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Aldo Leopold

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From A Sand County Almanac


The Geese Return


One swallow does not make a summer, but one skien of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.


A cardinal, whistling spring to a thaw but later finding himself mistaken, can retrieve his error by resuming his winter silence. A chipmunk, emerging for a sunbath but finding a blizzard, has only to go back to bed. But a migrating goose, staking two hundred miles of black night on the chance of finding a hole in the lake, has no easy chance for retreat. His arrival carries the conviction of a prophet who has burned his bridges.


A March morning is only as drab as he who walks in it without a glance skyward, ear cocked for geese. I once knew an educated lady, banded by Phi Beta Kappa, who told me that she had never heard or seen the geese that twice a year proclaim the revolving seasons to her well-insulated roof. Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his is soon a pile of feathers.



Last weekend was Aldo Leopold Weekend here in Wisconsin, with educational events about ecology and land ethics at many towns around the state - that I managed to miss by seeing the notices on Monday.


I am not particularly an outdoorsman and am at best semi-literate about conservation. But I find his writing evocative and moving - a reminder of how important the land and wilderness are to us. If you have not yet read it, I recommend A Sand County Almanac.


For more info on his life and legacy see The Aldo Leopold Foundation. In particular, check the page on Land Ethics.



All the best,


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