Tag Archives | Aldo Leopold

You Can’t Go Back | Aldo Leopold

We’ve all had that sinking sensation when we try to revisit an old haunt, only to find it pales in comparison to our own memories of it. In Sand County Almanac, Aldo Leopold expresses this emotion far more eloquently:

It is the part of wisdom never to revisit a wilderness, for the more golden the lily, the more certain that someone has gilded it. To return not only spoils a trip, but tarnishes a memory. It is only in the mind that shining adventure remains forever bright.

Or more cynically, we have the words of the Qohelet:

Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’
For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
— Ecclesiastes 7:10, NRSV

A Sand County Almanac | Aldo Leopold

A storm blew up out of nowhere this spring while I was solo paddling the South Branch of the Muskoka river, just outside of Bracebridge. I pushed my canoe into the brush at the end of a secluded bay, and watched the storm approach. As it intensified, I pulled out this small paper-back book and read a section. That’s just the sort of book it is.

Leopold’s words read like poetry. You immediately realize that you’re in the company of someone who loves wilderness. The cover has a quote from the San Francisco Chronicle stating that this book belongs on the shelf with Thoreau and Muir. I heartily agree—so long as Sigurd Olson’s right there with them. Even better than the shelf: this book belongs in your backpack.

I had to pull my canoe out of the water, and turn it over to shelter my pack. I stood at the base of a large hemlock tree and watched the spring-time hail bounce off the scarred underbody of my 14 foot red solo canoe. A mere 15 minutes later the storm was over and I was back in the water. Leopold’s words far outlasted the storm.

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