It was an impulse purchase, as most items are from Target...the ones that wind up in the basket that weren't originally on the list. But as I passed by the electronics section towards the dedicated Halloween area, the book Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail caught my eye. Probably because of the big 20% off sticker in the lower right-hand corner. But nevertheless, because I was sure that I was probably the last person on Earth to read this popular, best-selling memoir, I decided to go ahead and put it in my cart.
If you are not familiar with it, Wild is the story of Cheryl Strayed’s 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Coast Trail. The book chronicles her harrowing journey and the personal struggles that led up to her decision to hike the trail with no previous hiking experience or training. Throughout the book, the author describes, in vivid detail, the challenges of her experience on the trail...seemingly enduring one crisis after another. But although Cheryl was traveling solo, she was rarely ever ‘alone’. She was often haunted by painful memories of her past or accompanied by the physical challenges of crippling foot pain, severe hunger and thirst, and exhaustion.
As I followed along in the book with the author’s three-month hike from the Mojave Desert to the Washington border, I couldn't help but think that her story might also serve as a sort of allegory, conveying insights on this journey that we call life. Fighting our way, step by step, up the cragged side of mountain or slogging through the muck and mud. Glorious days where the trail feels like a wide, flat, expanse of wildflowers only to be followed by days of endless, cold rain. I can certainly relate to these real-life trail circumstances when viewed as metaphors for the ups and downs of my human experience.
At one point on the trail, almost to the Oregon border with about 300 miles left to hike, Cheryl stopped for the day to make camp. It was late afternoon and she was eating a fresh peach – one that was left for her by a pair of hikers who had passed through that spot earlier in the day. While enjoying the shade and nice place to rest, she was taking of notice of her surroundings…appreciating both the beauty of her physical location and the kindness of hikers’ gift. And in this moment of gratitude, she reflected upon her journey thus far…remarking that not a day went by when she didn’t experience some sort of trail magic.
“As difficult and maddening as the trail could be, there was hardly ever a day that passed that didn’t offer up some form of what was called trail magic in the PCT vernacular - the unexpected and sweet happenings that stand out in stark relief to the challenges of the trail.”The minute I read this, I reached into my night side table and grabbed a pen. Then I underlined and outlined this entire passage in the book.
November is gratitude month for us here at Focusing on Life as well and we would love to hear from you! Please share with us your experiences in the practice of gratitude. Or how you plan to approach it this year. As always, we are so grateful to you for being part of our community. Thank you for sharing your lives and your art with all of us.
Until next time,