A short, lovely chronicle of a long hike, during which McKibben (Enough, 2003, etc.) meditatively reflects on the relationship between nature and humanity.
He takes as his jumping-off point a stroll from Vermont to the Adirondacks, traversing land on both sides of Lake Champlain that he knows well. “I’ve not been able to drag myself away from this small corner of the planet,” McKibben notes, wondering whether the no-name region should be called “Adimont” or, perhaps, “the Verandacks.” As he chronicles his walk, he reflects on writing, on the place of agriculture in the curricula of liberal arts colleges, on Theodore Roosevelt’s summer in the Adirondacks (where Vice-President Roosevelt was hiking when President McKinley was shot, ushering in “the greatest environmental presidency of our history,” in McKibben’s view). Some of the most wonderful scenes occur when the author meets up with friends, who all seem to lead lives found most often in Wendell Berry novels. McKibben slips in lessons about environmental policy and science, explaining, for example, the rationales and consequences of conservationists’ decision in the last decade to work with people who have traditionally used the land they are hoping to conserve. His prose is so seductive, however, that readers will barely notice they are being instructed. In some ways, this is the most personal of McKibben’s books thus far. He has invited readers into the place that has inspired his life’s work of writing, politicking, and environmental activism—not the Amazon rain forest or a melting Arctic glacier, but the Adirondacks, which “even the New York State constitution” can’t protect from acid rain or global warming. Yet Wandering Home is intimate without being confined: McKibben roams far, far beyond the Verandacks, beyond even the topic of the environmentalism, to touch on community, local economy, simplicity.
Nature writing at its best.