April 21, 2016
Welcome to the 2016 installment in my series of John Muir birthday messages, celebrating anniversaries of Muir's birth on April 21, 1838.On the occasion of 178th Anniversary of Muir’s birth, I am pleased to send another in my series of messages celebrating Muir and his accomplishments and wisdom. I also note that 2016 is the 100th Anniversary of creation of the National Park Service within the U.S. Department of Interior: President Woodrow Wilson signed the "Organic Act" on August 25, 1916 (39Stat. F35) [http://www.nps.gov/grba/learn/management/organic-act-of-1916.htm]. Therefore, it is appropriate to provide a short quotation from his book, Our National Parks (1901), which was a major part of his effort to celebrate the national parks – at that time there were only five as he wrote this: Yellowstone, Sequoia, Yosemite, General Grant, and Mount Rainier – even before the National Park Service was created.
Chapter I The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West
"Keep not standing fix'd and rooted,
Briskly venture, briskly roam;Head and hand, where'er thou foot it,
And stout heart are still at home.In each land the sun does visit
We are gay, whate'er betide:To give room for wandering is it
That the world was made so wide."
The tendency nowadays to wander in wildernesses is delightful to see. Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life. Awakening from the stupefying effects of the vice of over-industry and the deadly apathy of luxury, they are trying as best they can to mix and enrich their own little ongoings with those of Nature, and to get rid of rust and disease. Briskly venturing and roaming, some are washing off sins and cobweb cares of the devil's spinning in all-day storms on mountains; sauntering in rosiny pinewoods or in gentian meadows, brushing through chaparral, bending down and parting sweet, flowery sprays; tracing rivers to their sources, getting in touch with the nerves of Mother Earth; jumping from rock to rock, feeling the life of them, learning the songs of them, panting in whole-souled exercise, and rejoicing in deep, long-drawn breaths of pure wildness. This is fine and natural and full of promise. So also is the growing interest in the care and preservation of forests and wild places in general, and in the half wild parks and gardens of towns. Even the scenery habit in its most artificial forms, mixed with spectacles, silliness, and kodaks; its devotees arrayed more gorgeously than scarlet tanagers, frightening the wild game with red umbrellas,--even this is encouraging, and may well be regarded as a hopeful sign of the times.
reservations should draw thousands of admiring visitors at least in summer, yet
they are neglected as if of no account, and spoilers are allowed to ruin them
as fast as they like. [The outlook over forest affairs is now encouraging.
Popular interest, more practical than sentimental in whatever touches the
welfare of the country's forests, is growing rapidly, and a hopeful beginning
has been made by the Government in real protection for the reservations as well
as for the parks. …] A few peeled spars cut here were set up in London,
Philadelphia, and Chicago, where they excited wondering attention; but the
countless hosts of living trees rejoicing at home on the mountains are scarce
considered at all. Most travelers here are content with what they can see from
car windows or the verandas of hotels, and in going from place to place cling
to their precious trains and stages like wrecked sailors to rafts. When an
excursion into the woods is proposed, all sorts of dangers are imagined—snakes,
bears, Indians. Yet it is far safer to wander in God's woods than to travel on
black highways or to stay at home. The snake danger is so slight it is hardly
worth mentioning. Bears are a peaceable people, and mind their own business,
instead of going about like the devil seeking whom they may devour. Poor
fellows, they have been poisoned, trapped, and shot at until they have lost
confidence in brother man, and it is not now easy to make their acquaintance.
As to Indians, most of them are dead or civilized into useless innocence. No American wilderness that I know of is so
dangerous as a city home "with all the modern improvements." One
should go to the woods for safety, if for nothing else.
Available at http://vault.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/our_national_parks/chapter_1.aspx