Into The Wild - Kim Patton        

Into The Wild Essay

Escapism/Into the Wild book review by Kimberly Patton

My afternoon jog started out promising but fizzled after fifteen minutes. I took one last lap around a side street, exhaled and paced down to walking. The gray concrete silently carried me back to my cul-de-sac but I wasn’t ready for home yet. An inviting dirt road led down away from my house to the woods. The weeds grow tall and skinny, four wheel tracks criss-cross a cluttered path. My tennis shoes fling soft dirt into the air and down the back of my socks uncomfortably. I grab my arm-strapped IPod and scramble to turn the volume down because suddenly the quiet atmosphere demands my attention. I peer ahead and recognize the large Spanish-mossed trees that are home to a secret hiding place. I uphill prance to the leaf-padded ground where a white rope hangs above and an old turned over grill lay abandoned. I playfully swing on the rope until it hurts my hands. A black office chair with worn leather sits lonely next to a large wooden spindle overlooking a small, shy pond. I came here for this. I settle atop the spindle, careful not to prick my thin running shorts on rusty nails. The IPod turns off. I take a deep breath and am grateful to be the only one in this place where houses surround its serenity. I wonder what makes a simple collaboration of water, trees and grass so peaceful. Is it the silent moving clouds that have a tint of gold at their edges, a reminder of the imminent sunset? Or the way those clouds reflect colorfully off the stagnant water? I watch a hawk soar in my peripheral, landing on the tallest tree with a slight flutter of his enormous wings. The tree sways beneath his weight, but he is not worried. He adjusts his wings further and the branches bend without breaking. He looks out onto his world without a care, while I deny my own world by watching him. I have left my reality by embracing this peace. I daydream and wish and breathe… just for a second. I am escaping and it is this pond that tucks me in. This hawk that watches me. The warmth touches my skin, welcoming me. It is in this place that I forget all the busyness. The run was methodical, an exercise, a mind-numbing- music-jamming hobby. But this is different; this is sacred. I stare out and let the water be part of me, let the breeze hug me. It is only for these few moments that I have successfully escaped.

Escapism is no new thing. An audiobook I just finished hangs heavy on my mind. For days I was immersed in the story of Christopher McCandless, a young man whose death in August of 1992 sent gossip rippling through the country. We are curious at this man’s death because he seemed to be one of the few brave souls out there who truly escaped American life as we know it. He burnt $123 in cash as a statement to himself that he didn’t need money to survive. He cut ties with his family, ignoring their desires to keep them informed with his current location. He hitchhiked. He lived in the woods of Alaska in an abandoned bus. He hunted moose. Christopher underlined phrases in books by Jack London, further preaching his “rage against the machine.” His itchy feet could not settle in civilization, knowing they could reign free in the wild, with trees as companions and dirt as salve. His words are surprisingly profound, “… (So many people) are conditioned to a life of security, conformity and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future.” Christopher had an extreme case of what we all at some point have ached for. The throbbing desire to escape. To roam free. To kiss goodbye to deadlines and currency, politics and cubicles. His adventures cost him his life.

Some criticize Christopher’s decisions understandably, but others applaud his courage. Not only his courage to live off the land on his own, but his courage to die alone in the wilderness without ending his life prematurely by his own weapons laying just inches away. He signed a farewell note and took a final photo, proudly grinning in the midst of his starvation. It’s like he knew that his story might inspire others, as devastating as his death was. I listened to his story from a safe distance, knowing my body would never subject itself to life in the wilderness for long. But his story intrigued me because I have known a few people who dance to his beat of the drum.

Our souls cry out for peace in this crazy world, and most can steal a minute or two here and there. But there are some amongst us who are too thirsty for adventure to sit around idly and let opportunities pass them by. I think of hikers who spend an entire Saturday climbing up a mountain with children packed on their back and trail mix in hand. Bikers on a trail that spend hours pedaling through tree canopies, listening to the soft whir of the wheels on pavement. I imagine my brother Philip and his wife Loralee camper-vanning in New Zealand, capturing pictures and film of the gorgeous terrain stretched before them. They are brave and they have taken the plunge, preaching a message of “You can do this too” to anyone who asks. With a few sacrifices and two willing spirits, they forage through foreign lands hand in hand. I think of office workers who bring their sandwiches and chips to the bench outside, soaking up a few minutes of sunshine and fresh air on their lunch break. I think of moms who lie their sleeping child down for a nap and settle into the couch with coffee and a book to steal into the silence that is so desperately coveted.
We all have the desire to escape. Some are awarded more time than others. When you find your moment- pursue the beauty. The peace. And when the hunger to find that place comes bubbling up inside of you again- may you be brave to embrace it.
For more information about Christopher McCandless: the following website is dedicated to his story.
Book review in article was for "Into the Wild" written by Jon Krakauer.

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