Healing the Wounds

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds… ” —Aldo LeopoldDSCN5647

In the season of great holidays with all their heightened emotional baggage, we’re all aware of global problems, and even our personal crises can seem more heavily weighted at times like these. Whereas global matters and personal relationships are generally considered to be vastly separated, if we dig down deeply into ourselves we may note that one realm readily affects the other.

DSCN5648I’ve long been a fan of Aldo Leopold’s book, A Sand County Almanac. One of my personal favorites for many years, the work has helped me understand that a naturalist, or one who strives to see relationships between humanity and nature, dwells in a kind of solitude among other folks, a solitude lonely or felicitous or somewhere inbetween.

As an amateur naturalist myself, I  recognize a “world of wounds” because, for better or worse, it tells me I’m alive and at least reasonably aware of what’s going on in the larger sphere of existence.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This family enjoyed an excellent Christmas together, although my daughter came home unexpectedly from Scotland a couple of days earlier under saddened circumstances. We were here to help her and to step forward in celebration of the holidays.

Before Christmas Eve kicked into high gear with a family gathering in Hornell, New York, my son and I seized the early afternoon as the traditional time to climb the hill to meet my brother walking up from the other side where his home is located. My son’sDSCN5650 entertaining account of this “whiskey walk” can be found on his recent blog post at Bridging the Gap. This three-mile ramble up through the fields and forest was unusually warm this year with more fog and mist than with snow and ice, but it was pleasant nonetheless.

Again, we met at the old car that had given up the ghost along an abandoned road some 50 years ago when Greenwood was still a relatively thriving agricultural community. That rusty, bullet-ridden heap serves the three of us as a woodland bartop DSCN5646where we pause to hear the ravens flying by or to spy a run-about turkey or a deer. As we talk and laugh and tilt back our heads in libation to the gods, it seems that nature has taken yet another small step to embrace the one-time industrial wonder and to bring it closer to the folds.

It, too, lives in a world of wounds, but at least its battles are long over.

With a whiskey flask or a beer can in our grasps (yes, we carry those empties back forOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA recycling!) I proposed a toast to the recent NYS fracking ban that almost feels like a rare David-over-Goliath victory.

The rivertops and the wild country thank those humans who fought the Big Machinery of Fossil Fuel and won. With luck, the wounds that have eaten at the hearts of everyone involved, on both sides of the battle, will soon be healed.

We paused on the grey-bound summit and Brent asked for a moment of silence to hear the surroundings. The excesses of the “hunting club” would soon be noticeable beyond the mist (a 40-foot tower used for deer surveillance, an elaborate camp and stocked trout pond, etc.), but for now this was the world…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI imagined that my daughter was feeling stronger about her life. She and Leighanne would soon be picking up my aged mother at her house down in the valley. The sound of a jet plane scraped slowly across the heavens. A line of oak trees at the field edge dropped icy raindrops from the crowns of chattering leaves.

We were on our way. The muddy, frozen cornfields might have looked like Nebraska in a fight for lost causes– every other corn stalk hot for guns, cool on immigration to America, completely perplexed if you mention “man-made climate change”– but we probably felt like old progressives on the mend, at last…

After all, it was Christmas, and the New Year brings a silver lining….

Stanton's innovative ties... thanks Bob!

Stanton’s innovative ties… thanks Bob!

About rivertoprambles

Welcome to Rivertop Rambles. This is my blog about the headwaters country-far afield or close to home. I've been a fly-fisher, birder, and naturalist for most of my adult life. I've also written poetry and natural history books for thirty years. In Rambles I will mostly reflect on the backcountry of my Allegheny foothills in the northern tier of Pennsylvania and the southern tier of New York State. Sometimes I'll write about the wilderness in distant states, or of the wild places in the human soul. Other times I'll just reflect on the domestic life outdoors. In any case, I hope you enjoy. Let's ramble!
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12 Responses to Healing the Wounds

  1. Bob Stanton says:

    I am convinced that if the majority of the populace were to give “A Sand County Almanac” an honest reading, it would be a watershed moment in the way they think about the “biotic community”, as it was for me, and we would see a positive surge in the environmental, ecological, or whatever else you may call it – movement – in terms of people who practice meaningful stewardship of this earth, from small, everyday activities to a grander, global scale. Granted, I was inclined to think along the lines of the principles that Aldo espoused, but he presents them in such a logical, plain way that can easily be absorbed by the most casual of readers. I still get a lump in my throat every time I read his epiphanal moment: the killing of the she-wolf and ” the fierce green fire dying in her eyes”. And hey, the next time I see those flies, I’d like to see them in the corner of a trout’s mouth!

    • Excellent, Bob, and I agree, thinking the book should be required (nay, strongly suggested) reading in our lives, perhaps starting in middle school or soon thereafter. As for the flies, yes, will do my best to relocate a few of them into the meaty portions of a jaw and then to retrieve with respect.

  2. Brent says:

    This is a nice way to tie the walk into a variety of larger journeys, toward personal and ecological healing. In terms of man-made Christmas spirit, you’ve provided pictures of two great examples: 1) Bob’s thoughtful gift of trout flies, and 2) our respective blogs’ first official merchandise. Wear it proudly!

  3. leigh says:

    Walt, sounds like a fine family tradition. I also share your joy in the recent fracking ban. They got this one right.

    Look forward to meeting again in the New Year.


  4. Jay says:

    Hi Walt,
    I’m going to read A Sand County Almanac this week. Those are some great caddis patterns! What ate the materials used?

    • Jay, My hunch is that you’ll find the book greatly rewarding. Send your thoughts on it when you have a chance. As for the caddis patterns, I’ll forward your question to the tyer, Bob Stanton. Check back shortly, and I’m sure we’ll have some specifics on these caddis and articulated streamers. Thanks!

  5. Ken G says:

    In the U.S. alone I thought I read that there are somewhere between 40-80 million people classified as illiterate or functionally illiterate. There’s probably that many more that just don’t give much thought to anything environmental. So, David and Goliath indeed. Somebody has to do it.

    Hope your new year is a good one Walt.

  6. Bob Stanton says:

    Hi Jay, thanks for asking. The top two patterns are size 12 hooks, black glass bead heads and fluorescent green spanflex wound behind that, with the case made of a mix of deer hair and squirrel fur spun in dubbing loop. The next two are size 12, brown bead, white spanflex and a case of turkey tail fibers and brown antron spun in a loop. The next is a size 10 2x long hook with turkey tail fibers superglued to a body of brown fur dubbing. The last is size 12, with four pieces of 20 lb test mono tied to the shank, legs – a pinch of black deer hair, body of chartreuse chenille colored black and burnt at the tip, with a case of twisted turkey tail fiber wound to the eye. All are slightly weighted. As I had told Walt, the last two are basically prototypes and I probably will have to refine them to get some measure of durability out of ’em. But, they’re fun to fish and kind of novel. The steamers, if you’re wondering, are size 4 articulated models based on (or ripped off of ) the Kelly Galloup template. Enjoy reading “A Sand County Almanac”, it’s a great book!

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Bob. I especially like the two bottom ties on the left. Definitely going to try those. My wife is picking up “A Sand County Almanac” at the library today.
      Thanks again!

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