If you know me, or even just read this blog, you’ve probably caught on to the fact that I really like to read. Novels, newspapers, traffic signs, cereal boxes…I just dig the act of using my eyeballs to soak in words. However, I occasionally experience a moment of magic when I pick up a book and realize, damn, this speaks to me. And then I can’t put the book down.
This literary possession occurred yesterday when a friend loaned me Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. I’m usually pretty skeptical of any contemporary novel associated with the Oprah conglomerate (James Frey disaster, anyone?), but I fell in love with Strayed’s writing/fighting style within the prologue’s first paragraph.
Much of this is due to Strayed’s reminder of how it feels to be Wild. I’ve recently transitioned to an urban setting and while immersed in the squeaking rail systems, traffic lights, fried food, and clogged city sidewalks the sensations I experienced 2 months ago on my solo, West Coast journey become slightly diluted.
But I spent a good amount of time alone in wide open spaces. While my endeavors were nowhere near Strayed’s 4 year trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, I’ve grown sentimental today for the strange moments I encountered as a young, female wandering alone through unfamiliar territory.
For example, on my way back to Portland from San Francisco, I pulled off in Redding for lunch. One of my beloved pastimes during this journey was eating lunch on my tailgate in the sun. So I was sitting in the grocery parking lot on my tailgate, eating some cheese and a clan of hobos descended on me. They sauntered over and one sat down next to me. He looked at my sleeping bag rolled out in the back and bags of various living necessities. “Man, you have a nice setup here!”
“Yeah,” I said. “It works for me”.
Then he asked if I had a smoke, which I didn’t. “Does your boyfriend?”
“Nah.” I said. “He doesn’t smoke. He’s grabbing some groceries and then we’re heading out.” I lied. On my trip, I sometimes found that being brave meant lying about being alone. These guys were harmless though. They drank from their jug for a minute. Then my tailgate companion got up, said goodbye and he and his friends walked toward the freeway.
At this moment, I realized that these guys didn’t wander over because I was female and alone but because they recognized me as one of their own. A wayfarer with a makeshift bed, sunburn, and infrequent access to showers.
I had a lot on my mind during that journey back to Portland and despite the big life shifts I faced, I felt pretty grounded. I got back and 2 days later decided that I was moving to the Bay. Now I am here. I’ve found a very promising job. I’m making it work. I’m back to showering and sleeping under a roof.
But I read this statement early on in my Wild addiction and think it’s equi-relevant to both my rural & urban explorations.
“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story that we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave.”
I plan to head to Big Sur soon with friends to find some open space. For me, it’s important to strike a balance between natural and city landscapes and recognize how both offer a particular wildness that feeds me.
Here are some photos from my recent city ventures.
More job news coming up. If you’re in the Bay Area and want to join forces for a Big Sur trip or our new Book Club, holla.