Wild

by Alison Stedman
Late last year I walked for three days in the wilderness, through wild weather. Storms howling, gales blowing, rain, snow, sleet, hail... The clouds would break for an hour or two and we thought we were free - and then the atmospheric dark clouds in the distance would suddenly be on top of us and it would begin all over again.

Can I clarify, this is not the sort of thing I usually spend my time doing. Ninety per cent of the time, it was not an experience that I enjoyed. Even without the weather, we were scaling mountains, climbing thousands of feet, and carrying everything we needed on our backs. It's hard work, particularly with the knowledge that there's no option to just turn around and go back to the car park - you're in too deep now. You're so far away from anything that if you stop, you just might die. There were moments where I was struggling along, gritting my teeth and repeating to myself over and over again like a classroom punishment: "Never do this again. Never do this again. Never do this again."

But the other 10 per cent... when you're almost skipping along the top of a mountain ridgeline, dramatic slopes to either side, staggeringly beautiful fiords below, and no signs of civilization anywhere around you. When you make it to your destination at the end of each day, shaking your pack off your back and the rain from your shoulders. When you struggle through something that you never thought you could do, and find it more difficult than you ever thought it would be, but you get there in the end. When you connect with other humans on a new and unique level, because you have all made it through.

You have survived in the wilderness. And that is something else. It's the kind of experience, outside the safeness and routine of normal human existence, which is so much more defining than you could ever have imagined.

Our collection of stories for this issue is focused around this idea of the wild. The unsafe and the untame. The people and places and things our authors and contributors have experienced or imagined that have thrown lives into turmoil, redefined and recalibrated personalities, or started them on new journeys. We hope you enjoy reading them.

Our next issue will be themed Suspicion. We are now open for submissions, which are due by May 1, 2016.
Alison Stedman is a senior editor at Halfway Down the Stairs. For staff biographies, click here.

© 2016, Alison Stedman