Sunday, December 23, 2007

Into Our Wilds

I wanted movement and not a calm course of existence. I wanted excitement and danger and the chance to sacrifice myself for my love. I felt in myself a superabundance of energy which found no outlet in our quiet life.

The Bus Along the Stampede Trail. Photo by Carol Falcetta

In the wee hours the last Saturday of this year, I turned the final page, and cried. I just finished INTO THE WILD (Jon Krakauer), a mesmerizing true tale about a young man who left behind his affluent East Coast family, possessions, and money and vanished into the West. Two years after his disappearance, a moose hunter found his remains in a derelict bus abandoned in the wilds of Alaska. In his retelling of Chris “Alexander Supertramp” McCandless’ short life, Krakauer follows the boy’s two-year travels as a vagabond and tries to untangle his reasons for leaving “civilized’ life behind.

Of course, there are no final answers. But the story of McCandless and his tragic end moved me. Last night, I slept uneasily, wondering: Why? What compels a few rare people, usually young men, to risk all for some idealistic purpose? To abandon security and satiety, a life understood by all. To lose one’s self in the wilds of nature – and the mind?

This story haunts me. For one, young men fascinate me, their motivations, their thinking when they’re on the cusp between adolescence and manhood. I don’t know why, perhaps because I’m the opposite sex and a writer and my job is to be curious. As a culture, we stereotype this elusive aspect of the human species as an unfeeling and unemotional, motivated by ‘success’ narrowly defined as money, title, and other commercial indicators. But, I believe young men, like all of us, yearn for something greater than daily existence: a truth, a wisdom, a sheer moment of feeling. Of being.

I am too used to my creature comforts: my morning coffee, the warmth of my home, the security of my job, the hugs of my children and husband. Never could I, without a word of warning, disappear into the wilds of America. Yet people tramp into the woods or the desert or winding canyons all the time: John Muir, Gene Rosellini, David Thoreau, Everett Ruess, Chris McCandless. Most return, but others do not. Ostensibly, they leave to find verity in the purity of nature, but I suspect, in the end, they find the truth within themselves, somewhere in their hearts and minds. I admire their courage, the clarity and honesty of their quest.

So in reading, this little tome reveals to me a kernel of epiphany: this is why I write – to find a modicum of courage to peer over the edge of a glaciated peak in hopes, perhaps, of stealing a glimpse of pure blinding white whispering some truth to me.

See you in the New Year. Until then… Peace. Shalom. Pace. Salaam. Peace... Linda

But we little know until tried how much of the uncontrollable there is in us, urging us across glaciers and torrents, and up dangerous heights, let the judgment forbid as it may.



  1. Young men fascinate me too, prrrr.

    The idea of escaping into nature has always appealed to me. For me, that's the hardest part about my plan to leave my island and return to civilization and the east coast, the fact that I'll be moving OUT of the wild.

    I get a certain emotional or spiritual connection and contentment being close to nature. I even feel a bit disconnected living in the apartment I do, b/c I used to used to live at a camp on the island, and that was really IN nature. In winter, my favorite season there because it was almost empty at the camp, I would find my way at night on footpaths in the dark by looking up, and seeing that gap of sky between trees that markedt he path. I'd hear the ocean every night, sometimes go out walking in it, and I'd hear owls, and the creaking of cedar trees bending in harsh winds, of which there were plenty.

    And then during the day I'd take long walks through trails and roads, watch the sky, the forests, the slight change of season. I loved it all. I miss it, the sense of deep satisfaction I felt in my soul. I was really vibrantly happy, alive, with a sense of the sacred. I already walked away in some ways, my life doesn't bring me nearly as close anymore, to any of that, and still I know leaving what I do have behind for a city is going to be really, really difficult for me, but hopefully necessary and satisfying in other ways, even if my soul is a little thirsty.

    So I guess what I'm trying to say is, I definitely "get" that yearning, on a lot of levels. Thanks for that review, I'd love to read the book or see the movie. Eddie Vedder did the soundtrack, and I think was nominated for a Golden Globe for one of the songs.

  2. young men try my patience and mess up my bathroom. sigh...

    for me, writing is waving my arms and jumping up and down. though, I have noticed, the last few months I'm cautiously easing ever closer to the cliff. so maybe, in 2008.

    enjoy and savor as we countdown. :)

  3. The irony of Into the Wild is that McCandless leaves civilization behind to be in the wilderness...and dies in an abandoned school bus. Does that make his purpose or mission any less valid? I suppose the answer to that question is like asking someone if the glass if half full or half empty. Only his story begs the questions, what is it we're after--the journey or the destination?

    Happy New Year Linda.

  4. Chrys, often the only true solitude I find is in the wilds. And I think something about this suburban, busy, 'success-oriented' life most of us live leaves us with a yearning for the aloneness that only nature can provide.

    Kelley, I've been finding lately that my own writing is based more on histrionics and less on the words; I think this is due in large part to the anxiety of marketing said words. So I can relate, absolutely. But to be frank, I think anyone who has the courage to put thoughts to paper and try to share those sentiments with the world in any fashion - a poem, a novel, an essay, a blog - is exposing a private and vulnerable part of their soul. It is as brave as edging up to that cliff and peering over the side...

    Sarah, the enigma of McCandless is no one really knows what his purpose or mission was. And I think that is what intrigues me, the not knowing and the wonderful way Krakauer allows me, the reader, to ponder the motives of a young man to leave all behind. Why? I think about this often...

    Happy New Year to all... Peace, Linda

  5. Well now that I think about it, venturing into the writing life is like going into the wild...


    Happy 2008!

  6. Jenny, thanks for dropping by. Absolutely... after all, the mind is one the last remaining underexplored frontiers. Peace...