A Sand County Almanac | Study Guide

Aldo Leopold

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A Sand County Almanac | Part 1, August : A Sand County Almanac | Summary



The Green Pasture

Humans create paintings that can last and be appreciated over generations. In nature there is another kind of painting, lesser known to humankind and mostly appreciated by wandering deer, a work created by a river. This painter is temperamental, and his paintings disappear as quickly as they appear. The paints are made up of silt, plants, and sand. Silt is deposited in a ribbon on the sand along the water's edge. Plants begin to grow, attracting wildlife. When the plants flower, new paint colors are added to the painting. The painting lasts just a short time, so observers can only "hang" it in their memories, not on a wall.


This lovely description of the fleeting beauty of a landscape "painted" by nature again contrasts the human perspective and nature's perspective. Human painters use colors that will last for generations on a canvas that can be hung and admired for years and years. But the river, an artist of another kind, paints a constantly changing image that only lasts a very short time and might never be seen by human eyes. Humans try to capture a moment and hold it in time, but the river (itself a thing always in motion) creates a painting that never sits still.

While not a refutation that human art is valuable and beautiful, this sketch is an invitation to humans to appreciate a different kind of beauty. The beauty of the river's painting is the transitory beauty of nature, which is in constant motion. It is the beauty of a moment that is not captured on canvas or in a photograph, but only by the physical senses.

Leopold liberally uses in his work the literary techniques of personification (portraying a nonhuman abstraction as acting and behaving like a human) and anthropomorphism (giving human characteristics to nonhuman entities to create imagery). Most often he uses these techniques to describe animals, but here he gives the river, in a sense a nonliving thing, the personality of a temperamental artist.

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