Monday, June 17, 2013

My Very Own Wild

Since school let out I've been reading like a fiend, gobbling up words as if I fear a shortage.  A book a day, more or less, stopping only if there's a chore that refuses to wait, and rising from the couch with a most ungracious, juvenile pout.  I'm compensating for all those school days when I read half a page of a book before falling asleep, waking to find that I'd rolled over the book and bent the corners of several pages as well as its cover.  I love working in a classroom of six- and seven-year-olds, but I'd be lying if I told you that their irrepressible noise did not wear me out.

I read Cheryl Strayed's Wild and find myself exasperated with her blithe, naïve choices that so often forced her into extremely dangerous situations.  She was lucky, and oblivious to her luck in the way only the most beautiful and youthful among us seem to be.  Underlying my irritation is a healthy dose of envy, to be sure, because she hiked the Pacific Crest Trail alone, something few have done, and more than that she used her twenties to experiment and risk, which I never did.

Instead I was hellbent on finding security.  My husband and I both came from broken families (broken family: an apt phrase) and were united in our desire to do it better, to take our own childhoods like Boggle sets and shake them over and over until the cubes settled in a more felicitous arrangement.  I wonder about that, now, as a reason for choosing a life partner.  It seems sad to choose someone who'll remedy a lack: as if you're defeated before you've even begun.

But he and I, we've done all right.


In the space between the last page of one book and the first page of the next, I sit and stare outside at the bird feeder.  I am hoping to spy a species of bird I've not yet seen.  I watch all the birds (blue jays; cardinals; blackbirds; sparrows) line up on the deck railing in some inscrutable order known only to them as they await their turn to eat, and I'm amused.  Easily amused: one of my more congenial traits.

And I remember Cheryl Strayed writing about her realization on her great hike that instead of pondering the profundities of life, love, and loss while taking in the majestic landscape, she was really only concentrating on where her next footfall would land, or where she might next find water, and I think, Maybe I didn't need to seek risk and adventure in my twenties.  It could be that for me with my broken childhood, the greatest risk was the risk I ended up taking: building my own family, a new family, without a healthy model or guide.  That determining to parent children, and parent them well, was in fact my snake coiled and rattling, my bear snorting and lunging, my bow hunter with a thirst for rape in his eyes.  My very own Wild.


karengreeners said...

Interesting take. I just finished Wild as well, but had a different perspective. I did a lot of the kinds of things she did in my own naive and bravado-infused youth. The book irritated me because the scenery became repetitive, but I didn't judge her at all for her choices. For better or for worse, they felt familiar, whereas the strangely secure, stoically responsible person I've become feels like an act.

Sarah said...

I didn't want to judge her, Karen Greeners, but kept finding myself doing so nonetheless. :/

Emily said...

I think that we have many more decades to be irresponsible and wild. We didn't get to it in our 20s, and we can't do it with kids now, but I'm hoping as my kids get older, I can do a lot of what I regret missing a couple of decades ago.

Nicole said...

I like this! I've not read Wild, but I've read reviews of it and it's not appealing to me. I think I've had enough of that kind of memoir for a while. I wasn't exactly a risk and adventure twentysomething either.

Life in Eden said...

I had some similar feeing reading Wild (although I did really enjoy it and recommend it). I'm so much more timid and would never embark on anything like that without TONS of research. Which is why I stay home a lot.

It did make me think a lot about the choices I make and why I make them. Whether they come from pure desire or the safe choice (even in things like a mate). It isn't a part of myself I'm always happy to see. I admired her, even if I couldn't imagine being her.

I noticed enjoyed that point too, about how so often it was just putting one foot in front of the other, regardless of the surroundings. That is life.

Amanda said...

Hmm, haven't read it. I don't often reflect on my twenties because there was a period when I found/put myself into situations that in hindsight I know could have ended my life. None were actual decisions though, more deferring actively choosing my future by piggybacking other people's wild.

Still to this day I struggle to have things that I know that I want for me. My career was an accident, where I live was not chosen deliberately, bucket lists mystify me.

I am happy, but I have always envied people who yearned to achieve things.

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

I don't think there's anything riskier than starting a family. Taking chances with your own life is nothing compared to stepping forward to nurture and protect someone else.

The one area I wish I'd been more willing to take risks is in my career.

Sarah said...

PS I should say that I liked her book quite a lot and admire her writing style. My exasperation with her twenty-something self... well, I think it's a parental sort of exasperation. Gulp.

De said...

Maybe I'll pick it up when I go back to the library. Today I ran in solely to return items, decided I could quickly pick just one book (even though I have a nightstand full of books already), then realized I left my wallet, and therefore my library card, in the car! Leaving empty-handed was disconcerting, even a bit wild of me.

I've been with my husband since 1984. We waited a long time to have kids, and eventually did because we felt settled down. Now that I really know what settled down is, instead of counting sheep when I go to sleep or breaths when I walk, I count the days until my kids are in college or living elsewhere and I can make choices just for me again. Sure, they'll be smaller "just for me" choices, but how I will revel in them. Owww-oooo!

Mary Gilmour said...

Loving the mental pictu re of you at ease and devouring your book. Send the menfolk off to raid the frig on their own and finish your chapter!!!
I pout too.

InTheFastLane said...

I was annoyed with her is much the same way. And also, in a selfish way because I have had hiking the PCT on my to do list for decades and it was like she didn't respect the trail. And also, the wild choices (or lack of choices, more like just doing) that I made early, forced me into a responsible adult/parent early in life and that wild, for me was a very short time in my life and now to do something like the PCT is put off for years, until my kids are grown, I just hope I'm not to old to enjoy the freedom of choice (both physically, and emotionally) when I get there.

Christine said...

Risk and adventure can take all sorts of forms.

I had very mixed feelings about that book.