Book Review: A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

While I’m finishing other books and forcing myself back into my daily writing habits, I wanted to comment on one of my favorite books in the interim—a book I loved long before it was popularized by Where the Crawdads Sing.

I hope I’m not the only one that believes that since climate change is such a significant and serious existential threat, conservation ecology should become standard curriculum in all education from an early age. Why it hasn’t thus far eludes me. I said the same thing for sociology, but that is another essay entirely.

I grew up outdoors. I lived in the woods and caves and dirt; the creeks, rivers, and oceans. Rarely staying indoors, I was gone from dawn till dusk oftentimes dragged into the house at dark by my mom. I long for sunshine on my body; the feel of dirt and mud beneath my feet and between my toes; the flurry and resonance of the wind as it whips through the trees. I love standing in the rain and watching downpours cascade obliquely across everything visible and some things not. I love the power and explosions of thunder and the flares of lightning that crack open the sky. I stood on a beach as a tropical storm evolved into a hurricane and watched as the waves grew and multiplied. I sat on a deck and watched the trees dance as oscillating hurricane bands bent them to and fro. I tread through blinding blizzards and four plus feet of snow to go to an outhouse to pee. I watched as a whirlwind dared become a tornado and waited patiently when the warning and growl of another approached sending lawn furniture flying. I watched as trees were razed to make roads and waited with my fingers in my ears for the blast of dynamite to blow apart rocks and mountains. I’ve witnessed the aftermath of deadly floods and tsunamis and the even more devastation of greedy men and corporations as they blew the tops off mountains while polluting streams and rivers. I followed the fires that swept across states and continents devouring plant and wildlife and turning the air dark with ash.

This is our home but we are only tenants here and nature is not forgiving the abuses we constantly wreak upon her. We need take better care of her lest we find ourselves without—nowhere to go. As someone that’s been homeless, that is not an enjoyable experience.

If you love nature, this book is a must. If you are a writer and would like to poetically enhance your detailed descriptions of such, this book will do, but I sincerely hope it is the former first and foremost. Aldo Leopold is not only a conservationist but a poet and an extremely wise one for the wisdom in this book could preserve and save us all.

“The wind that makes music in November corn is in a hurry. The stalks hum, the loose husks whisk skyward in half-playful swirls, and the wind hurries on. In the marsh, long windy waves surge across the grassy sloughs, beat against the far willows. A tree tries to argue, bare limbs waving, but there is no detaining the wind. On the sandbar there is only wind, and the river sliding seaward. Every wisp of grass is drawing circles on the sand. I wander over the bar to a driftwood log, where I sit and listen to the universal roar, and to the tinkle of wavelets on the shore. The river is lifeless: not a duck, heron, marshhawk, or gull but has sought refuge from wind.”

“Our biases are indeed a sensitive index to our affections, our tastes, our loyalties, our generosities, and our manner of wasting weekends.”

“Education, I fear, is learning to see one thing by going blind to another.”

“A sense of history should be the most precious gift of science and of the arts…”

“Perception, in short, cannot be purchased with either learned degrees or dollars; it grows at home as well as abroad, and he who has a little may use it to as good advantage as he who has much.”

“To those devoid of imagination, a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part.”

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