The Singing Wilderness

Yesterday was the final session of the Heroes and Heroism undergraduate honors seminar I taught this J-term. The three hours were devoted to presentations by each of the nine students on the final papers they wrote for me.

Their assignment was to write a paper on a public figure other than one of those we discussed in class that met the definition of heroism the student developed based on our class discussion. I also asked their paper to also include discussion of a non-public figure or a fictional character who met their definition.

Reflecting the students’ different majors and interests, we had a presentation on a broad range of heroes that included, among others, two Roosevelts (Teddy and Eleanor), Fr. Damion Molokai, Emma Watson, George Bailey (from It’s a Wonderful Life), and Hazel (from Watership Down).

One of the heroes presented by one student was someone I was not familiar with, Sigurd Olson, who, as it turns out, is a beloved nature writer and was an influential conservationist who played an important role in preserving a number of national parks and wilderness areas, including the Boundary Waters areas in the northern part of Minnesota, where I have enjoyed hiking and kayaking.

Olson was a deeply spiritual person who understood that we need, in the words of his son, places away from the ordinary distractions of everyday life where we can be quiet and listen – to listen not so much to the leaves and the birds but to “the real.”

Here is a short video of Olson that my student showed as part of her presentation. It resonated deeply with me; perhaps it will with you as well.

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2 thoughts on “The Singing Wilderness

  1. Sig is one of my heroes too. He evolved! He came to a “Listening Point” in his later life – and he and his wife lived in a cabin on Burntside Lake -north of Ely. There is a family camp on the North Arm of Burntside that we took our children to – and they in turn took their children also. One side of the the North Arm trail was Superior National Forest and the other side was the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. We enjoyed both. It instilled a love of the natural -“Singing Wilderness”. To get closer to what the man was; both Listening Point and Singing Wilderness are the titles of books that Sigurd Olson wrote.

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