Leave It As It Is, David Gessner – book review

Every book I’ve ever read from David Gessner, which is just about everything he has written, starts by bringing you instantly into the world that you will be involved in for the next 10 hours of your life. 

“On the ride up here through the small juniper forest, always the show-off, he pointed out and named all the birds he saw to his companions.”

I am there. I love that Gessner called Theodore Roosevelt, our 26th president, a show-off. I bet no one has done that.

I’ve read almost all of Gessner’s books. My four favorites with great titles and subject matter:

Sick of Nature – great title and a rant about nature writers
Under the Devil’s Thumb – I lived on the other side of the divide from where he wrote this book.
My Green Manifesto, Down the Charles River in Pursuit of the New Environmentalism  – I wrote a review of this book and again, loved every word.
All The Wild That Remains: Edward Abbey, Wallace Stegner, and the American West – my two favorite authors Stegner and Abbey.

I re-read them frequently because I own them and they remind me of things I love: nature, Colorado, The West and the people fighting for their backyard.

You see, I get him, well, in the sense that he writes about subjects I care about. He cares about words, mountain biking, our environment. 

I love that he is in love with The West like I am in love with The West. I love that he wrote at one time “I’m afraid I am a polygamist of place. This worries me. Is a man with two homes doubly blessed? Or is he homeless?” Under the Devil’s Thumb, because he loves The East and The West.

[P.S. He gave me permission to use this quote at the beginning of my book.]

But let’s discuss his new book, because I’m seriously soaking up every word and it is inspiring me to do the exact road trip he did to write the book. 

He drives out to the Badlands. I’ve been to the Badlands, and while I didn’t know anything about Roosevelt until I read this book, the Badlands are just as majestic and interesting as the Grand Canyon. There is something about the Badlands and Gessner captures it.

“In fact it has been my experience that places prompt sentences, as if the place itself were asking you to celebrate and protect it.” (page 5)

Yes.

I believe this. You are in a place and words just come out. Gessner writes about how Roosevelt travels west for his political campaign and simply falls in love with the landscape. Gessner reflects about his time out west and understands how someone can just fall so hard; I fell hard.

I, too, believe like Gessner that deep down that some of the best years of my life had been in the West, and that the region has left its indelible mark. Gessner says this at the beginning of the book and I steal his words, now to tell my own story of the west. His words make me long to be back in Colorado and Arizona.

“I am myself at heart as much a westerner as an easterner, Theodore Roosevelt would say, though his grand total of time spent actually living in the West added up to just over a year. My own total came in at close to a decade, and those years changed me.” 

Yes, there is just something about being west of the Mississippi that makes you feel different, makes you think differently and changes you.

Gessner writes, “A change in geography would lead to a change of character in the young Roosevelt” and I think that is universal; okay, maybe for me. A change in geography has always led to changes in beliefs. I know people who stay put, who can see the beauty in the same place for their entire life. But I’ve never been that person who has an attic filled with stuff of that one life lived. I’ve never been the person who has stayed put – and that is exactly why I love Gessner and the subject matter of his books: Stegner, Abbey, himself.

The West changed me. I saw a different place and met people who loved that place and its history. Now, I take that love of a western place and history, and translate it to this place where I live now, and can actually really see it for the first time.

Gessner writes, “We have selfish uses for biography: we hungrily read the lives of others in hopes that we can find something that changes or enhances our own.” 

Yes! 

I love biography. I love narrative. I love stories of people doing amazing things. I love writing stories; telling stories of people doing amazing things. I love knowing everyone’s history and how they became who they are today. There is always that hope that some glimmer of what they learned can transform me. Roosevelt’s story offers a hope to us for saving public land because he started it with his speech at the Grand Canyon – “Leave it as it is”.

Again, this is why I soak up every word. Every. Word. 

This book is about why the 26th president is an important person to study, to learn from, to emulate.  

Gessner writes when presented a problem during his road trip: What would Teddy do? And this is my favorite quote of what do when you need to make a decision:

  • Get into the wild
  • Study birds
  • Drink lots of coffee
  • Get into (spirited) battles
  • Speak his mind
  • Read/Learn about threatened places
  • Write about those places
  • Get in fighting trim
  • Offend some people

Yes!

Yes! 

There is so much more, and Gessner hooks me with The West, his road trips Out West and the perfectly crafted language of his journey. 

What strikes me about this biography is Roosevelt’s initial reason for heading west. He arrives to the Badlands to grieve and forget. Isn’t that why so many people move, change or reinvent themselves? They want to forget. But they want to be better!

This is why Gessner’s words matter. He finds that human element to a universal story that everyone forgets about in our leaders, and how one person can truly change the world.

There is so much more to this book. I cannot give it justice but let’s just save a place you love and fight for it

This is what this book is about. It is about the urgent call to protect America’s public lands. For me, our writers will always tell us what we need to know and Gessner tells a perfectly crafted story about how one presidents protected land before it was a trend to do so.

I loved every word.

I May Be Training for Something

It sounds like the Ragged Mountain Stage Race is still on. There are less that 50 people registered so it just might happen; from what the race director stated in an email last week. 

This week the plan is to spend a lot of time on the trails and get in some vertical training. I want to drive up to run/hike Ragged after work this week. I may also do a few loops at Kearsarge. 

This past week was pretty good training-wise. While I didn’t get my running miles in I swam and biked a lot. I’m starting to feel more and more like a triathlete again. 

Saturday was an early morning hike and then meeting Adam for lunch. We watched the BLM protest come into the downtown area and into the New Hampshire State House. We listened to the speakers and then we headed to the river for a swim. So, I kind of biked and swam. 

Riding on the Londonderry Trail Trail

Sunday was a long ride through Manchester and Londonderry with Jeff. He wanted to show me the new paved trail in Londonderry: The Londonderry Rail Trail. It was awesome to say the least. We rode by Lake Massabesic and through neighborhoods in Manchester. It was a solid 30 miles on a new course. We will do that again!

Courtesy of https://londonderrytrails.org/about-the-rail-trail/

Today:
Today is work, training and finishing the 13th documentary on Netflix. I will learn, understand and do everything I can to support BLM – to help make the world a better place for all humans.

From 13th: “We have in this country people pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit just because the thought of going to jail for what the mandatory minimums are is so excruciating.” – Cory Booker

To Strive, To Seek, To Find and Not To Yield

As I was browsing I Run Far’s website I saw a few articles I wanted to read with titles such as Hope, My Own Running Dog and I Miss You.

As I read a few lines from all of them for some reason I got the poem by Alfred Lord Tennyson in my head. 

I actually remember the lines from the movie One Week when Josh Jackson gave me a tour of grief and the Canadian landscape, and an AWESOME soundtrack by the way. 

So I reflect on my life with those bold words: To Strive, To Seek, To Find and Not To Yield.

You see, I was body-healthy throughout February and March and didn’t train; my head wasn’t in the right place. 

Then April came and I was ready in the head then I sprained my ankle, now I’m body-unhealthy. 

I can’t win. 

I’m making the best of it with walking and biking as much as I can. I’ve been eating too much and gained my 15 pandemic-pounds but I’m ready to get back at it. I’m ready. I have another week of body-healing and then – boom – I’m back on my 100 mile training plan. I think the crazy Goldie-dog is going to be a good running partner on the trails.

There is so much to be hopeful about. I’m ready to be hopeful and happy.  

Although, maybe it’s not in our hopes but in the struggle that we find a life. In Tennyson’s poem, Ulysses when read in its full force makes me think that maybe it is time for a new adventure.

One of my favorite songs from the One Week Soundtrack

“A Human Touch” (from “5B” soundtrack) 

“A Human Touch” (from the “5B” soundtrack). About the song and collaboration from Billboard magazine. Although this song is from the documentary 5B about San Francisco General Hospital’s AIDS ward during the early ’80s I feel like it’s so appropriate today. It’s been one of my favorite songs since the beginning of the year.

“You can call it a decision. I say it’s how we’re made. There’s no point in shouting from your island proclaiming only Jesus saves. There will always be suffering and there will always be pain but because of it there’ll always be love and love, we know, it will remain.

Everybody gets lonely. Feel like it’s all too much. Reaching out for some connections. Or maybe just their own reflection. Not everybody finds it, not like the two of us. Sometimes all anybody needs is a human touch.

Everybody wants a holiday, everybody wants to feel the sun. Get outside and run around, live like they’re forever young. Everybody wants to be beautiful and live life their own way. No one ever wants to let it go, no matter what they do or say.”

Pandemic Plan for Self Isolation, Write A Book

Amid the crisis and hunkering down, I decided that I will start writing my second book. I’ve been procrastinating writing it. I’ve started a million times, with twenty different titles and topics. Fiction or Nonfiction. I have had so many starts and stops. I have so many half completed essays and chapters. 

For over 20 years I’ve been journaling and I write almost every day. I’ve been starting to notice a pattern in what I write about in my journal and morning pages. There are two recurring themes: fixing mistakes and second chances

These themes are the working title, too. 

Chapters include: Dogs, Work, Men, Plans, Endurance Training, Friends, Travel and most importantly and most likely the most cathartic to write: Family. 

One thing that will be woven through all these chapters is the idea that we are all so scared. We (and I mean me) are scared to accept new responsibilities, to get our hearts broken (again), that we will lose our job, that a plan falls through that you had your heart set on, that you aren’t good enough or strong enough to finish a big race. And when it comes to family, people you know so well, well, they are more scared than you are. I thought my family had it all together. They are all just as scared as everyone else.

Families are hard, hard, hard. Anne Lamott

I have so much material to make people laugh, cry, shake their heads in agreement – and mostly just to remember the good things in life we sometimes forget about. 

See – the thing is – I screw up. A lot. I’m impulsive. I’m impatient. I worry. I’m worst-case-scenario girl. But despite all the screws ups, I also try to fix them. I’m not afraid to say sorry. Sometimes I get second chances. Second chances are the BEST! These are the stories I want to tell.

And so it begins …..