Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Visit to Aldo Leopold's Farm and Shack

"One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise."

Leopold, Aldo: Round River, Oxford University Press, New York, 1993, pg. 165.

Bill and Linda at Leopold's Shack

Yesterday and finally (after twenty three years of living in Wisconsin), my wife and I made the ecology-minded pilgrimage to Aldo Leopold's farm and the shack made famous in his wonderful nature-bound chronicle, A Sand County Almanac.

The beautifully-written book did not really become popular--either did Leopold, who died in 1948--until the sixties, when ideas about ecology and the land ethic he espoused and articulated gained traction.

If you get a chance, pick up a copy of this well-written chronicle; most editions now include additional essays, excerpts from which you will find on the internet.

I have a number of favorites but love in particular "Thinking Like a Mountain," a prosaic piece of creative nonfiction I use in my Creative Writing class each fall.

Reading this short narrative provides an excellent example of the kind of writing A Sand County Almanac offers.

And a visit to the farm and shack the Aldo Leopold Foundation
maintains also reinforces why this particular area attracted Leopold, from the impressive Wisconsin River that flows nearby the shack to the Spiderwort that dots the prairie fields and woods he worked to nurture back to health.

I hope that my photographs capture some of the location's beauty.

I plan to return to the area a few miles from Baraboo, WI, later this summer to join a turn that includes a visit inside the humble shack in which, apparently, he penned sections of what came to be his most famous book.

This area of Wisconsin features not only the International
Crane Foundation but also the home in Sauk Prairie south of Baraboo of prolific author August Derleth.

For beautiful descriptions of this area in general and in particular of the Wisconsin River, take a look at perhaps Derleth's best book of the 150+ he published, Walden West.

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