Once a Wasteland

I’m a sucker for a story about renewal.  In her New York Times best-selling memoir, Wild:  From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,  Cheryl Strayed takes us along on a monumental journey, both physical and metaphorical.

At age 26, she is trying to find her way.  Her father left when she was six; her mother died when she was 22; now she has messed up her marriage and her life.  So she does what anyone would do; she tackles an 1100 mile hike–by herself.


She makes some genuine judgment errors, especially in her decisions about hiking boots, but she also shares wisdom learned along the way.

One reviewer says that Strayed “reminds us in every line that if defeat and despair are part of human experience, so are kindness, patience, and transcendence.”

I’m all for that reminder.  And I love it that nature’s curative power is part of the recovery.

Strayed’s description as she looks over Crater Lake near the end of her journey, one of the views that  has made me gasp, literally has taken my own breath away, follows:

This was  once a mountain that stood nearly 12,000 feet tall and then had its heart removed.  This was once a wasteland of lava and pumice and ash.  This was once an empty bowl that took hundreds of years to fill.  But hard as I tried, I couldn’t see them in my mind’s eye.  Not the mountain or the wasteland or the empty bowl.  They simply were not there anymore. There was only the stillness and silence of that water: what a mountain and a wasteland and an empty bowl turned into after the healing began.

Writing Practice:

Complete the following:  I’m a sucker for a story about . . .

What has been transformed by healing in your own life?

The above photos were taken in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California a few miles from part of the Pacific Crest Trail.

4 thoughts on “Once a Wasteland

  1. Women use to be scary, mean, and untrustworthy due to crazy wounded women I had to turn to as a child. But when I went into social work from engineering I began to work with wonderful women who helped heal the past. So women healed what women broke. I learned it was not about generalizing but seeing people as individuals instead. The world lets us down and then lifts us up. A mystery and a miracle.

  2. My relationships with those who challenge me most to love have been transformed by healing with love & compassion in my life. I look for the divine in everyone…even if what is first to appear seems to be wasteland. Thanks for the reminder, Chris!

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