“A Sand County Almanac” by Aldo Leopold

Pages: 1
Words: 392

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold is a passionate and thoughtful account of nature observations throughout a year. In the very beginning, Leopold lovingly refers to the start of the year’s observations as tempting distractions (1). This love for the natural world is vivid in his descriptions of natural phenomena, which the author tends to personify. For instance, Leopold describes an owl as “remind[ing]” that skunk may be too optimistic with his “thoughts of spring” (2). The way the author describes his observations makes the reader feel as if they were walking along with him on the path, observing the phenomena in the woods, from oaks to skunks. The sense of presence and emotional involvement are the two predominant feelings I have experienced as a reader.

Aside from the immediate nature observations, the author also contemplates the past and the future. Leopold observes the passing of time by considering the events throughout the lifespan of an oak tree, referring to the woodchips as the “fragrant little chips of history” (5). I think that having the process of cutting through the annual rings represent the recital of the history of environmental, social, political, and constitutional events is incredibly effective. Like the annual rings, the account in the narrative progresses backward: for instance, a decade of game conservation establishment is described from 1916 to 1906 (Leopold 6). The author continues to elaborate on his parallel, describing three ways to cut the tree and likening it to the ways to approach history.

I have thought about history growing and developing throughout this reading, just like an oak tree. Some events have already occurred; some may be remembered by ‘cutting the wood’; some will be tossed aside. However, like a living creature, our history continues to grow, adding, rather than overwriting, layers and layers of experience. I also take a great liking to the simultaneously melancholic and humorous ending of the chapter, where Leopold describes returning the ashes to the earth (18). Leopold wonders about the future, where the ashes will return to the life cycle, “perhaps as a spirit of enterprise in some fat October squirrel” (18). The reminder of our life’s repeating cycle became a perfect conclusion for the author’s gentle wonder about living, dying, and living again. This ending made me wonder what my history concludes with and what will happen next.

Work Cited

Leopold, Aldo. A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There. Oxford University Press, 1968.