I just finished WILD: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, by Cheryl Strayed.
A friend had recommended this book many times over a few years. If you are easily offended, I wouldn’t recommend it to you. If, however, you’ve read Orange is the New Black, The Blind Side, Citizens of London, or Elie Wiesel’s, Night, or are looking for reason to cling to a “sticky hope*”, than Wild might be your good next read.**
Why are we drawn to stories?
We are storytelling creatures.
Unlike ants who leave a pheromone scent so that the other drones will follow to the feast, we leave trails of tales.
Our histories, allegiances, faith, and identities are woven with these stories.
Sometimes we are rooted to stories – our own or someone else’s.
Many of us are looking for a way to rewrite what looks like an inevitable unwanted ending.
When I was in the second or third grade, I stumbled across CS Lewis’ Narnia Chronicles. Something in them caught me and took root. Even as I read Susan Cooper’s dismal, The Dark is Rising series and a bucketful of whatever else I could get my hands on, the stories of Lewis’ pen gave me a glimmer of something more…a reason to hold onto a “sticky hope.” Good wins. Mystery exists. Good is not necessarily tame or easily defined.
We all would like to introduce a bit of Orwellian editing in our stories.
Who doesn’t have something in their footnotes or epilogue that we wish we could erase and unwrite?
A bit of selfishness, spite, or spit that sullies the tone of our living.
Fear. Faith lost. Freedom revoked.
The good news is: our failures and foolishness do not disqualify us from a good story…a powerful ending.
A careful editor or wise storyteller can make all of the difference in whether the tale is told in whispers or in wonder.
In Strayed’s story, the retelling – though often painful – offers markers to lead the rest of us toward a better tale; one of wisdom and grace.
A bit of History: Cheryl Strayed chose her name as she rounded the bend of a divorce and following the death of her mum. She wanted a name to tell part of her tale and “Strayed” seemed to fit.
So after reading the chapter where Cheryl ______ becomes “Cheryl Strayed”, I wondered what word would fit me.
I tried to think of Allie Failed or Allie Feared or Allie Foolish, but then one word kept gently, but surely whispering the others out. It was “hope.” Allie Hope.
What about Allie Skis-Down-the-Lift-Lines or Allie Finally-Runs-Fast?
Or Allie Harambee (it means “we all pull together,” check out this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communal_work).
Allie Fearless (wouldn’t that be something?)
Allie Welcomes (my Kingdom Dream).
Nope. The only word that I could hear unadulterated from the noise in my spirit was “Hope.”
What name would you choose?
As people of faith, would you add Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Gentleness, or Self-Control?
Or would you opt for something else perhaps more telling of your story: Exhausted, Laundry, Fierce, Forewarned, or Languishing?
What about: WildCats, Seahawks, HalfPipe, Agnostic, Tri, or Farmer?
And in this day when we are deluged by information and advertisements and stuffed with noise, it becomes even more important to find a quiet place to consider the story we are weaving.
It is my hope that each of our stories will offer beauty and triumph to celebrate-woohoo!
Grief is woven into each story, but it need not define us.
We get to choose some of what is written in truth.
And again…that is the good news.
*very recently, my prayers for hope have moved to “sticky hope” – the kind that sticks to your chopsticks like well cooked rice or like that one friend that sticks “closer than a brother.” Sticky hope does not depend on circumstances or outcome even. Sticky hope – and this is really the only way that I can think of it, “sticky”- is a heart tattoo that is sure and permanent though not for display. Or maybe it is like that thing in Iron Man that keeps his heart from being shredded by shrapnel…only it will not fail.
**after my brother died, I journeyed around the U.S. and later – around bits of Europe – looking for a reason for my grief and a home – family/community that would sustain me. I was able to do this because following my Ulm American High School graduation, I had climbed & bivouacked around Germany’s Alps (and got lost in Austria once) with a bunch of strangers in a riff on Outward Bound called, “Project Bold.” I will always be indebted to my dad for the note he hid in my backpack, the opportunity, and the chance to meet the quiet and patient, Brad Udall.