Learning in the “Wild”

Đề is reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir on the journey of the author herself hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). PCT, a long distant hiking trail, is 2,663 mile long with one end is on the U.S border with Mexico, the other is on the U.S. border with Canada. Averagely, the full hike requires six months to thoroughly prepare and six more months to hike. She finished half of that. The trail crosses 25 national forests, 7 national parks and covers a wild range of tough weather. Needless to say, it was an ultimate challenge for a woman to even just think about it, let alone to hike by herself in such wilderness. Cheryl was having a hard time in the grief of her mother’s death and going through her divorce to the man she was still in love with, when she decided the hike the PCT. But that’s another story, this post is about its vocabulary. 

It was a well-written book and wasn’t too hard to read. Each page only has three to four words that are new to Đề, but that’s enough to make a good list of vocabulary to learn from the book. Considering her “amazing” memory which manages to forget almost everything that should be remembered, it is obvious to Đề that she won’t able to learn those words just by folding each page of the book with the page corner pointing exactly at the new word. Writing them down here and getting to know them more might be a better idea. 


The PCT passes the High Sierra trail which, at the time the author hiked, was experiencing a record snow storm, the worst in at least the last decade. Given very little of hike-in-snow experience and her not-so-right hiking equipments due to her poor preparation, the author decided to detour to avoid risking her life with such weather condition. On the new path that she had to take to bypass the snowy part, she crossed the Sierra city. While taking a break in a small convenient store by the road, she noticed a brochure that said this city was wiped out by an avalanche in 1852. Here comes the first word of this post. An avalanche is a massive and rapid flow of snow flow down a mountain side. Simply put, it is a snow-slide or a snow-slip. This reminds me of a viral event last year when Vietnamese social media was hit by a story of a mid-20 Vietnamese female hiker survived the Nepal blizzard and avalanche. 

Feline and Canine

Feline means relating to or resembling cats, so does Canine to dogs. These were used by the author to describe the fox she encountered in the forest, “it looked half feline, half canine”. In that morning while hiking on top of the snow, she suddenly realised a fox coming her way, soundlessly thanks to the snowy ground. It was right in front of her, about ten feet away, sniffing around. “He was barely knee-high, though his strength was irrefutable, his beauty dazzling, his superiority to me apparent down to his every prestige hair”. Her heart was racing, thinking if she should scramble to behind the tree to hide. But lucky for her that day, when the fox noticed her, it studied her for few seconds then turned and walked away. These words can be used as nouns too, feline is a cat and canine is a dog.


Due to the extreme hardship of the trail, not so many people hike it. Not only because people embark at different point of the trail, at different time but also their different hiking speed made it hard for them to come across each other. There were times that Cheryl had to hike through out days without seeing any human sight nor that of civilisation. That’s why when she walked down a jeep road and saw an SUV with stuffs of a modern life in the front seat like a hooded sweatshirt, a cardboard coffee cup or immaculate zip lock bags , she couldn’t help but feel reminiscent of her former life. Reminiscent means suggesting something by resemblance.


Cheryl has a tattoo of a horse on her shoulder. It was Lady, a dear horse of her mother. Cheryl’s mother was’t happy with her husband, Cheryl’s biological father, she was chronically violently abused by him. She lived a long time in pain before having the courage to finally getting away from him. Both mentally and physically weak, the mother needed something to hang on to and she, once a cowgirl, decided to get Lady, a beautiful horse to keep her company. But after she died from cancer, her at-the-time boyfriend started neglecting the horse. Furthermore, Lady was old and weak to the point that Cheryl and her brother believed it would be awful to let the horse die of nature. They had to euthanise Lady. Euthanise is to intentionally end a life to relieve if from suffering. Cheryl couldn’t afford to hire a veterinarian and she couldn’t let the horse to die in some stranger’s hands. Therefore, she and her brother had to take Lady down with a gun themselves.  


Because of the wild nature of such a long-distant hike, after days of hiking, Cheryl realised how much different her current life is from the past days, how her attention completely shifted and how she stopped concerning if she was “infinitesimally fatter or thinner than the day before”. All she could feel during the hike was the brutal pain on her shoulder while she had to carry the Monster, that’s how she named her back pack, which was so heavy that it was almost impossible for her to even lift it off the ground; and the agony that her feet had to bear. Her toes ripped off because she chose the wrong size of shoes. Again, if it wasn’t for her poor preparation, she could have had a lighter backpack and a fitter pair of shoes. Let’s have a closer look at the word infinitesimally. One can easily spot out the “infinite” part and would somewhat guess that this word refers to something infinite. And it’s natural to think of something infinitely large, or maybe just me. But in the contrary, this word comes from the modern Latin word infinitesimus which means infinite-th level in a defending scale. Thus, infinitesimal means unmeasurably small, but not yet to the point of none existence. 


p.s. Only few words have already made quite a post, Đề feels like she could write a whole other book just to talk about the vocabulary of a given book. 


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