There are days, weeks even, when the only way I can muddle through is to wrap all of it up and push it aside. In short, I feel beat. Helpless, even. The part of me who wants to change the world rails against the part of me that knows I can’t actually change the Big Picture Things that desperately need it: I can’t save the red wolf, or halt the seas from rising, any more than I can prevent the lowly but numerous wooly adelgids from sucking the life out of all the hemlock trees in western North Carolina, until they too disappear.
It was amid this puddle of dark thinking that I began reading Stand Up That Mountain: The Battle to Save One Small Community in the Wilderness Along the Appalachian Trail. Originally I picked this book up because it’s an environmental story of regional interest to me — I live but a few counties southwest of the mountains where the story unfolds. But from the first page, Leutze’s writing sang and I knew this was a very special piece of work to be savored and studied.
Stand Up That Mountain is a true story, but it’s written as if it were a novel. It has a set of heroes who pit themselves David-and-Goliath fashion against a good-ole-boy villain and his minions to rescue their town from surefire environmental destruction. But Leutze doesn’t let any of his characters fall prey to trope or caricature: they are all complicated, real, flawed people who he portrays in all their strengths, frailties, quirks, and commonalities. Continue reading