My kind of “Wild” – visual thoughts on Cheryl Strayed’s book

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed

If you haven’t read it, do! Here’s a little drawing that speaks to some of Cheryl’s challenges and accomplishments…

Perspective of a Journey *map is not drawn to scale - in any way

My kind of ‘Wild’

Wow, what a read! Cheryl Strayed delivers her story with wit, intelligence and a heartfelt determination. She not only provides a perspective, but she does it with guts. Whatever the world presents, Strayed takes on. She shares a truth many wouldn’t dare accept in the first place. The words on the page are vibrant, bursting with realization after realization as she rides an emotional roller coaster that’s very much tied to the events surrounding her.

If you notice the time frame, Cheryl began her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in the summer of 1995 and published ‘Wild’ in March of 2012.  That’s some serious reflection time to learn, not to mention time to write and rewrite. Oh, and the actual walking! She spent many hours, days, weeks and months on the trail and it taught her well. When I find myself looking for instant gratification, I think of her story. Her journey essentially forced her to go through a process. She spent days on the trail where the physical exertion and bodily pain she was in wouldn’t allow her to even begin to reflect on her life before the trail. Here and now. The present was everything. Reflection was the reason she set out to hike this huge portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, yet she found herself being more present than she could remember. Trusting the process can be difficult in such grueling circumstances. Yet, if we work hard and play hard, we can also reflect hard and learn a lot. It takes time, and that’s ok – might even be a good thing.

Cheryl Strayed tells her amazing story of transition, and how she learned to come to grips with her own life. Her impeccably told story (rock on Cheryl and editor Robin Desser!) not only struck close to my humanity, but inspired me to write. Will I? In time…. For now, I continue to draw…

Her backpack was so big and intimidating at first that she named it, "Monster." Some trail equipment. AND my favorite line in the entire book.

“She’d come at us with maximum maternal velocity. She hadn’t held back a thing, not a single lick of her love.” (p. 269) This is my favorite line in the entire book. Ok, two lines, although I recently added the second. In this phrase Cheryl describes how much her mother loved her and the family. She comes to the realization that she was loved in the biggest way possible. It’s refreshing to read.


As I enthusiastically described my reading experience to those passer-bys in my life, there was a question that kept coming up, “Does she die?” Really, is that how much faith we have in a fellow human being who sets out to accomplish something big? There became a point, probably upon the fifthteenth time I told about the journey written when I decided I was going to punch the next person who said this in the face. I was very glad not to actually have to punch anyone, as I’m not generally a violent person. But I did have the feeling that I might actually do it, so I added the tidbit  to my spiel about the book and told people not to ask that question. In all seriousness, why was that question asked at all, let alone first?

a real journey, in more ways than one


Without giving away too much of Cheryl’s brilliance, I’ll simply say – her words paint a gripping scene along one hell of a journey. And you know she’s lived it, because you can feel it. The words literally came off the page and slapped me in the face, presented me with a handshake or gave me a much needed hug.

Cheryl, A HUGE thanks for sharing. It takes guts to put it all out there.

PARALLEL THOUGHTS in Organizations and in Life

How do we keep going? Through change after change after change. Our experiences build and we become paralyzed by fear at the slightest newness OR we go recklessly diving into that something that we are convinced will help, even temporarily. Change. Transition. Organizationally. Individually. It’s life. It happens and we sustain through it – somehow. Perhaps the question to ask those in your organization is, “When to simply focus on the project at hand and be present and when is it best to really reflect?” If we actually schedule some time for each at work, we just might learn more and get more done. Individually, structuring time to do and time to reflect can help balance everything we need and want to experience. Or maybe we should all just read ‘Wild?’

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  • August 6, 2012 - 6:40 pm | Permalink

    I read the book twice and I couldn’t agree more! I’ve been following Cheryl’s work for some time, and reading her essays in literary journals. I knew this book would be great. I love the visuals you’ve attached to this article. Great idea and a great example of journalism’s “New Media” approach.

    • amanda
      August 7, 2012 - 12:20 am | Permalink

      Thanks Lynn. Any suggestions for other amazing reads?

  • michele Quigley
    August 7, 2012 - 1:23 am | Permalink

    Another amazing read is Riding Fury Home by Chana Wilson.
    Check it out~

  • karen mulvaney
    August 8, 2012 - 11:48 pm | Permalink

    A guaranteed blazing read: “Unbroken” by Laura Hillenbrand.

  • September 18, 2012 - 3:44 pm | Permalink

    I first got this as an offering from Audible. I got so into the story AND had the thought she could have died that I avoided reading about her on the Internet for fear of ruining the story. After I listened the second time I bought the hardback. Reading it seemed more intimate. LOVE this book.

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