Book Look: The Source of all Things - A Memoir

The Source of all Things by Tracy Ross


In the Dec 2021 issue of Outside magazine, I began reading a story about a woman trying to help her alcoholic brother out of a life of misery.  


She organized a weeklong bike tour.  Ride all day, motels at night. A sibling reunion away from the typical temptations and distractions of life. 


That story bit me because of the cycling angle, but also the way she described the small triumphs and major setbacks of that ride. Of dealing with a loved one that was so addicted. 


I researched the author - Tracy Ross - and it turns out the struggle with her brother was just a thin slice compared to her own life.  


By all accounts Tracy Ross has earned every right and liberty to lash out to the world in cold anger. 


In her memoir she chronicles a string of dark family dynamics that she traces back to that one moment, the source, when the pillars of her childhood normality began to buckle.  


It started right then. Her life became confusing and a constant struggle. She saw herself as tarnished and unworthy. She could not find a path to back to a settled existence. 


With mounting strife year after year, she gathered the courage to do a thing that most of us would find so difficult - to go back and confront the thing that started it all, once and for all. Face to face with the source. 


This is not a happy memoir, but her story is compelling and brave, and it pulls you along. 


I loved that she's an adventurous outdoor type that goes deep into wilderness to clear the noise and get clarity and insight. I get that because I do that too. 


Because of her courageous return to the source she was rewarded with a way forward, to start building confidence anew without anger or hate. 


Blissfully married with kids, she has fully embraced life's second chance to have a loving parental relationship with children. 


That’s a nice thought after so many tumultuous years. I’d call that a happy ending. 

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Some passages:
"I understand, now, that my mom had never really been able to come to terms with her own ragged childhood or my dad's untimely death. But the depressions they evoked were jarring and confusing. One minute she'd be cleaning fish at the kitchen counter, whistling the refrain to "Dancing Queen," and the next minute she would be weepy, lethargic, and unable to sleep. I had no idea that bad chemicals were hijacking the feel-good circuits in her brain, because no one ever bothered to tell me. "
"By the end of my freshman year at St. John's, I had become a certified mountain junkie. So in June, I signed up for a program called the Student Conservation Association, which places young, strapping kids with land agencies to do things like restore wetlands and clean up forests after wildfires. Pay was minimal, but I scored a coveted spot on a three-person work crew, rebuilding trails damaged by the 1988 fire on the outskirts of Yellowstone National Park."
"That fall I went back for one more year at St. John's. But I know before my first Monday night seminar was over that I was finished hanging out with "society." I knew that, for me, wilderness could provide the perfect meditation, analgesic, escape. I know any relationship with my parents would plunge me back into the darkness, so the following spring, after two years at St. John's, I packed my car, and headed to a place where, during the summer at least, the light shines all day and all night."
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Get a copy at, or read "I Chose to Remember the Bike Ride" from Outside Magazine. 
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