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Tralfamadorian's picture

Loss is a complex word. It is defined as the fact or process of losing someone or something. Yet the synonyms for loss include, mislaying, misplacement, and forgetting. These words suggest that loss itself is only a temporary state of being. Cheryl Strayed proves this definition in her riveting memoir “Wild.” After her mother dies and her life unravels Strayed sets out on a self-searching journey hiking through the Pacific Crest Trail.

            Cheryl Strayed opens her memoir with a description of her losing her boot over the side of a tall cliff. Out of frustration Strayed throws her other boot over the cliff with all of her might. This can be seen as an act of losing and an act of letting go. The first boot is an example of loss. When her boot falls over the tall cliff she is shocked and upset, and clutches the boot’s mate to her chest. Even though she knows that this is a futile gesture. Thinking, “What is one boot without the other boot? It is nothing.  It is useless and an orphan forevermore and I could take no mercy on it.” She then throws the other boot over the side of the cliff out of frustration. Those boots are in a way symbolic of Strayed losing her mother and losing herself in her grief.

            When Strayed lost her mother she set her life on a downward spiral, one that looked like a chasm that would go on and on and on until there was else to go. In a way her downward spiral did have a bottom to it, though the bottom was not soft and warm. The bottom was the Pacific Crest Trail. Strayedhad lost herself in her grief and in the process she pushed away her husband, her family, and her own sense of self. The Pacific Crest Trail was Strayed’s way of finding herself again. Finding what she had misplaced in her life and what was lost from all the grief that she had. The Pacific Crest Trail guide she bought in the REI is not only an actual representation of her journey across the PCT but also a metaphorical roadmap to finding herself again.

            Once on the trail Strayed realizes that she cannot carry all that she brought with her to survive, it is too heavy. She names her backpack Monster because of how massive it is and how daunting it makes the Pacific Crest Trail seem. Monster is a metaphorical representation of what emotional baggage Strayed is carrying with her on this trip. Like the supplies in Monster, plenty of the things she carries are unnecessary and are only making her life harder. For all the things that she had lost in her grief she had picked up several unnecessary things along the way. Physically she carried the weight of her unnecessarily packed supplies on her shoulders. It is not until she asks one of the more avid hikers to help her sort what is necessary and what is not, that she removes things from Monster. Metaphorically she carried the weight of her mother’s death, the weight of her divorce, the weight of her addiction on her shoulders. It is not until her three month trip across the PCT that she starts removing these weights from her shoulders. This trip serves as her looking for someone to help her let go of these things. Though along this trip she discovers a hard truth that sometimes the one person you need to help you is yourself.

          Cheryl Strayed’s trip along the PCT was meant in the good intention of healing herself. There is a quote that I love on page 238, “I tried to twist it around in my mind and make the loss represent something good- a symbol of things I didn’t need anymore, perhaps, the lightening the figurative load.” This quote sums up Cheryl Strayed’s journey of loss and the process of healing. What can be lost in a second can take years to heal. Though that does not mean what is lost can never be found. It simply means that sometimes you have to lighten your figurative load in order to find yourself again. Embrace the idea of how wild it is, to let it be.