I feel exhausted and exhilarated by it in equal measure and am completely in awe of Cheryl's courage and honesty. She looked her broken life straight in the eye and didn't flinch. It was a pilgrimage borne of grief and confusion that ended in a new human emerging from the trail, dirty and battered but with a new will to live.
In the book, there is a quote from Mary Oliver's famous poem The Summer's Day: "Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" That stands out for me as the whole point of her journey. It allowed her the space to answer (or at least ask) the question and start again from a place of integrity. We all get lost and sometimes we need to step outside of our lives and do something majestic -- like walking 11,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail -- and sometimes it's enough to read about someone else doing it.
These past few days have removed me completely from the city and my day-to-day life and allowed me to smell the clean mountain air and gaze across magnificent vistas to feel transported and freed somehow to make better choices. My thoughts feel more decisive; there's a clarity I didn't have when I started reading. It was very cathartic to travel those miles through the wilderness and end up precisely where I started, only now my view is different, changed by Cheryl's experience, generously shared.
She uses the word miigwech at the end, which is an Ojibwe word meaning thank you "but more -- its meaning imbued with humility as well as gratitude." It's what I'd say to Cheryl if I ever met her.