Review by Deidre Swesnik (Mali 1996-98)
A QUOTE FROM BUDDHA in Siffy Torkildson’s book, A Wild Hare, is, “As you walk and eat and travel, be where you are. Otherwise you will miss most of your life.” For Torkildson’s journey, I think she might also add, “be who you are.” Being present and being herself guides her on a journey to “finding the life I imagined.” She learned the hard way for too many years of not following her heart. But she is now determined to take what she has learned and to move forward with her newly found true love. She will not be deterred.
Torkildson lets us into her innermost thoughts in this book that is part memoir, part travel guide. The book starts with what she and her now-husband Tor call their “Thunderbolt Holiday” in Nepal. They hadn’t seen or heard from each other in 25 years, but reconnected when Siffy emailed him out of the blue, after holding him in the back of her mind for decades. As the book progresses through Alaska, New Mexico, Morocco, and elsewhere, Siffy is thrilled about her rediscovered love, increasingly at ease with herself and accepting of her past life choices.
Woven through a detailed account of her trips (some clandestine) over three years with Tor, are Torkildson’s memories of her difficult earlier marriages, self-doubt, and search for enlightenment. “At most science fiction conventions I have attended, I was always one of the few people in costume. Maybe I like the attention, as I was ignored by my peers as a youth. Even in college, people, mostly men, rarely listened to me.” Also included are happy moments in the past and present like her unapologetic love of horses (“I like speed.”) and a funny story involving a Moroccan guide.
She relishes her time traveling around with Tor, and often mentions her admiration for Annie Smith Peck. Peck was a mountain climber, suffragist, and author in the late 1800s, who defied stereotypes and had a strong appreciation for nature. Torkildson seems to identify with Peck, always trying and searching and discovering. She relates to a quote by Roz Savage in Rowing the Atlantic: “I wanted to maintain a naïve enthusiasm for life, believing that anything is possible.”
If you are wondering about the “Wild Hare” in the title, there are numerous connections to many religions and cultures that Torkildson describes. She even playfully likens herself to Alice in Wonderland going down the rabbit hole, along with her Mad Hatter, Tor.
Torkildson fills the book with quotes and symbols, connecting her to many others before her, while at the same time striking out on her own. “As I shower in the morning, I look down at my rattlesnake tattoos. I’d gotten them after I was divorced both times, to protect me, and as signs of transformation. They are symbols of rebirth by the shedding of my old skin and good transitions in my life. And I am a snake, being born in the Chinese Year of the Snake.” She is ready for a new adventure, this time with Tor by her side.
Reviewer Deidre Swesnik laughed for a lot of her two years in Peace Corps/Mali, and still does so uproariously with her RPCV friends at home in Washington, DC. DeeDee is a program officer at the Open Society Foundations, loves to edit and read, and is terrified of writing anything longer than two pages.