Santa Cruz Good Times

Sunday
Jul 05th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Outward Bound

ae wildA young woman loses everything, then finds herself on the Pacific Crest Trail

She was only 22 when she lost her mother to cancer, fell out of touch with her remaining family members, and began to drift from her husband. A few years later—after a rampage of extramarital sexual escapades with men whom she had no feelings for, her subsequent divorce, and a fling with heroin—she made a spontaneous and unlikely decision: Cheryl Strayed set out to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. Alone. With no cell phone or GPS, (this was 1995, before the days of smartphones), and with only her ill-fitting boots and a backpack that weighed nearly as much as she did.

Seventeen years later, Strayed recreates her 1,100-mile journey from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington state in her stunning new memoir, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.”

Part travel book, part literary memoir, part wilderness adventure story, the account explores more than Strayed’s physical trek along the trail. As she makes the difficult journey, the book follows her personal and spiritual passage to a place of healing.

Strayed will read excerpts from “Wild” at Capitola Book Café on Thursday, June 21 at 7:30 p.m. After the reading, she will answer questions from the audience and sign copies of the book.

“I always say memoir is not the form of ‘what happened to me’—a story about the summer I lost my leg, or my trip in France,” Strayed says during a telephone interview. “Memoir is about the meaning that you bring to the story of what happened.”

That’s one of the reasons she waited so long to write about her hike and the events that led her to set out on the trail: With the years that passed in the interim, she gained perspective. “Until I matured as a writer and a person, and could really look back on what happened during that part of my life, I couldn’t have made it the book that it is,” she says.

ae WILD2The story was worth the wait. Fermenting in her mind like honey mead, Strayed’s unflinching honesty and sharp-hewn voice could only have strengthened with the passage of time. She artfully weaves her heartbreaking backstory into a suspenseful narrative, peppered with colorful characters she meets on the trail. But the years that have passed raise a question about the nature of memoir itself: How did she manage to remember this time period so vividly?

She kept a journal throughout her entire journey—the only book, other than Adrienne Rich’s “The Dream of a Common Language,” that she didn’t rip apart, give away or burn. Strayed says she pulled heavily from this journal to reconstruct the narrative. When she had questions, she contacted fellow hikers she had met along the way to make sure their stories concurred.

But for some of the details, Strayed says she relied on the skills of a writer to flesh out the scenes more fully. She explains, “You just do that thing that memoirists do. When describing a conversation with someone you met on the trail, do you know his hair blew across his face at that moment? No. This is my subjective memory of events. I remember it to the best of my ability and conjure the atmosphere as I remember it.”

Alongside conjured imagery, there are many hard truths revealed in this story. Strayed reveals details about her abusive biological father, painful scenes with her siblings, and stark accounts of intimacy with men in her life. Though she’s changed the names of many people in the story, she didn’t create composite characters. All the people and events are drawn from real life.

For Strayed, the possibility of betrayal was the most stressful aspect of telling the story.

“That’s the hardest part about writing memoir,” she says. “There is a lot of stuff that’s not in the book. There are stories I could never tell about my family. I wrote about my stepfather with a lot of love, but I also had hard things to say about him ... I never wanted to hurt my (biological) father. I don’t think you can write out of revenge or punishment.”

That being said, she maintains that the most important thing is that “you still have to write the story. What I needed to tell you was about me—that’s always the thing with memoir. You really have to search your soul and ask yourself: Why am I going to share this with people? Does it deepen the reader’s sense of the main character? Does it give important information or forward motion? If it doesn’t, what purpose does it serve?”

Ultimately, this story can be read like a hero’s journey and Strayed says that writing it so many years later offered a sense of healing.

“I never set out to write with that purpose and yet I always get it,” she says. “In writing, you’re forced to look deeply at life and the human condition. I was forced to look deeply at my younger self. When I’m writing I relive the scenes moment-by-moment, and I experience a second forgiveness for myself.”


Cheryl Strayed will read from "Wild," answer questions from the audience, and sign copies of the book at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 21 at Capitola Book Cafe, 1475 41st Ave., Capitola. For more information, call 462-4415. Photo: Joni Kabana

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Boards Are Back in Town

More than a century after a famed trio of Hawaiian princes first surfed in Santa Cruz, their redwood olo surfboards are returning to the Museum of Art & History

 

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

Saturday, July 4, is the 239th birthday of the United States, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence (the U.S. astrology chart has Aquarius moon—freedom for its people, by its people). Cancer, a liberating and initiating sign, is the “gate” where Spirit enters matter. Cancer receives and distributes Ray 3 (Divine Intelligence) and Ray 7 (new rules, new rhythms, new free nation under God). Cancer represents an intelligent freethinking humanity that can and must create right economics for the world. This means a policy of sharing, an opportunity for the U.S. when Venus (money, resources, possessions, etc.) retrogrades July and August in Leo (the heart of the matter). The United States has a unique spiritual task for the world: to lead humanity within and toward the light, accomplished by its people who must first awaken to this task, learn discrimination and be directed by the soul to assume the Herculean task of spiritual world leadership. Let us review the first words of our Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.” Let us form that union together. The following is a review of the spiritual tasks for each sign. Read all the signs. They all apply to everyone.  

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 3

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Lunch is Packed

Picnic basket lunches from Your Place, plus smoked chili peppers, and new owners at Camellia Tea House

 

What would you like the Supreme Court to rule on next?

Raising the minimum wage so that those that are in poverty now can have a higher standard of life. Greanna Smith, Soquel, Nanny

 

Bruzzone Family Vineyards

Bruzzone Family Vineyards is a small operation run by Berna and John Bruzzone. Starting out a few years ago making only Chardonnay, they eventually planted Pinot Noir on their extensive property and now make this varietal as well.

 

Ty’s Eatery

Pop-up hooks up with Santa Cruz Food Lounge for healthy comfort food