Sierra Club founder John Muir was extraordinary, not only for his devotion to preserving nature’s wilderness, but for his eloquence in articulating its grandeur. An example:
Wonderful how completely everything in wild nature fits into us, as if truly part and parent of us. The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fiber and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love. The Song of God, sounding on forever (from John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir).
All told, he would publish 300 articles and 10 major books, not bad for someone who nearly lost his sight in a work accident.
One of his closest friends was President Theodore Roosevelt. In 1903, they would hike wilderness terrain together for two months. Inspired by Muir, Roosevelt designated 230 million acres of public land, including Yosemite and four other national parks and 18 national monuments, for preservation.
Earlier, in 1867, at age 29, Muir walked 1000 miles from Indiana to Florida, taking along only sugar and bread, buttressed by wild berries. (Muir never weighed more than 148 pounds. ) You can read an account of his journey: A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916). Excerpt:
Though alligators and snakes naturally repel us, they are no mysterious evils. They dwell happily in these flowery wilds, are part of God’s family, unfallen, un-depraved and cared for with the same species of tenderness and love as is bestowed on angels in heaven or saints on earth.
John Muir was one of those rare people that cross our pathway in life’s journey, keenly sentient of life’s best values and eager to share. Of all the nature writers I’ve imbibed, I’ve not found his equal for rendering nature’s transcendent allure with lyrical cadence that informs, moves, and underscores its mystery and moods, culminating in an elixir for healing both body and soul.
All good nature writing may well begin with Muir.