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The Shack

January 6th, 2014 | Posted by in Adventures

I’m a nerd, always have been. I’ve never been one to shy away from that. I’m a music nerd, a book nerd, a Doctor Who nerd…and growing up with parents who are all about “the nature,” I’m also a nature nerd.

One of my favorite books is Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac. I first read it in sixth grade, and then again as an assignment during my first summer of graduate school. I love the way this book is written, like you’re reading someone’s nature journal. I love the stories he tells and the images they conjure up in my mind. I loved reading about this far away ecosystem, so different from the only one I’ve ever really experienced here in the Pacific Northwest.

Last winter I received an invitation to my cousin’s wedding in Madison, Wisconsin. Hmm, Wisconsin. Never been there. But something went off in my brain. On a whim, I googled Aldo Leopold and realized why my brain had jumped—his shack, the geographic location of A Sand County Almanac, was about 45 minutes northwest of Madison. I called my dad. “We should go,” I said. “Come on, when will we get another chance to see Leopold’s shack?” He didn’t need much convincing. “Let’s keep this in mind so we can plan our flights around it,” was his response.

Fast forward to the end of August. My mom, my dad, and I are driving to a little Wisconsin town called Baraboo. We’re on our way to the Aldo Leopold Foundation. It’s hot outside. Our rental car has fancy air conditioning and we’re all glad for it. Us Pacific Northwesterners aren’t used to this weather.

Arriving at the Aldo Leopold Foundation campus, we walk around the native vegetation and an outdoor classroom building, then head into the office. The woman at the front desk gives us a map and explains how to get to the nearby Leopold property. I see a picture of Estella Leopold, Aldo’s youngest child and the only one still living, and wonder what it must be like to be Aldo Leopold’s offspring. Estella lives in Seattle and I was fortunate enough to meet her once at a gathering of the Natural History Network.

inside the leopold foundation buildingThere’s a small museum with writings and artifacts from the Leopold family. Photo by the author
bench with plaquePlaque by the entrance to the Leopold Foundation building reads:
Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm
has been designated a
National Historic Landmark
This property possesses national significance as the outdoor laboratory for Aldo Leopold’s pioneering work from 1935-1948 in wildlife management and ecological restoration, and as the inspiration for his seminal work, “A Sand County Almanac.”
National Park Service
United States Department of the Interior

» Continue reading The Shack

Sam drawing by Stamati

Alighting the Entire Sky: Happy Thanksgiving!

November 26th, 2013 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program



All this time

The sun never says to the earth,


“You owe




What happens

With a love like that,

It lights the



–Hafiz, Persian poet, “The Sun Never Says,” 1325-1390

Hafiz is right. There exists a reciprocation in ecology and cosmology that would do us humans well to observe and emulate in all of our daily acts. And like the sun’s energy, the gifts of gratitude cost nothing. Deriving from the Latin gratis, or “free of charge,” it is a democratic emotion, accessible to anyone, anytime, anywhere.

Diablo Sun HaleRadiating from behind Pyramid, offering power in many forms. That ol’ sun just keeps on….goin’. Photo by Samantha Hale.

But perhaps most important, this ability to express gratitude might be one of the best prescriptions in the environmentalist’s medicine chest, providing as it does an antidote to Aldo Leopold’s sagely assertion from 1949’s A Sand County Almanac:

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.

Gratitude won’t magically cure the illness, but a dose can’t help but turbo-charge the immune system. Giving thanks is a gracious counter-balance, as well, to the sense of runaway entitlement that could be argued is at the root of our global environmental destruction. Offering small, constant kindnesses humbles ourselves while honoring the others.

In celebration of tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, then, let’s practice a little gratitude, shall we?

“I’m grateful for the rain, for the cold sunshine and for the blustery days. For the frost in the mornings and the (occasional) clear starry nights. For friendships and family, for candles and lots of food. For the approach of winter and the ever-shortening days. I love it all.” – Ryan Weisberg, graduate student and former Chattermarks editor, Cohort 12

friendsgiving.HaleLots of food! An early “Friendsgiving” potluck by the folks at the Environmental Learning Center. Photo by Samantha Hale.

“I’m grateful for having found this graduate program and this institute and the amazing and little-known national park around it!” – Annabel Connelly, graduate student, Cohort 13

» Continue reading Alighting the Entire Sky: Happy Thanksgiving!