"As I hiked, the terrain slowly shifted from desert to forest, the trees grew taller and more lush, the shallow stream beds more likely to have a seep of water, the meadows dense with wildflowers. There had been flowers in the desert too, but they'd been less abundant, more exotic, preciously and grandiosely festooned. The wildflowers I encountered now were a more common bunch, growing as they did in bright blankets or rimming the shaded edges of the trail. Many of them were familiar to me, being the same species as or close cousins to those that prospered in Minnesota summers. As I passed them, I felt the presence of my mother so acutely that I had the sensation that she was there; once I even paused to look around for her before I could go on." ****************************************************
This book has me yearning to hike the Pacific Crest Trail like I never have. It has me aching to start my memoir and wishing I could write with Strayed's raw intensity. Pam Houston calls her a 'deceptively elegant' writer and that's about as close as I can come to a perfect description. Like all good writers, she makes it look easy, which it is not.
Strayed's memoir about losing her mother, finding herself lost in wild behavior and then on the wild trail speaks epic volumes to those of us who have lost mothers and grown up without fathers and then had to strive to find out who we are in the world without them. Her voice, (then 26) sounds and feels familiar like the young voice in our own heads and we get to enjoy the trail experience along with her; every ache and pain, every mountain top view and exquisite wildflower, as well her fear and the constant need to reinforce and teach herself how not to be afraid as a woman alone in the wilderness and, in reality, in the world.
This from Cheryl's visit to an astrologer:
"I was not going to nod. Everything that had ever happened to me in my whole life was mixed into the cement that kept my head perfectly still at the moment an astrologer told me that my father had infected me. 'Wounded?' was all I could manage. 'Yes,' said Pat. 'And you're wounded in the same place. That's what fathers do if they don't heal their wounds. They wound their children in the same place.' 'Hmm,' I said, my face blank. 'I could be wrong.' She gazed down at the paper between us. 'This isn't necessarily literal.' 'Actually, I only saw my father three times after I was six.' 'The father's job is to teach his children how to be warriors, to give them the confidence to get on the horse and ride into battle when it's necessary to do so. If you don't get that from your father, you have to teach yourself.' 'But--I think I have already,' I sputtered. 'I'm strong--I face things. I--' 'This isn't about strength,' said Pat. 'And you may not be able to see this yet, but perhaps there will come a time--it could be years from now--when you'll need to get on your horse and ride into battle and you're going to hesitate. You're going to falter. To heal the wound your father made, you're going to have to get on that horse and ride into battle like a warrior."