Words from John Muir (1838-1914)
for John Muir's 163rd Birthday, April 21, 2001

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.  Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.  The winds will blow their freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares drop off like autumn leaves. [Muir citation unknown]
John Muir ca. 1872John Muir ca 1913 -- Photo by Herbert Gleason Up and away to Lake Tenaya,--another big day, enough for a lifetime.  The rocks, the air, everything speaking with audible voice or silent; joyful, wonderful, enchanting, banishing weariness and sense of time.  No longing for anything now or hereafter as we go home into the mountain's heart.  The level sunbeams are touching the fir-tops, every leaf shining with dew....  Many mossy emerald bogs, meadows, and gardens in rocky hollows to wade and saunter through--and what fine plants they give me, what joyful streams I have to cross,... and what a wondrous breadth of shining granite pavement to walk over for the first time about the shores of the lake!  On I sauntered in freedom complete; body without weight as far as I was aware; now wading through starry parnassia bogs, now through gardens shoulder deep in larkspur and lilies, grasses and rushes, shaking off showers of dew; crossing piles of crystalline moraine boulders, bright mirror pavements, and cool, cheery streams going to Yosemite; crossing bryanthus carpets and the scoured pathways of avalanches, and thickets of snow-pressed ceanothus; then down a broad, majestic stairway into the ice-sculptured lake-basin.

 The snow on the high mountains is melting fast, and the streams are singing bank-full, swaying softly through the level meadows and bogs, quivering with sun-spangles, swirling in pot-holes, resting in deep pools, leaping, shouting in wild exulting energy over rough boulder dams, joyful, beautiful in all their forms.  No Sierra landscape that I have seen holds anything truly dead or dull, or any trace of what in manufactories is called rubbish or waste; everything is perfectly clean and full of divine lessons.  This quick, inevitable interest attaching to everything seems marvelous until the hand of God becomes visible; then it seems reasonable that what interests Him may well interest us. When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken to everything in the universe.  I fancy I can hear a heart beating in every crystal, in every grain of sand and see a wise plan in the making and shaping and placing of every one of them.  All seems to be dancing in time to divine music...* and we feel like stopping to speak to the plants and animals as friendly fellow mountaineers.  Nature as a poet, an enthusiastic workingman, becomes more and more visible the farther and higher we go; for mountains are fountains--beginning places, however related to sources beyond mortal ken.

*The sentences in bold italics are from Muir's Journal, July 27, 1869.  The remainder of the passage is from Muir, My First Summer in the Sierra, (Houghton Mifflin. Boston), pp. 209-212(1911).  The following, more familiar passage replaced the bracketed material in My First Summer...:
"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.  One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell,..."

† As quoted in Fox, S., John Muir and his Legacy: The American Conservation Movement. (Little, Brown. Boston, 1981) p. 291.

Page created by Richard Cellarius; Reformated April 21, 2007, April  27, 2011