Where the Styles Brook Waters Flow: The Place I Call Home
Foreword by Philip Terrie, Adirondack historian:
There are few things more rewarding than researching and writing about a place you love. Some of us are born in the places that will always be our spiritual homes, while others move around for a while before finding the place where they belong more than anywhere else, where everything that came before was preparing them for their geographical lodestone. Lorraine Duvall found the valley of Styles Brook, just northeast of the High Peaks in the Adirondack Park, as an adult. This book is the product of her affection for the valley, its people, and its history.
In this corner of the Adirondacks, as in nearly all the other diverse pockets of life and history in our treasured park, Duvall finds the paradoxical but probably inevitable juxtaposition of serenity and tension. There is the serenity of a quintessentially lovely Adirondack stream, with its dramatic falls and peaceful pools. And there are the tensions inherent in how such a paradise can be threatened by inappropriate subdivision and development, or how a natural water course can be catastrophically disrupted by an unexpected weather event.
The Styles Brook valley is in many ways a distillation of Adirondack history and culture. In its past, Duvall finds the story of resource extraction, mainly logging and farming, from which the forest is gradually recovering. It has the potentially fraught but mostly satisfying mix of year-round and seasonal residents, with the summer people relying on the year-rounders for the services and labor that make such bifurcated living possible. In the Styles Brook valley, diverse people have forged a community, despite the occasional bumps in the road when neighbors just don’t see eye to eye. The valley has the increasingly common detail of seasonals leaving behind their life outside the park and making the Adirondacks their permanent home. And Styles Brook has another familiar Adirondack drama, the struggle of people who love their sacred place just the way it is, fighting a developer’s proposal to change it forever with far more houses than they think proper. It’s the classic conundrum: at what point will new development irretrievably destroy what makes a place appealing in the first place?
What the Styles Brook valley has that you won’t find in most Adirondack communities is the 2011 story of Hurricane Irene and the flooding that followed. Duvall tells us how the community manifested the classic small-town resilience of neighbor helping neighbor, and she describes the incompetence of engineers looking for a quick fix and digging new channels that will only make matters worse. In the Adirondacks, we have many opportunities to conclude that human alterations of what nature has provided might seem appropriate in the short term but don’t necessarily solve our problems. Learning this is always possible, but we don’t always take the long view. Lorraine Duvall’s book on the Styles Brook valley invites us to take that long view and see what it can teach us.