Cheryl Strayed knows a thing or two about walking. As the author of the best-selling 2012 memoir Wild, which chronicles her grueling 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail and was adapted into a 2014 film starring Reese Witherspoon, she translated her very personal, very physical journey into a transcendent one for millions of fans. So it was a no-brainer that she would fly from Portland, Ore. to Washington, D.C. to march in support of the rights of women, minorities, and marginalized communities a day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. (Millions more walked in sister marches around the globe.) Strayed spent hours weaving through the crowd and greeting fans who cried in her arms. Throughout the day, she ruminated on the power of putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward when it feels impossible. EW tagged along with Strayed and here, she shares her field notes from the journey.
I wept in the days after the election. I just cried and cried, and I’ve never had that experience before. I’ve been pissed off, but this was different. I was like, What are we going to do? Keep going. It sounds trite, but it’s absolutely true. That’s why walking is so healing. You’re doing with your body what you need to do with your spirit.
I started hearing about the march within an hour of the election results. I knew immediately I had to be here to essentially exercise our freedom to protest. This was the first time in my life where I was like, this isn’t about politics, it’s about the survival of democracy. Women have to register our protests with our bodies. We are here with our bodies since our bodies are being threatened in so many different ways.
Here’s what [author Ellen Urbani and I] did on the plane: We watched the first three episodes of this season’s Bachelor. We stopped the show so many times and looked at each other and were like, this is the most hideous show ever made and we’re watching it on the way to the Women’s March! We’re radical feminists!
Some people didn’t like the [idea of a] gendered [march], but I always felt like it’s a women’s march because women are marginalized—but it doesn’t mean men can’t join. My son was like, “Can I be a feminist?” and I’m like, “Of course!” There is a ridiculously old idea that feminism is man-hating.
We’re doing an American thing today, marching on the National Mall. It’s so historic. I’m proud to stand here with all these people. This is our sacred ground. I love the signs. Some are really funny, some are really moving. I love this one: “I didn’t come from your rib, you came from my vagina.” Yesterday was so sad and it’s still going to be sad tomorrow, but right now, here, we are walking together. I always say, at any moment of your life, if you go stop and walk for 15 minutes, you always feel better. With writing, too. When you get stuck and you’re like, “How do I…” just go walk and your head gets cleared or something.
I have big plans for the way this moment and era in life will influence my writing. As devastated as I was by the election, it actually sparked in me a new way of looking at this book I’m writing, a memoir. I feel lit up creatively because of this. Often your best writing does come out of suffering or passion or struggle. There’s something about being here and walking on this land, which is our land. It’s a real thing.
For more on the Women’s March on Washington, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday.