Was It Worth It? A Wilderness Warrior's Long Trail Home

Doug Peacock. Patagonia, $27.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-952338-04-5

Naturalist and explorer Peacock (In the Shadow of the Sabertooth) presents a captivating retrospective on his life in the wild. Using vivid imagery, he reflects on humanity's relationship with the natural world, his tour of duty in Vietnam, living among Grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park, and, appropriately, mortality. Each memory encapsulates Peacock's profound compassion for humans and animals alike, and his deep sense of responsibility. After attending to "too much collateral damage—that cowardly phrase they apply to the pile of small, dismembered bodies after a botched air attack," as a Special Forces medic in Vietnam from 1965 to 1968, Peacock "applied the anger I had built doing that to the defense of wild things." Readers will appreciate his madcap yet reverential takes on nature; recalling a close encounter with a snake on the Missouri headwaters, he wonders, "How the hell could anyone believe humans were the center of the world when facing poisonous reptiles, grizzlies... or polar bears on equal terms and neutral turf?" While ruefully aware of the prospect of catastrophic global warming ("The beast of today is climate change"), Peacock's "heightened awareness" of the beauty of the wild never wanes. This passionate work is a welcome and worthy addition to the growing canon of environmental literature. (Jan.)