As Aldo Leopold opens the month of July a vivid image of the dawn is awakened in my
mind. The sun lights up the sky with color as it shimmers gold on anything it touches. I picture
the horizon far off across the plains and the feeling of being home. Not just the few fields that are
deeded in my name but the whole land that my eyes can see is my home and I care deeply for it.
This is the type of spiritual/emotional connection to the land that one calls home that will cause
an individual to transform the way they interact in the economy as their focus goes from dollars
and cents to the fullness of life that comes from enjoying being at home just as Aldo Leopold
does. Although the idea of ownership is interesting and as we keep reading through this month
we see how each creature claims ownership of something and yet we all are neighbors as we
share this ecosystem together.
I love the quiet simple morning that is spent observing nature. To sit and be still before
the busyness of the day is a practice we could learn from. I do not have a cabin or a bench to sit
on but I can take a few moments each day to consider the things that are of value to me and to be
thankful. As Aldo would say do we prefer fishing or going forward?
“Tell me of what plant-birthday a man takes notice, and I shall tell you a good deal about
his vocation, his hobbies, his hay fever, and the general level of his ecological education.” One
certainly can tell a good deal about who Aldo Leopold is based on his writings. I would be
ashamed to try and identify many plants. Our priorities have changed, perhaps not at all for the
better. Why will no one wonder what the land looked like when the wildflowers grew high and
the buffalo roamed? I wonder in the next generations will they ask “I wonder where the clean
water, the mountains and the forests have gone? What did it look like back then? What if we said
people are burning history books as they pollute the rivers and mine the mountains and cut down
the forests? We must ask ourselves what is real history? Is it just human achievements and
interactions or can nature have history too? Who is the keeper and the teller of this history?
Ah and then we transition into fall. Fall is my favorite time of year. It is a time of peace
between busy seasons where one can still thoroughly enjoy the cooling weather. And I find the
beauty of fall continuously breathtaking. Aldo describes nature as a priceless painting and I
know I feel so honored when I can enjoy the beauty of the seasons. To sit in solitude in creation
is not a thing to fear but for me it is a way to find peace and realign myself with what is most
In the month of November Aldo quotes “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” but
then he says that now with the shovel man is the giver and with the axe man is the taker. How
true is this! As our society has “progressed” from hunter-gatherers to pastoralists and then
eventually into the industrialized urbanity of today we have given ourselves the role of God over
anything that we can. We have the choice where we use the shovel or the axe and with what
motivation we use them. Neither are bad. Aldo asks how does one define a conservationist and
he says that it is best defined in the motivation that comes as we wield the axe. With everything
we do he says that we leave our signature on the land and so then it is our choice as to whether
we are signing our names to the health and beautification of the land as one lives in harmony
with it or to the exploitation of the land.
One last quote from Aldo that I appreciate comes when he is talking about his motivation
for using the axe on a specific tree and how there are many factors that sway his decision and
many biases. This is what he writes, “Our biases are indeed a sensitive index to our affection, our
tastes, our loyalties, our generosities, and our manner of wasting weekends.” I especially like this
quote because it makes me think about the motivations I have behind the things that I do, which
perhaps is the point of this whole transformation process.