Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sounds Like WILD

I finally finally read/listened to WILD by Cheryl Strayed.

Teri gave me the book back in April and I saved it, putting off reading it until I'd have real time to read and focus. This was going to be my inspiration for finally finally writing that creative non-fiction piece I've been dinking around with for a few years.

Waiting was ridiculous because I can neither focus nor pull free time out of my ass. You wanna do something? Do it.

Our library has the audio version. So perfect, I thought, because I could listen to it during my commute. I took along my hardback edition to read during my down time at the office (aka answering phones), in the car while I waited for Sophie to get out of swim team practice and whenever the spirit moved me. Which was often.

At first I was worried I wouldn't relate to the story. Stories involving the pain of losing a parent make me feel like a selfish asshole because my parents are still alive and well enough that I take them for granted even though I should know better. They're my mom and dad. They'll live forever.

We weren't what you'd call close-knit, but we get along fine. My brother and sister and me - our parents raised us with the fundamental idea that the purpose was for us to become productive, independent adults. And so we are.

The more I listened to Strayed's story, the less I fretted that we wouldn't connect. I wanted to hear how Cheryl made it from one end of the Pacific Coast Trail to the other alone. Alone! And she did all this without an iPod, an iPhone or an iPad. The 2012 mind reels.

What stayed with me was the fact that Cheryl Strayed didn't even know what she didn't know about taking on such a monumental hike and still she didn't let that stop her. During a few close scrapes, you see how ignorance may be dangerous, but it's also a great antidote to holding oneself back.

The overarching story of Cheryl's trek was one in which she got lost to found herself. I get that. I've been running from things, especially myself, for way too long.  Get me some boots that fit, a compass for morons and a tent that even a one-year-old could set up and I'd be willing to make a go of it.

When I finished the book, I wanted to email Cheryl (yes, I think of her by her first name) and beg her to turn around and hike back down the trail and to take me with her. With my life feeling rather frayed around the edges, I could use some direction. Maybe some hiking and electronic deprivation would do me some good.

I don't even care that I know jack about camping and I've never been on a proper hike. I've been training for this my whole life. My kids think I'm a pack-mule. While I was unemployed, it was nothing for me to go a few days without a shower. It was a smelly cake walk. Go weeks without shaving my legs, my pits, my toes? Bring it.  I could totally go for simplifying down to the essentials, packing it into something I can carry and disappearing into the wild like a short, bi-pedal hermit crab.

For now I'm roughing it at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead. The opposite of alone, I spent the day surrounded by excitable boys. Dinner was a Krispy Kreme milkshake at Flip Burger followed by a jaunt through the hospitality suite to grab an old fashioned. I haven't climbed a single stair because I'm wearing pumps and the elevator is so very close to the meeting rooms where I'm sitting all day taking minutes and having obnoxious IM chats with my boss. And as if that isn't grueling enough, I'm feeling a little put out that my amenities didn't get replenished.What? No fresh shampoo or lotion? No new shower cap? If I had The World's Loudest Whistle, you can bet I would have blown it this afternoon when I discovered the horror of no new toiletries.

This, my friends, is the kind of adversity that builds character. Okay, so maybe I'll have to title my memoir MILD.

I can live with that.


  1. MILD. Hahaha!

    There are so many different gems to get out of this book. Like you, I see the boldness of going head-on into a situation you know nothing about and getting totally lost in it, seeing it through to the end, no matter the difficulties. Gee, sounds like trying to writing a book.

  2. You shave your toes?

    (Nah, that doesn't bother me. Just kidding.) I think about a soul-cleansing hike every so often, but then I remember about the tent and so on, and no; my body complained for a week when I last slept on a floor thirty years ago and my meds would run out.

    Also, we're headed into winter. No hiking in winter.

  3. I'm with you--roughing it to me is having to use the hotel's hair dryer.

  4. nice....i love hiking....and have though about reading the you sold me on it...haha on your character building....

  5. "Stories involving the pain of losing a parent make me feel like a selfish asshole because my parents are still alive and well enough that I take them for granted even though I should know better. They're my mom and dad. They'll live forever."

    Um yeah. I feel the SAME way.

    "So maybe I'll have to title my memoir MILD."


    You make me laugh, Lisa.

  6. I recently read that it is a bad thing to not have hair on your toes/feet--indicates circulation problems. Congrats on having a healthy circulatory system.

  7. Goddamn, you're a funny chick. I'm cracking up over the hairy toes.

  8. seems like they would replenish the toiletries at a 'Grand' place. instead of a hike you could go on a pout. ..your writing is grand as always.

  9. I also lived as though my parents would be around forever. Maybe they are but not in this dimension. :-(

    When I lived on the west coast a co-worker did the PCT solo. By the end of it he'd come to understand he was gay and would have more fun living in NY.

  10. Swoon. Have I told you lately that I love you? I grew up in the mountains hiking and camping. We were supposed to camp Norway this summer until the temps and rain made me think otherwise and settled for shitty hotels with shared bathrooms that were priced at least four star grand. Been wanting to read this book and now, I definitely will.

  11. I loved this book. Some of it -- her relationship with her mother, her mother's passing -- hit a little too close to home for me, but in a good way. I'll never forget the scene where she sees the fox on the trail, or that dream of her mother's horse with the flowers in its mouth.

    I don't know how she did it, either. The parts that really freaked me out were when she got lost on the logging trails and when she ran out of water in the desert -- these, more than any creepy encounter she had with strangers, are what I find most terrifying. To be alone, without food or water, at the mercy of the natural world.

    Also, I think this book made me gain five pounds -- reading about her starving all the time made me ravenous.

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  13. Now there's one more book to add to the list.

  14. Back from my meeting and so happy to see these comments. Thanks to you all. The one thing I forgot to mention was that I was able to get through Strayed's story of her mother's death with a lump in my throat. But when she described the death of Lady? Ugly crying. Red nose, snot, blood-shot eyes. In the car. I was a mess.

    That was powerful storytelling. I can't even think about it without tearing up.

  15. I would totally read a memoir by you called MILD. Yup, the Lady scene is a killer. Gorgeously heartbreaking.

  16. I would totally read a memoir by you called MILD. And, yup, that Lady scene is gorgeously heart-breaking.


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