As any hiking parent knows, there are days when hitting the trails is an impossible task, i.e. during a severe thunderstorm, while your kiddos are sick, when YOU are sick, when the temperature feels like the seventh layer of hell. Regardless of the reason, it is the perfect chance for you to catch up on an awesome read!
While I was on bedrest during my pregnancy in 2014, I read at least twenty books; some dull and uninteresting and some that inspired and worked my soul. One book, however, stood out above the rest. If you are interested in pop-culture at all, I’m quite positive you’ve heard of the book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.
It is a personal novel, written by Cheryl Strayed. She details her life, from her exceptionally difficult childhood, her struggles with love and sex following a devastating divorce, the loss of her beloved mother, and drug abuse. Most importantly however, she beautifully illustrates how her solo journey on the Pacific Crest trail brought her back to herself and gave her back her life.
I feel that this is a novel that anyone, hiker or non-hiker, could relate to. Even those of us who lead the sweetest lives have had moments that shook us to the core, which made us think “I can’t do this. I can’t go on another day.” Whatever that moment was, we took it upon ourselves to get through it.
There were two particular quotes from Wild that stood out to me that I still recite in my head when the need arises. The first;
“I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story 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. Nothing could vanquish me.”
How powerful is that?! As a new mother I’ve experienced real fear; fear of illness, fear that I won’t be the mother I always imagined I would be, fear that one day, for whatever reason, my son will come to resent me, fear that I will lose him. However, if I allow these fears to overtake me, it will. We enter parenthood blindly. Fear cannot be what governs us. Each decision we make is a choice. I, for one, will choose to be strong, and to be brave, and to constantly do the best job that I am physically and mentally able to do.
The other quote from Strayed that I absolutely adore and couldn’t agree more with is as follows:
“I was amazed that what I needed to survive could be carried on my back. And, most surprising of all, that I could carry it.”
Of course she is physically referring to her hilariously, gigantic backpack that she completely over-packed with completely unnecessary items. But on a deeper level, I think that she was referring to the fact that, during this day and age, we think we need so much to survive; perhaps you cannot live without your weekly pedicures, or perhaps you can’t live without your favorite pair of Jimmy Choos. Pre-parenthood, I definitely had a few sacred items that would have thrown my daily life for a loop had I not had them in my possession. After my son was born, however, I realized how minute and unneeded these material possessions of mine were in the grand scheme of things. In fact, I had written a blog shortly after I had given birth, describing how, even though I was my son’s number one teacher in life, that he was actually teaching me something new every day. Here is my entry regarding this particular subject:
“He has taught me that I can survive without the everyday luxuries that I was used to. Not that I was an insanely selfish person to begin with, but those long luxurious showers, the minutes I spent getting ready in the morning, the internet surfing, hair appointments, spur of the moment weekend get-a-ways, that snowboard I had to buy, etc…all take the back seat to my son. He has taught me that I actually don’t need those things. Who knew?! Were they nice? Of course! Were they a necessity? Heck no!”
Not only was Strayed’s novel a very emotionally moving peace, but if you are nature lover (or not) it will definitely give you the itch to get out onto the trail! Her words describing how nature was her best medicine, her therapy, her gateway back to the sweet innocence that life can be, still ring strong in my memory.
If you are like me and are constantly struggling to find a really good read, I couldn’t recommend this book more. And if you are a nature loving fanatic already, this will surely resonate with you. It empowers. It makes you think deeply. But most of all, it gives hope.
Mary Beth Burgstahler was born and raised in the Southern California Mountains and attended college at Cal State University Monterey Bay where she majored in Human Communications. Having lived her entire life in Wilderness areas, she gained an affinity for the outdoors and outdoor activities, one of the main reasons Mary Beth agreed to moved to her husband’s home-state of Minnesota in June of 2013. Outdoor adventure abounds in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes. Shortly after their move, Mary Beth and her husband, Jacob, welcomed their first son, Jackson, in August of 2014. They now reside in White Bear Lake, MN.