Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac: a book that I’ve been not reading for years.

This is a fun category not to be confused with books I will never read or books that I should try to find someday or books that I might read. This is one of those books that has been recommended multiple times, that I’ve wanted to read, that I know that I’ll like, that I just haven’t got around to even though I have pulled it off the shelf many times. It was inevitable. And so was the feeling of “what took me so long” after I read it. (I love hearing the lists of books or things that people have been meaning to do for years.)

I love how poetic and informative the book is. I’m in awe of how much he knows and can describe by observing the (his, our) natural word. (Note to self and imaginary readers: this is the place where you need to insert specifics…)

Leopold now makes my list of a certain kind of writer. Thoreau and Annie Dillard and E.B. White and Wendell Berry and Brian Doyle all come to mind as well. I’ve been thinking a lot about my ignorance and disconnect with the natural word. The writers listed above are inspirational and aspirational to me. I love being outside and observing things, etc. etc. But I’m pretty useless when it comes to what such and such is called or when certain animals are around or what season things ripen in.

Books like A Sand County Almanac are great illustrations that not everyone is like this. I’ve been thinking about this particular passage (off and on) for the last few weeks:

There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.

It’s staggering to stop and think about how many spiritual dangers surround us. It’s fascinating to realize that there is much debate regarding what is and what is not a danger – or spiritual. It’s reassuring that there are some remedies to some of the dangers.

In the case of not owning a farm, Leopold recommends planting a garden and chopping wood to use for heat. My usual recommended prescription for most maladies of understanding and perspective and other things that can be labeled as spiritual dangers is to read promiscuously.


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