Native Americans believed the Spanish Peaks in Southern Colorado were sacred and those who lived in their shadow were blessed. When one of the mountains burned in the East Peak Fire of 2013 and 13,000 acres of its forest were incinerated, it needed healing itself.
Journalist Patricia Prijatel and her family fled the fire in a dramatic escape one June evening, then returned to do what they could to help the mountain rebuild. But floods, orphaned bears, weeds the size of Bigfoot, and hurricane-level winds proved that nature has the last word, especially when it is unleashed from its normal patterns. Through research embedded in the story, Prijatel shows how environment stress follows environmental degradation. She is a case study on climate anxiety.
Wounded Mountain Wounded Soul: The Growth of Ecological Grief in a Climate-Changed Forest starts with the fire and shows its effects on the land and its people for four heart-wrenching years afterward, as Prijatel and her neighbors confront their mortality and that of the mountain. This leads to PTSD, depression, and anxiety. She wonders if she has been the caretaker this land needs, and if she can become that in the future. She asks whether humans should even be in this wilderness. And she wonders if she can ever recover from fear of a threat that is all too real.
Prijatel and her mountain valley are a petri dish for the effects of warming temperatures in America’s forests, which lead to fires that warm the earth even more, wounding the land and its people in body, mind, and spirit.
Patricia Prijatel is a journalism educator and writer whose goal is to help people make sense of things with hope and humor. Her last name is the Slovene word for friend.