New Year. New Start. New Paradigm.


The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.

–Aldo Leopold

Thirty-five years ago, after a major health scare, my perspective shifted. I became more focused on big picture stuff. You know… why are we here? What can I do to make a difference? What feeds my soul? I realized my heart was truly home when I was in nature. I wanted to share my enthusiasm for the natural world with young people, tomorrow’s land stewards.

After receiving my teaching license, I became familiar with the history of US conservation, ecology, and environmentalism. (See Ann’s Window to Nature Blog, “Wild By Law,” for a brief history of conservation in the US.). Most of our environmental-related laws, programs, agencies, and philosophies were born out of the need to protect wildlife and wild lands in the late 1800’s.
In 1949, Aldo Leopold, considered by many to be the father of wildlife management and the originator of establishing a land ethic, wrote his seminal book, A Sand County Almanac. In his short essays, Leopold wrote of the beauty found in nature and of our moral responsibility to it.

In his essay “January Thaw,” Leopold wrote of “the kernel of spring present in the first, coldest month of the year.”

The sights, sounds, sunshine, and sundogs of Minnesota winters are everywhere if we just pause long enough to see them—feel them.

Sun dog by Ann McCarthy

Here in the cities, we have a “January Thaw,” each year. The temps warm, the snowpack melts a bit, and the sun shines brightly.  Technically, a January thaw is two or more days with maximum temperatures above 32 degrees. We northerners may even forego wearing a jacket.

This January as we enter a new year, we will resolve to exercise more, to eat healthier, and maybe even learn a new language or hobby. Maybe as part of our new year’s resolutions this year we can add a little nature to the mix.

Winter scene by Ann McCarthy
Winter scene by Ann McCarthy

Did You Know?

Establishing a connection to nature will benefit your physical and mental health. Start with small, achievable steps like hanging a bird feeder. Consider planting some herbs in pots or establishing a pollinator garden for butterflies. Venture to local parks, arboretums, or nature centers.

Maybe January 2024 is the perfect time to start something new.  Maybe it will be a chance to spend more time outdoors and less time on screens, phones, and computers.

Happy New Year!

By Eagan Store Manager ANN MCCARTHY