I've been thinking about some of my favorite quotes from the book Wild by Cheryl Strayed. The novel is compelling not only because it's a story about a woman on a journey — both a very real journey and a very metaphorical journey — but because the writing is so crisp, tough-but-loveable, so good.
Here are a few of my favorites:
“The universe, I'd learned, was never, ever kidding. It would take whatever it wanted and it would never give it back.”
Cheryl said this as her mother was dying. This quote also reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Anne Lamott, "make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish." Both of these quotes point to a certain fatality about life.
“It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.
It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.”
I'll never forget my first visit to the U.P (Upper Peninsula for your non-Michigan folks) where there was no cell phone coverage. Those days I had a Blackberry (it must have been around 2007 or 08), and I remember the panic I felt as the bars slowly disappeared into nothing. But after just an hour or two marveling at the unspoiled wilderness, I came to love how pristine the woods, water and air were in the U.P. This quote reminds me of picking blueberries along the same river where Hemingway fished, and how free I felt doing it.
“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I'd done something I shouldn't have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I'd done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn't do anything differently than I had done? What if I'd actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn't have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”
God if I could tattoo this quote on my arm (it's a little long, even for my entire back) I'd do it. The last three sentences strike me as particularly powerful. We're all terrible people who have, at times, done terrible things. Most of the time we're good-hearted people: we're kind and friendly and don't text when we drive. But we've all been to dark places and done dark things (and I'm not talking about traffic infractions here). And sometimes it's helpful to remember that those dark places and things made us who we are today. Sure, we could spend the rest of our lives feeling the crushing weight of guilt bearing down on all the other wonderful things in our lives. But it's probably better if we instead strive for redemption. It's all any of us can do.
Jill Hinton Wolfe