I don't read books much. It's not that I don't READ...I just don't read books. I've never been much of a book reader. Reading is a sedentary (for the body) activity, and I've never been one to sit in one place for long periods of time. My brain has plenty of attention span..but my body does not. These days, I sit around way more than I used to...but I shift positions about every five minutes. If I don't move, my muscles and joints start to ache and freeze up.
But the other day at a resale shop, I spied a copy of Cheryl Strayed's Wild, experienced that magnetic pull I feel to books I've always wanted to read (but once I get them home, they gather dust on the nightstand) and slid the book into my cart.
Wonder of wonders, I actually cracked open Strayed's book; possibly because I anticipated the subject matter to be more relevant to my life than, say, Fifty Shades of Grey or the Twilight series. There was a time in my life, perhaps, when I might have been Cheryl Strayed, I thought...minus the serial adultery, the "recreational" heroin use, the abortion... Well, maybe not. But the idea of going out into the wild to heal myself is not unfamiliar to me
I'm about halfway through the book now. And my chief takeaway so far, the thing at which I marvel and of which I am acidly jealous, is Strayed's bravery. Which was composed at least 60% of utter foolishness; but, really, isn't all courage a mixture of some part "I can do this" and some part "What the hell? Why not?" Too much "what the hell" and you end up dead. Too much analysis of "I can do this" and you never get off the starting line. It takes the right combination of both to ever have a life at all.
This was driven home to me in a particularly powerful way yesterday afternoon. I had taken off in the van, solo, to "get out into nature," and maybe practice with the new camera a little. I had packed a lunch, intending to stop at one of my favorite haunts--Big Eddy Park--to climb out of the van and enjoy my solitary repast under the canopy of cedars and firs...maybe get a few good shots of the indigenous bird life. When I got to the park, it was still closed for the winter season. Bah! So I ended up parking on the roadside outside the park, consuming my lunchable, chips, yogurt and Trader Joe's soda while the log trucks and farm vehicles whizzed by on Highway 47.
So there I was, smugly patting myself on the back for getting in my safe, locked car and driving around alone for four hours, occasionally getting out (after stashing all my valuables in cubbies or under coats or blankets to be safe from "smash and grab") and not taking with me a spray can of mace or concealing a tiny designer pistol for "protection." And then I pick up my book and dive into the exploits of a 26-year-old girl dragging a 75-pound pack a hundred miles up hill and down dale on the Pacific Crest Trail. Alone. What a take-down. It felt like someone had grabbed that hand I patted myself on the back with, twisted it and held it up between my shoulder blades.
When sneaking a solitary meal of convenience food at the side of a country highway is the bravest/most adventurous thing you've done or will do in months, the thought must cross your mind that the best part of your life is indisputably in your past.
But, you know what? I don't want to be that person. Not yet.
I suppose it could be argued that the wide world at large was safer for a female out on her own back in 1994. Humanity has spent the ensuing twenty-some years enhancing mass communication to the point where strangers are more likely to feel instant antipathy for one another, and the darker side of human behavior is much more likely to be expressed and acted upon. And then, there's Criminal Minds...
Still, there's a lot of real estate between reasonable caution and being afraid of everything. Surely there's a middle ground that will allow me the freedom to put myself out there without being either murdered or dying of a fear-induced heart attack.
The question now is how to act on this newfound resolve. I think I see a solo camping trip in my near future...