I live just outside of Sauk City, near the Wisconsin River. Our home is five minutes away from where the Battle of Wisconsin Heights was fought on July 21, 1832. In this battle, Chief Black Hawk, the leader of the Sac nation, along with some fifty of his warriors, held off a state and federal militia allowing hundreds of women, children and older members of the tribe to escape across the river.
Today, people come to this site to walk and cross country ski. I walked my dog here for many years during the spring, fall and winter. We avoided this spot during the summer months because the mosquitos and biting flies made for miserable walking.
There are burial mounds in the back of the battlefield. Few visitors of the site know they exist and to me that is a good thing. It is a deeply spiritual place. When I walk there I feel the quiet. I understand its importance without knowing the details of the place.
My community was settled by the Sac over 250 years ago. When I walk along the riverbank, listening for sand hill cranes and taking in the beauty of the bluffs, I feel their presence. I walk the same paths they did.
Not far from my home in the other direction, north of Baraboo, sits the shack that Aldo Leopold retreated to from the pressures of academic life at the university. It was a place where he and his family worked the land and connected with nature. It’s where he wrote essays which became A Sand County Almanac.
On this sand farm in Wisconsin, first worn out and then abandoned by our bigger-and – better society, we try to rebuild, with shovel and axe, what we are losing elsewhere. It is here that we
seek –and still find- our meat from God (Leopold, 1949).
Just as Leopold’s spirit belonged to that shack on that sand farm, my spirit belongs to this river community.