…on the Pacific Coast Trail – Cheryl Strayed
I recently watched, ‘Wild”, the movie based on a woman, Cheryl Strayed, who hikes over 1,000 miles on the Pacific Coast Trail (PCT) from Mojave, California to the “Bridge of the Gods” at the Oregon/Washington border. She embarks on this trek to heal the wounds about her failed marriage, years of reckless behavior and death of her mother. At times, she is “wild” with fear, grief, and even elation.
As I watched the views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which America’s most famous naturalist and conservationist John Muir, called “the great snowy range,” memories of my childhood crept in. As a child, my family and I enjoyed many hikes along the numerous trails in the Sierra Nevada wilderness. What struck me so ironic was that I bought this same book on tape when I drove up to the same 395 Highway which parallels much of the PCT, to see my mother about 1 month ago. She lives alone in Mammoth – right smack in the middle of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. While listening to the book on tape and watching the movie on a wide screen, I realized how much past pain and grief I was still holding onto.
The visit to my mother was not only one of pleasure but also a necessity due to her rapidly declining mental health. Her once laser sharp memory and judgment have now diminished to difficulty recalling even the most recent events. Gut wrenching pain surged in my stomach and lower back as I watched her face struggling to recall names of family members in photo albums. This pain mirrored just a portion of the pain that Cheryl Strayed must have felt while grieving her mother’s death. Death does not always occur within an instant but can be a slow degenerative process. This is becoming all too clear to me as I watch my mother’s gentle but insidious cognitive and physical decline. Yet, she still smiles and laughs about her life, having just celebrated her 80th birthday. She loves living in Mammoth and walks with a passion every day within the beauty of the “snowy range.”
I cherish Cheryl Strayed’s story as one of tremendous courage and grit. To face her inner demons and churn up painful past memories while plodding along a dusty, poorly laden trail with no one but herself to talk to for over 900 miles, is truly a feat deserving incredible merit.
We are all walking along our own paths, potentially “lost”, trying to find our way and searching for direction. At times, the stress, chaos and unforeseen circumstances that surround us cause us to veer off course and we can gently bring us back by re-positioning our sails.
I hold the best for my mother deep in my heart. Although her brain may be dimming, her heart and soul are shining bright. At 80 years of age, she is finding her own way along life’s path.
Opportunities for growth, change and being “found” are all around us. Rather than pity ourselves for our woes, let us have the courage to face our fears, memories, and demons, just like Cheryl did. Let us make life the most fulfilling and vibrant as it can be!
I encourage each of you to share an experience that inspired you to be “found.”
P.S. In 2 weeks, I will be sharing my new “baby” with you – a project that has filled me with passion, enthusiasm and a new direction in my life. Stay tuned…