A few weeks ago I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed and every night my heart is like a crime scene. The memoir recounts a journey in Strayed’s mid 20s when, after her mother died and her marriage disintegrated, she went hiking the Pacific Crest Trail for three months. The goal was to reawaken her soul, which for a long time had been numbed with all the unhealthy substitutes we find for love.Visit Nichole Bernier's website.
Though the expedition was made out of desperation, it wasn’t carried through that way. Yes, she was physically unprepared and poorly packed — the things she carried in Monster (her massive backpack) would have brought a team of oxen to their knees. Poorly fitting boots made her toenails turn black and fall off. But there’s calm wisdom in her raw unsentimental drive to conquer the trail. It’s as if a remote corner of her unanaesthetized brain was sending out morse code and she had no choice but to listen: You must do something. You must do something to save yourself.
This is living like you have nothing to lose, only to gain. It also speaks to the interpretive power of journals over time; she relied upon hers to create this memoir, decades after the trip. This speaks to me too because found journals are a centerpiece of my novel. Appreciating the level of Strayed’s detail here, brought up from notes and memory so many years later, requires a reader to believe in the strength of a person’s need to document and examine their lives as they’re living it. It might be a difficult leap for someone who has trouble imagining doing this. But not for me.