For some reason or other, I always thought almanacs were associated with superstition and though I’ve seen A Sand County Almanac being mentioned before, I always thought it was some fiction novel about superstitious rites in Sand County (or something along those lines). It was included on our reading list for one of the modules in Part II Zoology though, and so I thought I should check it out. And I am so glad I did; A Sand County Almanac is one of the most beautifully written collection of essays on nature, human-wildlife relationships, ecology, the environment and conservation that I have ever read.
It’s quite different from other non-fiction environmentally-themed books aimed at the general public that I’ve read, such as E.O. Wilson’s books., or any others that tell you what’s happening and what’s wrong with the world now. Maybe because it was written in the 1940s, when the world was quite different (though in some ways, still the same), or maybe because it wasn’t overloaded with a whole load of information on how the world as we know it is falling to bits and pieces. Reading it is just pure enjoyment (:
Here are some quotes that I picked out (though there are so many more as well!) cos they’re just so beautifully pieced together.
There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot… Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the question whether a still higher ‘standard of living’ is worth its cost in things natural, wild, and free. For us of the minority, the opportunity to see geese is more impotant than television, and the chance to find a pasque-flower is a right as inalienable as free speech. – Foreword
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. – February
To build a road is so much simpler than to think of what the country really needs. A roadless marsh is seemingly as worthless to the alphabetical conservationist as an undrained one was to the empire-builders. Solitude, the one natural resource still undowered of alphabets, is so far recognised as valuable only by ornithologists and cranes. Thus always does history, whether of marsh or marketplace, end in paradox. The ultimate value in these marshes is wildness, and the crane is wildness incarnate. But all conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondles, there is no wilderness left to cherish. – Marshland Elegy, Wisconsin
They know of no urge of seasons; they feel no kiss of sun, no lash of wind and weather. They live forever by not living at all. (referring to pigeons in books and in museums) … The gadgets of industry bring us more comforts than the pigeons did, but do they add as much to the glory of spring?” – On a Monument to the Pigeon, Wisconsin
The wilderness gave them their first taste of those rewards and penalties for wise and foolish acts which every woodsman faces daily, but against which civilisation has built a thousand buffers… Perhaps every youth needs an occasional wilderness trip, in order to learn the meaning of this particular freedom. – Flambeau, Wisconsin
We all strive for safety, prosperity, comfort, long life, and dullness. The deer strives with his supple legs, the cowman with trap and poison, the statesman with pen, the most of us with machines, votes and dollars, but it all comes to the same thing: peace in our time. A measure of success in this is all well enough, and perhaps is a requisite to objective thinking, but too much safety seems to yield only danger in the long run. Perhaps this is behind Thoreau’s dictum: In wildness is the salvation of the world. Perhaps this is the hidden meaning in the howl of the wolf, long known among mountains, but seldom perceived among men. – Thinking Like a Mountain, Arizona & New Mexico
Men always kills the thing he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness. Some say we had to. be that as it may, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map? – The Green Lagoons, Chihuahua & Sonora
Parks are made to bring the music to the many, but by the time many are attuned to hear it there is little left but noise… There are men charged with the duty of examining the construction of the plants, animals, and soils which are the instruments of the great orchestra. These men are called professors. Each selects one instrument and spends his life taking it apart and describing its strings and sounding boards. This process of dismemberment is called research. The place for dismemberment is called a university… Professors serve science and science serves progress. It serves progress so well that many of the more intricate instruments are stepped upon and broken in the rush to spread progress to all backward lands. One by one the parts are thus stricken from the song of songs. If the professor is able to classify each instrument before it is broken, he is well content. – Song of the Gavilan, Chihuahua & Sonora
The entire Part III – The Upshot (comprising Conservation Esthetic, Wildlife in American Culture, Wilderness and The Land Ethic) is worth reading in its entirety, if I had to choose a quote I would have to copy out the whole section.
Please go read it, I promise it won’t disappoint.