Mourning the loss of a special place has become a common plaint in the West. Changes in paradise always evoke regret and loss, especially when they happen on your watch and seem irrevocable.
Roger Brown, a 70-year-old filmmaker who
lives near Gypsum, Colo., has written, photographed and
self-published Requiem for the West, an
impassioned lament for the changes he has seen in more than 40
years of mountain living. "Life is change," writes former Colorado
Governor Dick Lamm in a preface to the book. "No civilization is
ever static. Yet there is great nostalgia in my heart for Roger
Brown’s Rocky Mountain West."
Brown is remorseful
about the path of progress in the West, and remorseless in the
anger he feels about it. He mourns the loss of soul and solitude,
of small mountain towns and rural quaintness. "I care deeply about
this land and many of the people who live on it, so I do not take
lightly the task of being critical," Brown writes. "I would rather
just close my eyes and ignore some of the things that have gone
wrong, but some of us have to speak out."
His book will
strike a chord in anyone who has watched a newly bulldozed
subdivision take the place of a hay meadow, or encountered a
congested mountain highway, or burned inside at the sight of drill
rigs on the Roan Plateau, in the high places where the elk used to
Still, hope springs eternal, even for an old
curmudgeon: "Yes, the old West is dead and a requiem is
appropriate," concludes Brown, "but there is still an opportunity
to shape a new West that is not based on greed but on quality of
life … Speak out, behave yourself, be kind to Nature, think
in the long term, and listen to your heart."