“The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, but He is no longer the only one to do so” – Leopold 1949
As a Warnell student, I have been asked to read Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac
several times. Each time I’ve read it, I’ve gained a new perspective on nature, and what it
means to be in the natural resources field. In the quote above, he is referring to man’s ingenuity and the inventions of the shovel and the axe. The shovel to plant a tree- the giver- and the axe to fell it- the taker. The caveat is that you must own land in order to obtain these “divine functions.”
For those that haven’t read A Sand County Almanac, here’s the highlights. The first part of the book is Leopold’s nature journal. He focuses heavily on the relationships that exist not only within an ecosystem, but how even ecosystems have relationships with each other. He calls this the “land organism”. He writes beautifully and explains in lush detail the landscape around him- simply writing what he observes. In later parts of the book, Leopold talks about his travel experiences in the wilderness and humanity’s interaction with nature. He explains how wilderness is becoming endangered due to development. He fears that one day it will be extinct, and that future generations will do nothing to preserve the foundations of this country.
Leopold’s writing is nothing less than thought provoking. And that’s really saying something coming from me, as I am not someone who reads often, and I’ve certainly never read the same book three times. But A Sand County Almanac has stimulated my own mind so much that I actually decided to write my own book! For the last three to four months, I have reinvented my thoughts in writing The Sunflower.
The Sunflower is an analogy for how I want to live my life, and also for the spiritual connection between humans and nature. I guess you could say I’m a transcendentalist.
But I am also a creature of control. My book is greatly inspired by Aldo Leopold and the idea of the diminishing wilderness in America today.
However, last weekend I was able to experience some of the remaining wilderness that Georgia has to offer. I would be remiss to divulge the location of my solidarity in nature. But I will say there is nothing like sitting up against an oak tree, miles from civilization, taking in the sounds of nature, and talking to the trees!
Waking up with the sun and the birds to the sound of dew on my tarp shelter made me wish I could stay forever. But I wondered if we went back to this way of living- as a society- would we still end up making wilderness go extinct?
I think boredom is the biggest predator of wilderness. The human mind doesn’t like to sit still, and when it does, it quickly tries to find some way to be more productive. Boredom sparks ingenuity. After just 3 days in the wilderness, my mind was tired of doing nothing. I started to think of ways to make my shelter more effective, or more efficient for set up. I tried to think of what I could make by means of tools in order to carry more water from the stream back to camp. I started inventing things that this world has already invented. But there’s always something “better”. I think the only weapon against the predator of boredom is learning to sit still and simply enjoy the beauty of the prey: the wilderness. But then lies the question: is boredom a natural predator that needs regular population management, or more of an invasive species we want to eliminate completely?