Katherine May turned on the radio during a long drive one afternoon in November. She didn’t expect what she heard to reshape her identity—but as May listened to an interview about autism spectrum disorder, she recognized herself in the subject’s words. Puzzle pieces seemed to slide into place: This may explain why she had struggled to adjust to motherhood and why she’d had such a tough time coping at work.
That ah-ha moment came several months into May’s walk along England’s 630-mile South West Coast Path through Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. She undertook the journey, rearranging her family’s weekends and vacations, in an effort to reconnect with herself after a period of feeling badly frazzled. Identifying herself as someone with autism both clarified why she needed so much time alone on the path and gave her something to reflect on as she walked.
In The Electricity of Every Living Thing: A Woman’s Walk in the Wild to Find Her Way Home, May explains that she experiences the noise of the world as a current of energy. “Everything is strung together like fairy lights,” she writes. “If that electricity sometimes overpowers me, then it also often lights my way, and joins me to the rest of the world.” Through walking, she found a way to channel that electricity. Time alone helped May become a better version of herself, someone who was better able to connect with her husband and care for their son.
As May covered the seaside’s sometimes-craggy terrain, her attention turned inward. The act of putting one foot in front of the other and the exhaustion of the miles cleared out her mind. The effort gave May a chance to let her mind roam as widely as her feet, and she eventually came to a realization: “I want to learn to be with my family again—or perhaps, for the first time. I want to stop passing through places. I want to learn to stay.”
As in her bestseller Wintering, May’s attention to detail and poetic voice clear a path for readers to pause and reflect. In sharing her experience, she invites readers to examine their own.