• Mary Anderson

Survival of the Curious

Updated: Aug 5, 2021

A hiker reminded me recently of the value of curiosity. She said when she felt like quitting she would work on becoming curious. She would wonder what is around the next bend or what the view will be like at the top of the next mountain. This curiosity kept her going.

I have a friend who has told me curiosity is what keeps her alive. She wants to see how it all turns out in the end. This hiker told me she, too, knew someone for whom curiosity was enough to keep her wanting to live.

I grew up living next to a woman who was in her sixties when I was born. She was so curious that when computers started to come out she went back to school to get her high school diploma and then a certificate in something in the computer field. She was always stopping to look at flowers poking through the concrete in the city where she lived. She had a set of encyclopedias, and I don’t think a day went by when she did not look something up. She seemed really happy to me.

I’m not sure I’m good at being curious. I like to understand how things work, and I do look things up. I suppose that’s curiosity of a sort. But In nature I feel more awed than curious. I’m so amazed at how plants grow. I like finding the connections between all things. I seldom wonder what will happen next. I’m too busy being in the present. I’m sure I am curious; I’m just not aware of it as such.

I see the value in curiosity. It is the root of many inventions. It is what drives most children to learn, especially at a young age, before they are taught to stop asking why so much. I’m trying to cultivate curiosity when I meet new people, asking them for their backstory and learning what I can from it. But I still find it difficult to be curious about what will happen next in life. I think this is a result of feeling so beaten down as a child that I always expected the worst. I remember one brother once told me he always ate dessert first because he did not know if he would still be alive to eat dinner after. That to me sums up why I find it difficult to be curious about what might be around the next bend in life. I never expected it to be anything very good.

I’m trying to cultivate more curiosity on the trail, wondering what is ahead, though I still find myself more drawn to the present moment. As I search for things to catch my interest once I finish hiking, I wonder if cultivating curiosity would help me continue on some future journey. I suppose this wondering is a form of curiosity itself.


When 63-year-old Mary Anderson set out to hike the southern half of the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail in the spring of 2020, nobody thought she would make it. Hikers give themselves trail names, and Mary’s was Old Lady Hiker. A few days into her solo trek, she ran into some younger hikers who decided she needed a new name. From then on, she was known as Mary Badass. In the fall of 2020, Mary began writing her story in a Korongo workshop hosted by Kimball Library in Randolph. This summer, she is blogging from the trail as she hikes the northern half of the CDT.

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