Graphic for Madison Reads LeopoldMadison Reads Leopold is a community read-aloud celebrating the life and legacy of Aldo Leopold. MRL has been a celebratory gathering for more than fifteen years.

In 2023, Madison Reads Leopold: Voices of a Land Ethic will take place on March 4 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Arboretum Visitor Center. Join us for a community reading of selections from A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold and writings by other environmental thinkers. Listeners may come and go throughout the event.

Throughout the afternoon, community members will give voice to Leopold’s keen observations and eloquent conservation philosophy. The readings will include the well-known “calendar” essays as well as other pieces chosen for their relevance to the Arboretum, UW–Madison, and the State of Wisconsin. New this year, readings from contemporary environmental thinkers like Robin Wall Kimmerer, Drew Lanham, and others will be incorporated to amplify perspectives, values, and experiences of ethical relationships with the land.

After a welcome at 1 p.m., the afternoon will kick off with selections from Aldo Leopold’s speech at the Arboretum’s dedication ceremony on June 17, 1934. Leopold was the Arboretum’s first research director and closely involved in its design; his words are as timely, eloquent, and inspiring today as when he penned them.

First published in 1949, A Sand County Almanac has prompted generations of people to take better notice—and care—of the natural environment. Aldo Leopold was the first research director at the Arboretum and was closely involved in its design.

Madison Reads Leopold is a community celebration organized for Aldo Leopold Week.

“What a wonderful event to be part of every year to honor Leopold, and to start to know our ecological community. Thank you for this tradition!” — Reader

Reading Schedule

Reading times are approximate, please arrive 10 minutes early for any particular reading. Schedule is subject to change.

1 p.m. – Welcome, introduction, land acknowledgement  

1:05 p.m. – Foreword

1:10 p.m. – What Is the Arboretum? (excerpt from 1934 dedication address)

1:15 p.m. – January Thaw

1:20 p.m. – The Good Oak I

1:30 p.m. – The Good Oak II

1:40 p.m. – Letter to a Wildflower Digger

1:44 p.m. – The Geese Return

1:48 p.m. – Draba

1:50 p.m. – Sky Dance

1:55 p.m. – Great Possessions

2 p.m. – Smoky Gold

2:07 p.m. – Ecopoetry

2:09 p.m. – “Remember,” by Joy Harjo

2:12 p.m. – “Invitation,” by Mary Oliver

2:15 p.m. – “Bemidji Blues,” by Sean Hill


2:40 p.m. – MUSICAL INTERLUDE: “If I Were the Wind” – recording of Oakwood Chamber Players

2:47 p.m. – Marshland Elegy I

2:53 p.m. – Marshland Elegy II

2:58 p.m. – Goose Music (excerpt)

3:02 p.m. – from Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimmerer        

3:04 p.m. – Preface

3:06 p.m. – Maple Nation: a Citizenship Guide I

3:12 p.m. – Maple Nation: a Citizenship Guide II

3:18 p.m. – Maple Nation: a Citizenship Guide III

3:24 p.m. – Thinking Like a Mountain

3:31 p.m. – from The Home Place, by J. Drew Lanham    

3:33 p.m. – Jock (excerpt from “A Field Guide to the Four”)

3:38 p.m. – Thinking I

3:45 p.m. – Thinking II

3:52 p.m. – The Outlook

3:57 p.m. – Closing remarks