It was at the writing retreat back in September that I started reading Cheryl Strayed’s memoir ‘Wild’. I was asked to pick a book that was close to my own story and analyse the way it was written. I chose the passage of her mother’s death and read it out loud:
‘I howled and howled and howled, rooting my face into her body like an animal. She’d been dead an hour. Her limbs had cooled, but her belly was still an island of warm. I pressed my face into the warm and howled some more.’
When I finished reading I started crying, and crying, and crying. Waves of my own emotions came out through those tears, that day in the library, in front of my colleague and my writing coach. Journeying deep into the sources of my writing and discovering the way Cheryl Strayed evoked the intensely loving relationship she had with her mother, awoke in me feelings I didn’t know I had. I discovered that perhaps my love journey – The Love Project – was a way to redeem my mother’s life. She’s always given so much love (I am defined to the core by the love she pumped into me from the day I was born and until the day she will cross the river) and received so very little in return. So much of Cheryl’s mother I found in mine and so much of her own sense of being lost had been in my life. In many ways it probably still is. I haven’t completed my journey but in a way I feel I’ve set foot on the trail.
‘Wild’ is the story of her 26-year-old self hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, following her mother’s premature death. But it’s so much more than that. On that trail she finds refuge in the nature around her and remembers and heals her past.
There are many books I love and there are many books I cherish. But there are very few books that make me cry. I cried over passages in ‘Wild’ many a tube journeys. I cried when she read the poem ‘Power’ on her first night on the trail to keep herself from being afraid. I cried when they had to kill her mother’s beloved horse, Lady. But I cried the most when she swallowed pieces of her mother’s cremated bones, so she will always have a piece of her inside.
I am so grateful that my mother is alive and has always been my rock. But I had gone astray. I’d left her and my country behind to look for something elsewhere. I’d spent years looking for the love of a man when the purest form of love had been available to me from the day I was born. I wanted to give her something she never had, without realising that I was everything she’d ever wanted. And when I found what I was looking for, I realised that all I ever needed to find was there already. I didn’t have to find anything because I had never been lost.
There is a lot to say about ‘Wild’. Maybe one day I’ll make a selection of all the words that meant so much to me. But for now, I’ll leave it at that… To find is to seek. To seek is to find. Never stop looking. Never stop loving. And when you think you’re lost, remember that you are also found.