Reflection on The Sand County Almanac (Months January – June) by Aldo Leopold
Simply in reading the words of this book I feel enlightened and refreshed. Aldo Leopold writes truly out of the depths of his heart and his connection to the land. This whole narrative is bound up in love and the inter-connectedness of all beings and it is something incredibly beautiful and compelling.
In the introduction Leopold asks whether a higher “standard of living” is worth the cost to nature. Too many of us nowadays we are separate from the land and don’t share the deep spiritual connection with the land that Aldo Leopold has. We have exchanged the value of the land that sustains us for money and consumer goods. My question back to Leopold would be what his vision of reconnecting people to the land would be? How can we in our being find value in the land when we live in cities? Maybe we could do urban gardening as one step. But how do people come to this same love and value of the land that Leopold has?
To find such joy and connection as Aldo Leopold does with the geese seems to me as extremely life-giving. He anticipates their return and it is part of the natural seasonal change. What strikes me is how important these geese or the oak are to him and the reason this is, is because of his deep connection to the land that causes him to care for the other creatures and natural beings. This land gives him life not just physically but spiritually and that is very evident in how he describes his longing to be a part of what goes on on the land. He is tied to the land in such a way that he grieves and rejoices with it. This means he must be very in-tune with the land. I think that what we are in-tune with shows our priorities and where we place value. His is in the land. If I spend my time on accumulating goods, or on entertaining myself that shows where my priorities lie.
I feel as though in each paragraph there are great profound thoughts but I would like to highlight three of my favorites:
In the month of February, Leopold explains that from not being involved with farming there are two spiritual dangers. These are that food comes from the store and heat from the furnace. I was understood the idea here but had to read it over several times to gain the depth of the meaning. When food comes from the store we lack connection to it. It has little value to us because we do not connect the work that it takes to grow the food with our eating of the food. And when heat comes from the furnace we don’t appreciate the many hours of hard work in the fall to split wood for the cold winter months. You see, putting the work in gives us a spirit of gratitude and we value these things much more because we can directly relate the cost of the labor to the full enjoyment of the food or heat. The spirit of gratitude and appreciation is at danger of being completely lost – in fact it is mostly lost in our culture today.
My second favorite thought is from the month of April, Aldo Leopold says, “They live on the land, but not by the land.” There is much talk these days about getting back to the land but it is so much more than just living in the countryside as Leopold points out here. To live by the land invokes living in harmony with the land and connected to the land. It creates a higher responsibility to care for the land as it needs to be cared for.
The third favorite insight of mine comes from the month of June when Leopold finds himself fishing. He compares human being to a fish who eagerly latches on to whatever alluring new thing that is placed in front of it, but there is a catch – a hidden hook. How often are we allured by shiny exiting new things; new ideas, new clothes, new cars, new ways to make money? Do we ever realize that there is a hidden hook in many of these things? Do they really make us happy? Or are they destroying our natural world and leaving us always wanting?
If you have never read Aldo Leopold Do it! It is beautiful.
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