My hips and thighs and ankles hurt. Not from hiking 1,100 miles, like Cheryl Strayed does in her memoir, Wild, but from lying still, in bed, for hours on one side, cuddled up to a smallish human being who aches for my nipple to soothe him into slumber. I often feel alone, and resonated deeply with Cheryl’s descriptions of the necessity to do her trip alone, while appreciating and loving the people she meets along the way. Very much an example of the hero’s journey, and while I’ve heard reviews that state it’s over the top, I felt she lived up to her “Queen of the PCT” title given her by her fellow travelers.
I was introduced to the author by women in the processing group I lead. One suggested we check out the advice column “Dear Sugar,” and that she had also written these things that were worth mentioning. My co-leader said she had Wild on her nightstand and was making her way through it. Fascinated with a story about the PCT, a trail that I once fantasized about hiking solo, too, I knew that I had to read her adventure, if for nothing else than to see, perhaps, a glimmer into what my life could have been like, if I had done a different solo trip than the one I actually did.
I think my three day solo adventure to Ohanapecosh, my childhood campground in the Mt. Rainier National Forest, actually prepared me for those 6 months in India. I wonder if the 6 months in India prepared me for the solo adventure of motherhood. And when I say solo, I don’t meant that I’m not mostly-happily partnered up, or that I don’t have a great network of supportive people around me to watch Potamus or go to coffee with, but because the journey to becoming and embodying motherhood is inside me, a trek I’ve only been on for a short-though-feels-like-fucking-ever time. I am on a trail, and I pass beautiful things, and hard things, and I feel like stopping and resting my feet and sleeping for 1,000 hours, but the drive to keep moving forward, the nudge from the foot in my side saying “feed me mama,” is still there. Like Cheryl, I have my own Monster…her pack, my baby. Love sometimes. Loathe others. Feels heavy and full and bears down on my hips making them ache from swaying to relieve the pressure, if only for a moment.
I am tired after reading this book. I feel like I have so many more miles to walk, through snow and rain and sunshine, and while it gives me hope, it shows me just how hard it actually is. She doesn’t sugar-coat the difficulty, from losing toes, and gaining callouses, to the intangible diffulties of overcoming fear and the cocky unprepared pride she had starting out her journey.
I would recommend it to so many of you. She will go on my shelf of spiritual and literary dashboard saints. Maybe I’ll wedge her between Donald Miller and Anne Lamott, or closer to Elizabeth Gilbert and Sherman Alexie. I feel inspired. I feel like I can hobble to bed and not feel guilty for memory foam or a down comforter, but know that my journey is hard and that is okay, because my journey is different, but that maybe I’m doing it for the same reasons or entirely different ones, and that is okay, too. Maybe, when I reach my destination, my own Bridge of the Gods, I will be healed, just like Cheryl.