Aldo Leopold’s “The Sand County Almanac,” from July to December

Well, it’s week two of reading Leopold, and I am sold. This guys knows what a relationship with the land really is, and reading the second half of his “year” was nothing short of inspiring. I only hope I can know the land as well as he does one day.

As I read through July, I felt like I was waking up with all of the birds he described. It reminds me of this summer, when I was working at the Visitor Information Centre here in Camrose. I had no idea previous to working there that Camrose is a large bird watching community. Since then, I am always watching for – and am always surprised at – the multitude of vibrant birds I see as I walk around the lake. The only question I have for Aldo, mind you, is how on earth he can get up at 3:30 to say good morning to some of the birds, and stay awake all night to watch the dance of others? But aside from that, Leopold, points out the incredible poetics of nature that we so often ignore. If only we all had a dog to “translate [for me] the olfactory poems” (Leopold 46).

I find so much of Leopold’s writing is significant because of his acute awareness of the world around him. When he goes on to speak of Silphiums, a nearly extinct plant, it once again jolts me out of my ignorance to see what we as humans miss – and often destroy because of that. Can we really not have “both progress and plants” (Leopold 51)? How true it is that “[w]e only grieve for what we know” (Leopold 52)! Again, in August, the beauty of the land is discovered because of Leopold’s attention to it – the way the river paints is beautiful because Leopold knows what to look for and how to “hang up” the picture in his mind. Fall sets in, and I am beginning to feel the winding down of the bird’s choruses and already, in October, awaiting another spring.

There are a few other things that strike me about Leopold’s fall months. Firstly, in October, he talks about the single-mindedness of freight trains. When I first read that, I was a bit confused of a correlation, but I realized being single-minded or focused on just one thing is probably a key aspect to the acute awareness that Leopold has. I say probably, because I feel like I so frequently have to be multitasking, I seldom have a chance to dwell on just one thing for two long. Secondly, I love the way he talks about the sun rising later and later. He still rises early, but the fact that it is now darker out for longer does not make him to depressed or tired (which it often does to me). Instead, he allows it to heighten his other senses.

In winter, Leopold starts off with again acknowledging the spirituality of nature, and that landowners have now assumed that they know when best to give and take life of plants. He insists that we must take ownership of our relationship and actions with nature, as it is a person’s “signature on the face of his land” (Leopold 63). He questions himself, his relationship with the land, and allows himself to engage and love it.

            In December, Leopold returns to reminding us to develop awareness and see learning opportunities for just that. “Every farm is a textbook on animal ecology” (Leopold 74). He also talks about object lessons, and that “one need not doubt the unseen” (Leopold 77), which for me is so important to think about as I move forward to write a paper on the spiritual significance of the New Economy. It’s what we don’t see that matters so much – lack of taking care of it has brought us here, and paying attention to spirituality in the land and economic system is what will bring change.