Saturday, April 4, 2015


Sierra Juniper
During a summer's journey through the High Sierra in 1869 John Muir observed and wrote of an emergent philosophy of beholding, understanding, and championing the natural world.

He recorded observations and illustrations in My First Summer in the Sierra and Selected Essays which was first published in 1911.

Muir wrote of the abundance and exultance of both living and inert, the waste-less economy of the natural world, the forces and tools of nature, the profound inter-dependence of the living, and of human mortality.
"The snow on the high mountains is melting fast, and the streams are singing bankfull, 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."
On waste-less economy of nature Muir wrote,
"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 pure and full of divine lessons."
Muir eloquently mused about the cosmological brotherhood of the living,
"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, and we feel like stopping to speak to the plants and animals as friendly fellow-mountaineers."
He often paused to observe, experience, and illustrate. In Tenaya Cañon he paused at length to consider Sierra junipers in exquisite detail.

Junipers in Tenaya Cañon
Illustration by John Muir

He personified the trees comparing them to hardy highland mountaineers.
"A thickset, sturdy, picturesque highlander, seemingly content to live for more than a score of centuries on sunshine and snow; a truly wonderful fellow, dogged endurance expressed in every feature, lasting about as long as the granite he stands on."
Muir admired the hard-scrabble tenacity of the junipers. Aware of his mortality and wistfully envious of the junipers' longevity he wrote,
"Wish I could live, like these junipers, on sunshine and snow, and stand beside them on the shore of Lake Tenaya for a thousand years. How much I should see, and how delightful it would be! Everything in the mountains would find me and come to me, and everything from the heavens like light."