When she was 18, in the middle of her senior year of high school, she decided that she needed “some sort of ritual marker of the end of childhood.” Her plan was to camp in the open air for three days and nights, eating little, seeing no one, communing with the great outdoors. Newsom’s mother sanctioned her missing school and helped her daughter scout out a place by the Yuba, in the middle of 35 wild acres owned by family friends.
“I hesitate to speak about it because it sounds so corny, but one of my goals out there was to find a spirit-animal,” Newsom told me. “On the third day, I was kind of delirious. I’d only eaten a little rice. I’d just slept and looked at a river for three days. I was prepared to be visited by my spirit animal — I was just sitting there, saying some sort of prayer, inviting that presence into my life. And then I saw three white wolves charging down at me. I thought maybe I was hallucinating; but I was also prepared to die. But the wolves ran up and started licking my face. Then I remembered that the daughter of the woman who owned the property kept domesticated wolves.” A few hours later, Newsom hiked out of the woods and went home. Her mother had organized a celebratory dance party for Newsom and her girlfriends. She strung up lights and served four kinds of cake."