enhanced by her flashbacks along the way to events in her life. Most of these flashbacks involve her mother who died before her 50th birthday and the difficulty of reconciling her loss with feelings of “unfinished business.” She also tells us of her drug experiences, her sometimes reckless sexual adventures, her marriage and the divorce that framed another part of the reason for her trek. While much of her journey is done very much alone, there are others she meets along the way. As she describes these meetings, some challenging or threatening, you see how she is able to weave them into the unfolding understanding of her self.
It was a deeply emotional experience for the author, and for me as her reader. She mentioned at one point in the journey how she would not let herself cry. It was also true that there was often not enough moisture in her body to provide tears. When she finally reached the Bridge of the Gods that crossed the Columbia River at Cascade Locks and after she allowed herself the pleasure of an ice cream cone that left her with only 20 cents to her name, she cried. They were tears of exhilaration, not those of exhaustion. She had accomplished what she had set out to do. She had begun not knowing for sure why, but ending it knowing who she was and totally empowered as one of those special wild women!
|Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed|
I have waited for this movie with eager anticipation since I first heard that it would be made. I have followed the author’s Facebook page hoping for news. I enjoyed the movie in most every respect. To some extent I could fill in parts of the story not carried into the film, but for the most part it well documents the author’s journey of self-discovery and acceptance. I hope you will see it, especially if you like the outdoors, but more if you find satisfaction in stories of how individuals bring meaning to their lives.