|The Bridge of the Gods, Cheryl Strayed's destination on her PCT hike.|
Why would a woman hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from California to the Washington border fairly unprepared and alone? The movie, Wild, about a woman who did just that, is coming out in December.
Many are eagerly anticipating the film including those who read Cheryl Strayed’s book. I can only superficially relate to the hike. I walked just a little of the Pacific Crest Trail myself and hung out around The Bridge of the Gods on a sunny afternoon. But the book is about so much more. It is about personal struggles and a journey of healing. I CAN relate to that.
But I am wary. I am wary because I can’t figure out if I want to see the movie. After all, I enjoyed the book, the story and Cheryl’s writing style. After reading Wendy Bumgardner’s review (she read the book a couple of years ago), I realize more than ever how an author’s words can lead us to self-reflection.
We overlay so much of ourselves and our own personal stories as we read. Wendy’s reaction, for the most part was negative. She just didn’t like much of Cheryl’s fringy behavior and she didn’t like Cheryl’s lack of preparation for her journey. Wendy is a walking expert and writes tons of articles on walking, hiking and how to be prepared. So I can see where she is coming from.
I just saw Cheryl Strayed as troubled. Well, maybe, tortured. I thought of those I had encountered in my personal and professional social work life who were equally as troubled.
As I read Wild, I thought about my life. As Cheryl pounded her way along the PCT, I reflected on walking parts of the trail in the Lake Tahoe area and, recently, in Oregon. I remembered dragging along after a hot, six mile hike wishing it would end and looking forward to a cool Diet Coke when I returned to my car. Multiply that feeling by a hundred and I might only begin to empathize with Cheryl’s pain.
Throughout Cheryl’s accounting of her PCT backpacking experience, I said to myself over and over, “I would never do that… I would have quit.” But I am not carrying the personal pain that Cheryl carried. And, I am not feeling the need to endure the suffering that Cheryl brought upon herself.
It was through the lens of my own life experience that I interpreted Cheryl’s writings and her struggle. I believe that is why she is a highly acclaimed author. She makes us think, to feel her pain through our life experiences and, make comparisons and try to understand those with different life journeys.
So should we see the movie? A movie may just remove most of the personal interpretations from the experience. They will show us what Cheryl’s toes looked like after hiking in too-small boots. They will show us what her encounter with a fox felt like and show us what happened when she ran out of water. We won’t need to use our own minds and creativity to picture her experiences.
I believe that what I saw in my mind when I read the book has to be more powerful than any actress and director can portray on the screen for us. What I experienced was highly personal and what I experienced of Cheryl as I read was very subjective. When I put the book down each night, I reflected on the strong feelings the author had led me through. While it was her journey, the feelings were mine.
Black letters on white pages make us do that. We are forced to use our own creativity and to color the story with our own box of paints. I may or may not see the movie. Haven’t decided yet!