I had other plans last night.
A vivid image of slowly making my way through a warm bowl of leftover potato chickpea curry while I settled in for a (10th? Or was it 15th?) screening of “When Harry Met Sally” on my laptop was runing through my mind as I rode the 505 Dundas street car westbound across the city from my weekly volunteer tutoring gig in Regent Park to my place in Roncy at around 7:30 pm yesterday evening.
This image had motivated me to quicken my step when the street car short turned at Landsdowne, forcing me to walk the remaining few stops home.
It was well after 8:00 pm by the time I was pulling my leftovers out of the microwave and squeezing in some juice from a freshly cut slice of lemon to balance out the excessive amount of diced ginger I’d put into the curry when I cooked it two nights earlier.
As the the DVD loaded, I found myself thinking about the last time I’d cooked that dish. During my late August canoe trip, when my tent mate and I had consumed huge portions after a day of paddling and portaging.
I pressed pause no more than 15 seconds after the DVD menu appeared on my screen.
I had about 20 pages to go before I would be finished the book I’d been reading for the past week.
Suddenly, those pages couldn’t wait until I crawled into bed post-movie.
I had to read them immediately.
And then I had to write about them.
Them and the 300 hundred or so pages that preceded them, together making up Cheryl Strayed’s captivating autobiographical narrative of her 1,100-mile hike up the Pacific Crest Trail, “Wild.”
I loved this book for so many reasons. I loved it because my dear friend KA recommended it to me. I loved it because it was about a young divorced woman on a journey. I loved it because it was about grieving. About complicated families. And hard to come to terms with childhoods.
But, most of all, I loved it because it was about hiking.
One of my favourite things since I moved back to Toronto almost 16 months ago has been the hikes I’ve gone on with the outdoor club I joined soon after moving here.
It is not unusual for one or two of my weekend mornings a month to consist of a mad dash north to Downsview subway station to meet a group of mostly strangers (I’ve started to make a few friends – yay!) heading out on an outdoor club hike with a trail head a 50-100 km drive outside of the city.
These early morning starts are not really my thing.
One of the aspects of myself I’ve gained the most insight into in the 7 months since I returned to living solo is the way my introvert / extrovert split is best nurtured. Early mornings are my “me time.” My “get lost in my own head” time. I go off on tangents easily, such that arriving at a subway station a 25 minute drive from my place ready to spend an hour carpooling with 3 or 4 strangers by 8:30 am is a bit of a challenge.
But by about half way through each drive, once I’ve transitioned into my extrovert self and am eagerly learning the stories of several new friends as we make our way towards our trail . . . my morning mad dashes are almost forgotten.
And by mid-day, as I’m looking out at a gorgeous view of the Credit Vally after ascending the Devil’s Pulpit, or gingerly making my way through small crevices in the rock on the Keyhole Side Trail . . . I am one happy hiker.
Time in nature was so easy to come by when I lived in Ottawa that it would have never occurred to me to join a club to help me explore it while living there. I went wondering in the wilderness on foot, snowshoe, or bike with friends or solo on a fairly regular basis without too much effort.
Not so in Toronto.
The nature is here.
You just gotta work for it.
The funny thing is though, the harder you have to work for it, the greater the reward.
Something I can’t help but think is just as true in life as it is in hiking.
My favourite passage from “Wild” was this beautiful description of the draw of hiking . . . the lure of spending hours or days or even weeks wondering in the wilderness:
“It had only to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles for 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 didn’t publish this post last night when I started writing it because I wasn’t quite sure how to end it. Part of me wanted to state an intention to tackle a long-distance hike sometime in the future. Another part thought closing with the above quote was the way to go. Today, after some reflection, I decided neither quite worked.
This post isn’t about a future intention.
And it isn’t really about Cheryl Strayed’s story.
It’s about me, and why I hike.
Which is a really simple thing, actually.
I do it because I love it.
I do it because the thought of not doing it makes me sad.
And given my summer 2012 pledge to do more of what I love as I settled into my new life in Toronto, well, I think that in and of itself is worth writing about.