Sigurd Olson, famed conservationist and writer, always loved the outdoors. But it wasn’t until he took a canoe trip into what would later be called the Boundary Waters did he realize the depth of his love.
Sig wrote about his experiences on that canoe trip, his first into the BWCA for the Milwaukee Journal.
“Imagine yourself in a primitive wilderness of lakes and streams and mountains where the only sounds are the laughing of the loons, the slap of a beaver’s tail and the slashing around of moose and deer in the bogs. It is today as it was before Columbus discovered this country, untouched, untarnished. The winds still whisper through the virgin timber, the waves on Big Saganaga still lap hungrily on the shore. The cry of the great northern loon echoes and re-echoes from Lake Superior to Hudson Bay. The moose and deer come down to drink, down trails well worn through centuries of use. Everything is perfect… I am no millionaire and in fact am poor in worldly goods, but can anyone else love the forests, lakes and streams any more than I do?…And so we traveled through hundreds of lakes and rivers, drunk in the beauties of countless waterfalls, rapids and virgin forests, saw naked grandeur as God intended it to be, unscathed by the hand of man. When we ended our cruise and our canoes grated on a sandy beach for the last time our hearts were heavy and yet filled to overflowing. We came back empty handed, but oh how rich we were.”
The trip proved to be Sigurd’s spiritual awakening. Through the experience, he gained a sense of wholeness and insight that he hadn’t realized before. Afterwards, he devoted his life’s work and passion to spending time outdoors, sharing his love through his writing and doing all he could to protect the wilderness.
Most of us have not experienced such a life altering awakening. But nature and elements of the natural world move us deeply at times. What was your aha moment? When did your love for the natural world become clear?
Maybe you took a walk outdoors one morning and a fog hovered just above the ground or you saw a blue heron that took your breath away. Or a hike through the woods while hunting with your family touched an emotional nerve. Maybe it was a fishing trip where the quiet surrounded you, feeling like the most peaceful moment in your life.
Or maybe it was a threat to the outdoors that inspired your passion.
Whatever our experiences or defining moments are, it’s valuable to revisit them and remind ourselves why we love the outdoors and just how important it is to work passionately to protect it. In Sig’s words, “ the preservation of wilderness is more than rocks, trees, beautiful lakes and rivers — it’s the salvation of the human soul.” I couldn’t agree more.
Kristin Eggerling is a board member for Conservation Minnesota Voter Center, the mother of two, and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota.