I want to lace tight a pair of sturdy boots that will never let me lose my footing. I want to strap on a too-large pack, heavy with only life’s essentials and not the weight of my world. I want to walk headlong down a path, one with twists and turns, and yes, obstacles even, but one with markers so I’ll never lose my way.
I want to go wild.
After reading Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild” about both her physical and metaphorical journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, I can’t help but fantasize about doing the same. Imagine? Imagine leaving behind, if only for a week (a month? three?) the demands of this complicated 21st century lifestyle. The pressure of a 24-7 on-demand world would be lost in the woods.
By hiking into the natural world, I could trade the psychic weight of my overextended life with the physical weight of a pack. I would welcome a bruised back, the chafe of straps along my hips, real cuts and bruises, real blood, in exchange for the blanching of my soul. That kind of pain can’t compare to the psychic assault from underemployment and overtaxing family life, underwater mortgages and overwhelming bills, wars and incomprehensible crime that is our modern life.
One on one with nature, we might remember what it is to be truly alive and how to live true.
Some might call me selfish if I were to leave behind my world of responsibilities. Yet hiking into the woods, I wouldn’t be walking away from my life, but toward it. Going into the wild, experiencing physical pain and discomfort, true hunger, would no doubt break me down, but I suspect it wouldn’t break me. Learning to ration supplies, push myself another mile or five, listen to my soul while alone for days on the path would strengthen my will. I might even remember how to be kind to those I meet in passing, how to give and receive kindnesses when in need.
If each day I were reduced to the bare essentials of life – warmth and cold, food and water, light and darkness, exhaustion and resolve – I might just remember who I am and what I’m capable of. In that quiet place, I might be able to hear the sound of my own voice again.
I suspect I’m not alone in wanting this. In the weeks and months to come, I expect “Wild” will inspire others to go back to a simpler way, to rediscover the wild within.
I hope I’m one of them.