I tried to think of English-language books that I could share with him that spoke to this inner calling of nature. "Walden" of course, by Thoreau. "The other side of the mountain" by Jean Craighead George, one of my own childhood favorites. To this day I still remember how much I savored reading her young adult novel about trying to live off the land by oneself as a teenager in the woods. Instead, I gave him a book, even though I hadn't read it myself. I had, however, heard mentioned over and over again as one of the best in the American canon for nature writing: "Sand County Almanac" by Aldo Leopold.
|"Sand County Almanac"|
has sold over 2,000,000 copies
Having always meant to read it because of its steady, growing reputation, I opened it up and began.
"Sand County Almanac" is divided into a year of observations about living on a Wisconsin farm and the natural life that goes on there through the seasons. Aldo Leopold, the Iowa-born author, was a professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Wisconsin when he wrote it. He would retire to his "tired-out" farmland and shack on the weekend with his wife and five kids. Before his professorship, he was very active in the United States Forest Service writing the first fish and game handbook ever and proposing the first National Wilderness Designation ever for Gila Wilderness Area.
Thank goodness, I was going home to America within the month! The beauty of the Wisconsin farm landscape came pouring of every page of this book. So did his pride and passion for observation of his piece of land, something every property owner has felt. Having last lived in central Wisconsin when I was in America, I could hardly bear reading it so evocative was it for all that was gorgeous about nature in the Midwest, and Wisconsin in particular.
|Aldo Leopold is considered|
the father of wildlife ecology
Aldo describes not knowing where our heat comes from as a "spiritual danger." A spiritual danger! Is that not what we experience when we consume our petrol mindlessly as we do without acknowledgement of the depletion of nature and cost to human life?
He says "if one has cut, split, hauled, and piled his own good oak, and let his mind work the while, he will remember much about where the heat comes from, and with a wealth of detail denied to those who spend a week in town astride a radiator."
I am not going to split my own oak for heat anytime soon, but let you and I just ask ourselves if we know the details of where our heat comes with the same deep consciousness and thought for its replacement as Aldo did. While sawing, he recalled exactly where the tree originated from, what it measured in length and width, what was going on in history at the time of its birth, and what the oak had to survive to get to this age. When another oak was felled by lightening on his property, he allowed it to properly age in the sunshine it could no longer use, and then split it one fine winter day secure in the knowledge that there was a renewable source of new wood growing on his farm. Do we consume our heat with that level of awareness and consciousness about where it's coming from, how it shall be renewed, and at what cost?
The forward alone is full of such copious amounts of wisdom it was, again, awe-inspiring to read. May I absorb his wisdom to my bones.
From the forward:
"But wherever the truth may lie, this much is crystal-clear: our bigger and better society is now like a hypochondriac, so obsessed with its own economic health as to have lost the capacity to remain healthy. The whole world is so greedy for more bathtubs that it has lost the stability necessary to build them, or even to turn off the tap. Nothing could be more salutary at this stage than a little healthy contempt for a plethora of material blessings."
~Aldo Leopold, 1949
You might also enjoy these Wisconsin or nature-related posts:
The Marvelousness of Madison
A Spectacular Hike to Gem Lake
Elk Bugling Season
Couchsurfing Hike to Český ráj
Hiking the Sázava River in Central Bohemia