‘...The thing
about being a girl
who goes alone
is that you feel like you shouldn’t go
if you’re afraid. If you go it should mean you’re not afraid,
that you’re never afraid. Your friends will think that you go

This girl
who goes alone
is always afraid, always negotiating to keep the voices
in her head at a manageable pitch of hysteria.

I go knowing that there will be a moment—maybe
long moments, maybe
hours of them, maybe the whole trip—
when I curse myself for going alone.
When I lie in the tent and all I am is fear.

I walk into the wilderness alone
because the animal in me needs to fill her nose
with the scent of stone and lichen,
ocean salt and pine forest warming in early sun.

I walk in the wilderness alone so I can hear myself.
So I can feel real to myself.

I go because I know I’m lucky to have a car, gas money, days off
the back and legs and appetite
to take me there.
I go while I still can.

The girl who goes alone
claims for herself
the madrona juniper daybreak.

She claims hemlock prairie falcon nightfall
nurse log sea star glacial moraine
huckleberry trillium salal
snowmelt avalanche lily waterfall
birdsong limestone granite moonlight schist
cirque saddle summit ocean
she claims the curve of the earth.

The girl who goes alone says with her body
the world is worth the risk.’

Excerpt of ‘The Girl Who Goes Alone’ by Elizabeth Austen