Mariton: Wilderness World of Sigurd Olson

February 25, 2018

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.

photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt

Mariton’s final movie feature of the winter will be The Wilderness World of Sigurd Olson.  We’ll start the evening off at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 3 with a chance to socialize and watch some bird photos from Mariton’s bird club.  The movie captures Sigurd Olson talking about the things that inspired his writings, and in the process give us inspiration.

Sigurd Olson may not be well known to conservationists (he should be), but his influence is well known. He helped found the Wilderness Society.  He helped draft the Wilderness Act, that was signed into law in 1964.  He had a role in protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.  He was instrumental in protecting Voyageurs National Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, a region which inspired his writings throughout his life.

Sig Olson was a prolific conservation writer, but for some reason he is not well known outside of the Upper Great Lakes where he lived. I admit that I discovered his writings only a few years ago.  What a shame.  Thoreau and Leopold are two of my heros, but Olson eclipses them both in his ability to capture and convey our “spirituality” when we are outdoors.  Just Google “Sigurd Olson Quotes”.

I am gaining a small collection of Olson books, as I usually read two each winter.  Pages are turned down, and sentences are highlighted for quick reference and inspiration.  I am resolute in the path in life that I have chosen, but Olson’s writings confirm that choice and inspire me to continue through the challenges.

There is a place that I canoe that is quite magical. My buddy and I talk about how we hate to talk, or bump a paddle against the side of the boat when we are on this little stream.  It was a few years later that we discovered this Olson quote that captured what we both knew in our collective souls:  “At times on quiet waters one does not speak aloud but only in whispers, for then all noise is sacrilege.”

When it comes to the work that we do at Natural Lands, I am always reminded of this quote: “And so when we talk about intangible values remember that they cannot be separated from the others. The conservation of waters, forests, soils, and wildlife are all involved with the conservation of the human spirit. The goal we all strive toward is happiness, contentment, the dignity of the individual, and the good life. This goal will elude us forever if we forget the importance of the intangibles.

If you haven’t yet discovered Sigurd Olson, watching this short movie is a great introduction.