When the book, Wild, came out by Cheryl Strayed I was anxious to read it. If you haven’t read it, or at least seen the movie with Reese Witherspoon, you should. I really liked the book and I felt for Cheryl as she was dealing with her mother’s sudden and devastating death from cancer. Granted, I disapproved of the methods in which Cheryl tried to remove herself from pain by getting lost in heroin and sex, but I still understood her motives. After she hit rock bottom, I thought her decision to walk the Pacific Coast Trail from start to finish, almost entirely on her own, made for an empowering story of healing and redemption.
Jon, however, hates the book. Although he loves the idea of getting lost in the wilderness, he cannot forgive Cheryl’s actions as they caused so much hurt and suffering to those that loved her. About the only thing we can agree on about the book is the truth of a statement made by a fellow hiker as Cheryl is thinking about giving up. She says, “There’s a sunrise and sunset every day. You can choose to be there for it. You can put yourself in the way of beauty.” By continuing along the trail and immersing herself in the outdoors, Cheryl was able to mourn the loss of her mother, and become a better person in the process.
The past two weeks I traveled back to the states for my friend’s mountain wedding in Winter Park, Colorado. Since Jon was working (sorry sweetie), Ali was my date to the wedding. Luckily, my college roomie, Sarah, and her boyfriend, Ryu, were able to come as well. This marks the third time this year that I got to spend time with her and I am extremely grateful. Love you, pookie! The wedding was in a beautiful location, at a ranch surrounded by nothing but high altitude plains, forests of alpine trees, lakes, and mountains. After the gorgeous ceremony, I sat in the sun on the patio with my lemonade. (I’d had one too many glasses of wine the night before to even contemplate a glass of Chardonnay…) However, the pastoral view combined with the warmth of the sun was very restorative.
John Muir, 19th century American environmentalist, conservationist, and founder of the Sierra Club once said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.” I believe that to be true. Ever since my family’s visits to our nation’s National Parks, nature has always been my source of spirituality. Surrounded by some of my closest people and hearing the beautiful vows spoken by my friend and her new husband in front of that mountain backdrop, I felt the healing power that Muir spoke about. When the band started up that night, I proceeded to dance the night away. Well, as much as a recovering brain cancer patient at high altitude can without becoming exhausted and dizzy! “Come On Eileen” almost did me in…
The day after the wedding Sarah and Ryu left to go back to their home in Napa, and Ali and I were able to spend a few days together in Rocky Mt. National Park. We had never been there before, and I was really looking forward to some sissy time. Usually Ali and I don’t get to spend much time alone, just the two of us. We are always surrounded by family, friends, significant others, etc, so it was nice to just be silly and reminisce about the adventures of growing up in the Timms family.
Our lodging, in Estes Park was just outside the entrance of Rocky Mountain National Park, unfortunately on the other side of the mountain range from Winter Park. To get there we had to drive clear across the Rockies. This required us to take on Trail Ridge Road, a steep part of highway US 34 that reaches altitudes of 12,000 feet as it winds to the top of the Rocky Mountain Range. Having traversed some treacherous roads during my travels, I knew enough to be a little nervous. As we wound higher and higher up the mountain our laughter gradually subsided, my sister clutched the wheel of our Kia Sorrento, and I decided to shut my eyes for a while. When we got to the top of the pass at the Alpine Visitors Center we both breathed an enormous sigh of relief and looked back at the road we had driven. The sweeping alpine vistas, mountain ranges, and patches of snow showed us the glory of Mother Nature and made us feel small. When surrounded by all that beauty it’s hard to deny that there is something out there that is more powerful and grandiose than humanity can even fathom.
As you know, I am not a religious person in the traditional sense. I have only been home a week and already I have had several experiences that made me wonder, “What is the point of it all?” Well, after much thought I’ve decided there really is no point. What Cheryl and I have both realized through our journeys is that life is often cruel and unfair. All you can do is choose not to get swallowed up by its ugliness. Instead of trying to find an explanation for the unexplainable, pay attention to the small things that make life enjoyable. If your dogs paw at you to pet them, put down your computer and watch their look of pleasure as you scratch behind their ear. If you haven’t taken a short walk outdoors lately and listened to the birds chirp away, do so now. If the sky starts to turn a beautiful shade of pink, tear yourself away from Netflix and find a good spot to watch the sunset. Deliberately put yourself in the way of beauty.