John Muir

Scottish-American naturalist (1838–1914)

John Muir (21 April 183824 December 1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is a prominent American conservation organization.

John Muir, 1907

Quotes edit

1860s edit

  • I did find Calypso — but only once, far in the depths of the very wildest of Canadian dark woods, near those high, cold, moss-covered swamps. … I felt as if I were in the presence of superior beings who loved me and beckoned me to come. I sat down beside them and wept for joy.
    • letter to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr (1866); published as "The Calypso Borealis, Botanical Enthusiasm" in Boston Recorder, 21 December 1866; republished in Bonnie Johanna Gisel, Kindred & Related Spirits: The Letters of John Muir and Jeanne C. Carr (2001), page 41
    • (Muir's first published writing, concerning the orchid Calypso.)
  • John Muir, Earth — planet, Universe
    • Muir's home address, as inscribed on the inside front cover of his first field journal, which started 1 July 1867

My First Summer in the Sierra, 1869 edit

My First Summer in the Sierra (1911) [Note: the events that take place in this book were experienced in the late spring and summer of 1869. His journal from this time is believed to no longer exist. In late 1880s, Muir recalled his 1869 trip (likely using his 1869 journal) into a notebook called Sierra Journal Summer of 1869. This late 1880s notebook became his 1911 published book, My First Summer in the Sierra - forty years after the events.]

  • We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.
    • Terry Gifford, EWDB, page 195
  • Another glorious Sierra day in which one seems to be dissolved and absorbed and sent pulsing onward we know not where. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.
    • Terry Gifford, EWDB, page 204
  • Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.
    • Terry Gifford, EWDB, page 212
  • So extravagant is Nature with her choicest treasures, spending plant beauty as she spends sunshine, pouring it forth into land and sea, garden and desert. And so the beauty of lilies falls on angels and men, bears and squirrels, wolves and sheep, birds and bees,... .
    • Terry Gifford, EWDB, page 224
  • This time it is real — all must die, and where could mountaineer find a more glorious death!
  • A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease. Every hidden cell is throbbing with music and life, every fiber thrilling like harp strings, while incense is ever flowing from the balsam bells and leaves. No wonder the hills and groves were God's first temples, and the more they are cut down and hewn into cathedrals and churches, the farther off and dimmer seems the Lord himself.
    • Terry Gifford, EWDB, pages 243-244
  • When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.
    • Terry Gifford, EWDB, page 248
    • First line of the documentary film "John Muir in the New World" (American Masters), produced, directed, and written by Catherine Tatge.
  • Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue.
    • Terry Gifford, EWDB, page 253
  • Everything is flowing — going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance; water streams carrying rocks … . While the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood globules in Nature's warm heart.
    • Terry Clifford, EWDB, page 277
  • The whole wilderness seems to be alive and familiar, full of humanity. The very stones seem talkative, sympathetic, brotherly.
    • Terry Clifford, EWDB, page 277
  • One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature — inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspeakable wealth of the universe, and faithfully watch and wait the reappearance of everything that melts and fades and dies about us, feeling sure that its next appearance will be better and more beautiful than the last.
    • Terry Clifford, LEWD, page 279
  • Here ends my forever memorable first High Sierra excursion. I have crossed the Range of Light, surely the brightest and best of all the Lord has built; and rejoicing in its glory, I gladly, gratefully, hopefully pray I may see it again.
    • Terry Clifford, LEWD, page 287

1870s edit

Photo taken in 1872
  • The whole wilderness in unity and interrelation is alive and familiar … the very stones seem talkative, sympathetic, brotherly. … No particle is ever wasted or worn out but eternally flowing from use to use.
    • attributed to a Muir "manuscript" in Linnie Marsh Wolfe, Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (1945), page 124
    • (Similar to statements from My First Summer in the Sierra, see quotes from 30 August and 2 September above.)
  • There is at least a punky spark in my heart and it may blaze in this autumn gold, fanned by the King. Some of my grandfathers must have been born on a muirland for there is heather in me, and tinctures of bog juices, that send me to Cassiope, and oozing through all my veins impel me unhaltingly through endless glacier meadows, seemingly the deeper and danker the better.
  • I will follow my instincts, be myself for good or ill, and see what will be the upshot. As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.
    • attributed to a Muir "autobiographical notebook" in Linnie Marsh Wolfe, Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (1945), page 144
  • Man as he came from the hand of his Maker was poetic in both mind and body, but the gross heathenism of civilization has generally destroyed Nature, and poetry, and all that is spiritual.
  • Rocks and waters, etc., are words of God and so are men. We all flow from one fountain Soul. All are expressions of one Love. God does not appear, and flow out, only from narrow chinks and round bored wells here and there in favored races and places, but He flows in grand undivided currents, shoreless and boundless over creeds and forms and all kinds of civilizations and peoples and beasts, saturating all and fountainizing all.
  • When I reached the [Yosemite] valley, all the rocks seemed talkative, and more lovable than ever. They are dear friends, and have warm blood gushing through their granite flesh; and I love them with a love intensified by long and close companionship. … I … bathed in the bright river, sauntered over the meadows, conversed with the domes, and played with the pines.
    • letter to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr (December 1872); published as "A Geologist's Winter Walk", Overland Monthly, volume 10, number 4 (April 1873) pages 355-358 (at page 355); modified slightly and reprinted in Steep Trails (1918), chapter 2
  • I ran home [from Cloud's Rest to Yosemite Valley] in the moonlight, with long, firm strides; for the sun-love made me strong. Down through the junipers — down through the firs; now in jet-shadows, now in white light; over sandy moraines and bare, clanking rock; past the huge ghost of South Dome, rising weird through the firs — past glorious Nevada — past the groves of Illilouette — through the pines of the valley; frost-crystals flashing all the sky beneath, as star-crystals on all the sky above. All of this mountain-bread for one day!
    • letter to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr (December 1872); published as "A Geologist's Winter Walk", Overland Monthly, volume 10, number 4 (April 1873) pages 355-358 (at page 358); modified slightly and reprinted in Steep Trails (1918), chapter 2
  • I drifted about from rock to rock, from stream to stream, from grove to grove. Where night found me, there I camped. When I discovered a new plant, I sat down beside it for a minute or a day, to make its acquaintance and hear what it had to tell. … I asked the boulders I met, whence they came and whither they were going.
  • I used to envy the father of our race, dwelling as he did in contact with the new-made fields and plants of Eden; but I do so no more, because I have discovered that I also live in "creation's dawn." The morning stars still sing together, and the world, not yet half made, becomes more beautiful every day.
  • Living artificially in towns, we are sickly, and never come to know ourselves.
  • The mountains are calling and I must go.
    • letter to sister Sarah Muir Galloway (3 September 1873); published in William Federic Badè, The Life and Letters of John Muir (1924), chapter 10: Yosemite and Beyond
  • "The water in music the oar forsakes." The air in music the wing forsakes. All things move in music and write it. The mouse, lizard, and grasshopper sing together on the Turlock sands, sing with the morning stars.
    • letter to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr, from Yosemite Valley (September 1874); published in William Federic Badè, The Life and Letters of John Muir (1924), chapter 11: On Widening Currents
    • (Presumably paraphrasing from the poem Woodnotes by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Come learn with me the fatal song / Which knits the world in music strong / … / and the ripples in rhymes the oar forsake / The wood is wiser far than thou".)
    • (Turlock: Town where Muir changed from railroad to foot travel in this particular journey from Oakland, California, to Yosemite Valley.)
  • Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.
    • Muir's marginal note in volume I of Prose Works by Ralph Waldo Emerson (This volume is located at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. See Albert Saijo, "Me, Muir, and Sierra Nevada", in Reinhabiting a Separate Country: A Bioregional Anthology of Northern California, edited by Peter Berg, San Francisco, California: Planet Drum Foundation, 1978, pages 52-59, at page 55, and Frederick W. Turner, Rediscovering America: John Muir in His Time and Ours (1985), page 193.)
  • No one of the rocks seems to call me now, nor any of the distant mountains. Surely this Merced and Tuolumne chapter of my life is done.
    • letter to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr, from Yosemite Valley (September 1874); published in William Federic Badè, The Life and Letters of John Muir (1924), chapter 11: On Widening Currents
  • I am hopelessly and forever a mountaineer.
    • letter to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr, from Yosemite Valley (7 October 1874); published in William Federic Badè, The Life and Letters of John Muir (1924), chapter 11: On Widening Currents
  • I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature's loveliness.
    • letter to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr, from Yosemite Valley (7 October 1874); published in William Federic Badè, The Life and Letters of John Muir (1924), chapter 11: On Widening Currents
  • No dogma taught by the present civilization seems to form so insuperable an obstacle in the way of a right understanding of the relations which culture sustains to wildness, as that which declares that the world as made especially for the uses of men. Every animal, plant, and crystal controverts it in the plainest terms. Yet it is taught from century to century as something ever new and precious, and in the resulting darkness the enormous conceit is allowed to go unchallenged.
    • "Wild Wool", Overland Monthly, volume 14, number 4 (April 1875) pages 361-366 (at page 364); modified slightly and reprinted in Steep Trails (1918), chapter 1
  • Plants, animals, and stars are all kept in place, bridled along appointed ways, with one another, and through the midst of one another — killing and being killed, eating and being eaten, in harmonious proportions and quantities.
    • "Wild Wool", Overland Monthly, volume 14, number 4 (April 1875) pages 361-366 (at page 364); reprinted in Steep Trails (1918), chapter 1
  • How terribly downright must seem the utterances of storms and earthquakes to those accustomed to the soft hypocrisies of society.
  • I would advise sitting from morning till night under some willow bush on the river bank where there is a wide view. This will be "doing the valley" far more effectively than riding along trails in constant motion from point to point. The entire valley is made up of "points of interest."
    • "The Summer Flood of Tourists", San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (part 1 of the 11 part series "Summering in the Sierra") dated 14 June 1875, published 22 June 1875; reprinted in John Muir: Summering in the Sierra, edited by Robert Engberg (University of Wisconsin Press, 1984) page 71
    • (Advice for visitors to Yosemite given by John Muir at age 37 years. Compare advice given by the 74-year-old Muir below.)
  • Going to the mountains is going home.
    • "In the Sierra Forests", San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (part 3 of the 11 part series "Summering in the Sierra") dated July 1875, published 3 August 1875; reprinted in John Muir: Summering in the Sierra, edited by Robert Engberg (University of Wisconsin Press, 1984) page 79
  • In every country the mountains are fountains, not only of rivers but of men. Therefore we all are born mountaineers, the offspring of rock and sunshine.
    • "From Fort Independence to Yosemite", San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (part 6 of the 11 part series "Summering in the Sierra") dated September 1875, published 15 September 1875; reprinted in John Muir: Summering in the Sierra, edited by Robert Engberg (University of Wisconsin Press, 1984) page 113
  • [I first climbed Half Dome on] one of those brooding days that come just between Indian summer and winter, when the clouds are like living creatures.
    • "South Dome", San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (part 11 of the 11 part series "Summering in the Sierra") dated 10 November 1875, published 18 November 1875; reprinted in John Muir: Summering in the Sierra, edited by Robert Engberg (University of Wisconsin Press, 1984) page 147
  • In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.
    • "Mormon Lilies", San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (part 4 of the 4 part series "Notes from Utah") dated July 1877, published 19 July 1877; reprinted in Steep Trails (1918), chapter 9

1880s edit

  • No portion of the world is so barren as not to yield a rich and precious harvest of divine truth.
    • "Arctic Coal Mines — The Diomede Bay Islands", San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (part 18 of 21 part series "Cruise of the Corwin") dated 25 August 1881, published 25 October 1881; reprinted in The Cruise of the Corwin (1917), chapter 17: Meeting the Point Barrow Expedition
  • Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.
    • letter to wife Louie (Louisa Wanda Strentzel) (July 1888); published in William Federic Badè, The Life and Letters of John Muir (1924), chapter 15: Winning a Competence
  • By forces seemingly antagonistic and destructive Nature accomplishes her beneficent designs — now a flood of fire, now a flood of ice, now a flood of water; and again in the fullness of time an outburst of organic life.
    • "Mount Shasta" in Picturesque California (1888-1890) page 148; reprinted in Steep Trails (1918), chapter 3
  • Take a course of good water and air, and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.
    • "Mount Shasta" in Picturesque California (1888-1890) page 165; reprinted in Steep Trails (1918), chapter 5
  • The view we enjoyed from the summit [of Mount Rainier] could hardly be surpassed in sublimity and grandeur; but one feels far from home so high in the sky, so much so that one is inclined to guess that, apart from the acquisition of knowledge and the exhilaration of climbing, more pleasure is to be found at the foot of the mountains than on their tops. Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain tops are within reach, for the lights that shine there illumine all that lies below.
    • "Washington and the Puget Sound" in Picturesque California (1888-1890); reprinted in Steep Trails (1918), chapter 20
  • Happy will be the men who, having the power and the love and the benevolent forecast to [create a park], will do it. They will not be forgotten. The trees and their lovers will sing their praises, and generations yet unborn will rise up and call them blessed.
    • "The Basin of the Columbia River" in Picturesque California (1888-1890); reprinted in Steep Trails (1918), chapter 22
  • [Muir describes himself as] me the poetico-trampo-geologist-bot & ornith-natural etc etc —!—!—! !
    • letter to Robert Underwood Johnson, from Martinez (13 September 1889); published many times, often with more conventional spelling

1890s edit

  • One shining morning, at the head of the Pacheco Pass, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most divinely beautiful and sublime I have ever beheld. There at my feet lay the great central plain of California, level as a lake thirty or forty miles wide, four hundred long, one rich furred bed of golden Compositae. And along the eastern shore of this lake of gold rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, in massive, tranquil grandeur, so gloriously colored and so radiant that it seemed not clothed with light, but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city. Along the top, and extending a good way down, was a rich pearl-gray belt of snow; then a belt of blue and dark purple, marking the extension of the forests; and stretching along the base of the range a broad belt of rose-purple, where lay the miners' gold and the open foothill gardens — all the colors smoothly blending, making a wall of light clear as crystal and ineffably fine, yet firm as adamant. Then it seemed to me the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years in the midst of it, rejoicing and wondering, seeing the glorious floods of light that fill it, — the sunbursts of morning among the mountain-peaks, the broad noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the thousand dashing waterfalls with their marvelous abundance of irised spray, — it still seems to me a range of light.
  • That memorable day died in purple and gold, and just as the last traces of the sunset faded in the west and the star-lilies filled the sky, the full moon looked down over the rim of the valley, and the great rocks, catching the silvery glow, came forth out of the dusky shadows like very spirits.
  • [Concerning the founding of the Sierra Club:] Hoping that we will be able to do something for wildness and make the mountains glad.
  • Those [forest] reserves are not merely for the convenience and benefit of the people near them, but they are the property of the nation and for its greatest good. It is unreasonable to suppose that they should be destroyed or imperiled for any local convenience, as a mere present to men engaged in one local industry.
    • statement by Muir quoted in news report "Started for Alaska: Harriman Exploring Expedition in Portland" in the Portland Morning Oregonian, 31 May 1899, page 12, columns 1-5 (at column 4)

The Mountains of California (1894) edit

The Mountains of California (1894)

  • When I first enjoyed this superb view, one glowing April day, from the summit of the Pacheco Pass, the Central Valley, but little trampled or ploughed as yet, was one furred, rich sheet of golden compositae, and the luminous wall of the mountains shone in all its glory. Then it seemed to me the Sierra should be called not the Nevada, or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years spent in the heart of it, rejoicing and wondering, bathing in its glorious floods of light, seeing the sunbursts of morning among the icy peaks, the noonday radiance on the trees and rocks and snow, the flush of alpenglow, and a thousand dashing waterfalls with their marvelous abundance of irised spray, it still seems to be above all others the Range of Light.
    • chapter 1: The Sierra Nevada
  • Nature chose for a tool, not the earthquake or lightning to rend and split asunder, not the stormy torrent or eroding rain, but the tender snow-flowers noiselessly falling through unnumbered centuries, the offspring of the sun and sea.
    • chapter 1: The Sierra Nevada
  • How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!
    • chapter 4: A Near View of the High Sierra
  • Accidents in the mountains are less common than in the lowlands, and these mountain mansions are decent, delightful, even divine, places to die in, compared with the doleful chambers of civilization. Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain-passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action. Even the sick should try these so-called dangerous passes, because for every unfortunate they kill, they cure a thousand.
    • chapter 5: The Passes
  • With inexpressible delight you wade out into the grassy sun-lake, feeling yourself contained in one of Nature's most sacred chambers, withdrawn from the sterner influences of the mountains, secure from all intrusion, secure from yourself, free in the universal beauty. And notwithstanding the scene is so impressively spiritual, and you seem dissolved in it, yet everything about you is beating with warm, terrestrial, human love, delightfully substantial and familiar.
  • It is generally supposed that complete pleasure of this kind, permeating one's very flesh and bones, unfits the student for scientific pursuits in which cool judgment and observation are required. But the effect is just the opposite. Instead of producing a dissipated condition, the mind is fertilized and stimulated and developed like sun-fed plants.
    • chapter 7: The Glacier Meadows
  • [Concerning the Sugar Pine:] The wood is deliciously fragrant, and fine in grain and texture; it is of a rich cream-yellow, as if formed of condensed sunbeams.
    • chapter 8: The Forests
  • [Concerning the Hemlock Spruce, now called Mountain Hemlock:] I wish I had space to write more of the surpassing beauty of this favorite spruce. … The deer love to lie down beneath its spreading branches; bright streams from the snow that is always near ripple through its groves, and bryanthus spreads precious carpets in its shade. But the best words only hint its charms. Come to the mountains and see.
    • chapter 8: The Forests
  • Winds are advertisements of all they touch, however much or little we may be able to read them; telling their wanderings even by their scents alone.
    • chapter 10: A Wind-Storm in the Forests
  • We all travel the milky way together, trees and men; but it never occurred to me until this storm-day, while swinging in the wind, that trees are travelers, in the ordinary sense. They make many journeys, not very extensive ones, it is true; but our own little comes and goes are only little more than tree-wavings — many of them not so much.
  • [Concerning the Water Ouzel, now called American Dipper:] In a general way his music is that of the streams refined and spiritualized. The deep booming notes of the falls are in it, the trills of rapids, the gurgling of margin eddies, the low whispering of level reaches, and the sweet tinkle of separate drops oozing from the ends of mosses and falling into tranquil pools.
  • Fresh beauty opens one's eyes wherever it is really seen, but the very abundance and completeness of the common beauty that besets our steps prevents its being absorbed and appreciated. It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common every-day beauty.
    • chapter 15: In the Sierra Foot-Hills

The National Parks and Forest Reservations, 1895 edit

"The National Parks and Forest Reservations", address to the Sierra Club Meeting held 23 November 1895; published in Sierra Club Bulletin, volume 1, number 7 (January 1896)

  • The battle we have fought, and are still fighting, for the forests is a part of the eternal conflict between right and wrong, and we cannot expect to see the end of it. … So we must count on watching and striving for these trees, and should always be glad to find anything so surely good and noble to strive for.
    • pages 271-284 (at page 276)
  • Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pine trees. Their sermons on the mountains go to our hearts; and if people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish.
    • pages 271-284 (at pages 282-283)
  • God never made an ugly landscape. All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.
    • pages 16-21 (at page 16)

1900s edit

Theodore Roosevelt and Muir, 1906

'Our National Parks (1901) edit

Our National Parks (1901)

  • 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.
    • chapter 1: The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West
  • To the sane and free it will hardly seem necessary to cross the continent in search of wild beauty, however easy the way, for they find it in abundance wherever they chance to be.
    • chapter 1: The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West
  • None of Nature's landscapes are ugly so long as they are wild.
    • chapter 1: The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West
  • How many hearts with warm red blood in them are beating under cover of the woods, and how many teeth and eyes are shining! A multitude of animal people, intimately related to us, but of whose lives we know almost nothing, are as busy about their own affairs as we are about ours.
    • chapter 1: The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West
  • Wander here a whole summer, if you can. Thousands of God's wild blessings will search you and soak you as if you were a sponge, and the big days will go by uncounted. If you are business-tangled, and so burdened by duty that only weeks can be got out of the heavy-laden year … give a month at least to this precious reserve. The time will not be taken from the sum of your life. Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal. Nevermore will time seem short or long, and cares will never again fall heavily on you, but gently and kindly as gifts from heaven.
    • chapter 1: The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West
  • Of all the fire-mountains which, like beacons, once blazed along the Pacific Coast, Mount Rainier is the noblest.
    • chapter 1: The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West
  • Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grass and gentians of glacier meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of Nature's darlings. 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 own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but Nature's sources never fail. … The petty discomforts that beset the awkward guest, the unskilled camper, are quickly forgotten, while all that is precious remains. Fears vanish as soon as one is fairly free in the wilderness.
  • Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.
    • chapter 3: The Yosemite National Park
  • I had built a little cabin in Yosemite, and for convenience in getting water, and for the sake of music and society, I led a small stream from Yosemite Creek into it. Running along the side of the wall it was not in the way, and it had just fall enough to ripple and sing in low, sweet tones, making delightful company, especially at night when I was lying awake. Then a few frogs came in and made merry with the stream, — and one snake.
    • chapter 6: Among the Animals of the Yosemite
  • Storms of every sort, torrents, earthquakes, cataclysms, "convulsions of nature," etc., however mysterious and lawless at first sight they may seem, are only harmonious notes in the song of creation, varied expressions of God's love.
  • Little, however, is to be learned in confused, hurried tourist trips, spending only a poor noisy hour in a branded grove with a guide. You should go looking and listening alone on long walks through the wild forests and groves in all the seasons of the year. In the spring the winds are balmy and sweet... . In summer the days go by in almost constant brightness... . In the autumn the sighing of the winds is softer than ever... . Winter comes suddenly, arrayed in storms.
    • chapter 9: The Sequoia and General Grant National Parks
  • Many lawless mysteries vanish, and harmonies take their places.
    • chapter 9: The Sequoia and General Grant National Parks
  • The forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God; for they were the best he ever planted.
    • chapter 10: The American Forests
  • The United States government has always been proud of the welcome it has extended to good men of every nation, seeking freedom and homes and bread.
    • chapter 10: The American Forests
  • Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed — chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. … It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods — trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries … God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools — only Uncle Sam can do that.
    • chapter 10: The American Forests

Stickeen (1909) edit

Stickeen (1909)

  • There is no estimating the wit and wisdom concealed and latent in our lower fellow mortals until made manifest by profound experiences; for it is through suffering that dogs as well as saints are developed and made perfect.
    • Terry Gifford, LLO, page 685
    • For more excerpts from Muir's account of the dog Stickeen in Alaska, see Stickeen.
  • Many of Nature's finest lessons are to be found in her storms, and if careful to keep in right relations with them, we may go safely abroad with them, rejoicing in the grandeur and beauty of their works and ways.
    • Terry Gifford, LLO, pages 686-687
  • I never have held death in contempt, though in the course of my explorations I have oftentimes felt that to meet one's fate on a noble mountain, or in the heart of a glacier, would be blessed as compared with death from disease, or from some shabby lowland accident. But the best death, quick and crystal-pure, set so glaringly open before us, is hard enough to face, even though we feel gratefully sure that we have already had happiness enough for a dozen lives.
    • Terry Gifford, LLO, page 693
  • No right way is easy in this rough world. We must risk our lives to save them.
    • Terry Gifford, LLO, page 693
  • I have known many dogs, and many a story I could tell of their wisdom and devotion; but to none do I owe so much as to Stickeen. At first the least promising and least known of my dog-friends, he suddenly became the best known of them all. Our storm-battle for life brought him to light, and through him as through a window I have ever since been looking with deeper sympathy into all my fellow mortals.
    • Terry Gifford, LLO, page 696

1910s edit

  • Surely all God's people, however serious and savage, great or small, like to play. Whales and elephants, dancing, humming gnats, and invisibly small mischievous microbes, — all are warm with divine radium and must have lots of fun in them.
  • Looking eastward from the summit of Pacheco Pass one shining morning, a landscape was displayed that after all my wanderings still appears as the most beautiful I have ever beheld. At my feet lay the Great Central Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine, forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich furred garden of yellow Compositae. And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flower-bed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city.... Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. And after ten years of wandering and wondering in the heart of it, rejoicing in its glorious floods of light, the white beams of the morning streaming through the passes, the noonday radiance on the crystal rocks, the flush of the alpenglow, and the irised spray of countless waterfalls, it still seems above all others the Range of Light.
  • All Nature's wildness tells the same story: the shocks and outbursts of earthquakes, volcanoes, geysers, roaring, thundering waves and floods, the silent uprush of sap in plants, storms of every sort, each and all, are the orderly, beauty-making love-beats of Nature's heart.
  • If I were so time-poor as to have only one day to spend in Yosemite I should start at daybreak, say at three o'clock in midsummer, with a pocketful of any sort of dry breakfast stuff, for Glacier Point, Sentinel Dome, the head of Illilouette Fall, Nevada Fall, the top of Liberty Cap, Vernal Fall and the wild boulder-choked River Cañon.
    • The Yosemite (1912), chapter 12: How Best to Spend One's Yosemite Time
    • (Advice for visitors to Yosemite given by John Muir at age 74 years. Compare advice given by the 37-year-old Muir above.)
  • Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.
  • This natural beauty-hunger is made manifest … in our magnificent National Parks … Nature's sublime wonderlands, the admiration and joy of the world.
  • These temple-destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar. Dam Hetch Hetchy! As well dam for water-tanks the people's cathedrals and churches, for no holier temple has ever been consecrated by the heart of man.
  • When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.
  • My fire was in all its glory about midnight, and, having made a bark shed to shelter me from the rain and partially dry my clothing, I had nothing to do but look and listen and join the trees in their hymns and prayers.
    • Travels in Alaska (1915), chapter 2: Alexander Archipelago and the Home I Found in Alaska
  • One learns that the world, though made, is yet being made. That this is still the morning of creation. That mountains, long conceived, are now being born, brought to light by the glaciers, channels traced for coming rivers, basins hollowed for lakes.
    • "Alaska Glaciers: Graphic Description of the Yosemite of the Far Northwest", San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (part 5 of 11 part series "Notes of a Naturalist") dated 7 September 1879, published 27 September 1879; reprinted as "Baird Glacier" in Letters from Alaska, edited by Robert Engberg and Bruce Merrell (University of Wisconsin Press, 1993), pages 28-32 (at page 31); modified slightly and reprinted in Travels in Alaska (1915), chapter 5, A Cruise in the Cassiar
    • (First lines of the documentary film series "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" by Ken Burns.)
  • When night was drawing near, I ran down the flowery slopes exhilarated, thanking God for the gift of this great day. The setting sun fired the clouds. All the world seemed new-born. Every thing, even the commonest, was seen in new light and was looked at with new interest as if never seen before.
  • [Concerning an aurora, "vivid crimson … indescribably rich and deep":] The white, rayless light of morning, seen when I was alone amid the peaks of the California Sierra, had always seemed to me the most telling of all the terrestrial manifestations of God. But here the mountains themselves were made divine, and declared His glory in terms still more impressive.
  • The very thought of this Alaska garden is a joyful exhilaration. … Out of all the cold darkness and glacial crushing and grinding comes this warm, abounding beauty and life to teach us that what we in our faithless ignorance and fear call destruction is creation finer and finer.
  • Fain would I describe the glories of those months in the ice-world — the beautiful and terrible network of crevasses, the clustering pinnacles, the thousand streams ringing and gurgling in azure channels cut in the living body of the glacier, the glorious radiance of the sunbeams falling on crystal dale and hill, the rosy glow of the dawn and sunset, the march of the clouds on the mountains, and the mysterious splendor of the auroras when the nights grow long, etc., etc., etc. But this would require a volume, while here I have only space to add — Go to Alaska, go and see.
    • "Alaska", The American Geologist volume XI, number 5 (May 1893) pages 287-299 (at page 299)
  • One touch of nature makes all the world kin.
    • The Cruise of the Corwin (1917), chapter 3: Siberian Adventures
    • (Echoing William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, iii, 3: "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.")
  • Keep close to Nature's heart … and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.
  • [When asked about the word "hike":] I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains — not hike! Do you know the origin of that word saunter? It's a beautiful word. Away back in the middle ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, 'A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them.
  • I don't think Mr. Harriman is very rich. He has not as much money as I have. I have all I want and Mr. Harriman has not.
  • The world's big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.
    • attributed to Muir by Linnie Marsh Wolfe, Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (1945), page 331
  • Lie down among the pines for a while, then get to plain pure white love-work … to help humanity and other mortals and the Lord.
  • Most interesting forest I have seen in my whole life.
    • journal entry (24 October 1911) concerning Araucaria braziliensis in southern Brazil; published in John Muir's Last Journey, edited by Michael P. Branch (Island Press, 2001), page 88
  • I'm now done with this glorious continent [South America] … . I've seen all I sought for and far, far, far more. … wandered most joyfully … through millions of acres of the ancient tree I was so anxious to find, Araucaria braziliensis. Just think of the glow of my joy in these noble aboriginal forests — the face of every tree marked with the inherited experiences of millions of years. … Crossed the Andes... Then straight to snowline and found a glorious forest of Araucaria imbricata, the strangest of the strange genus.
  • I've had a great time in South America and South Africa. Indeed it now seems that on this pair of wild hot continents I've enjoyed the most fruitful year of my life.
    • letter to William Colby (4 February 1912); published in "John Muir — President of the Sierra Club", by William E. Colby, Sierra Club Bulletin, volume 10, number 1 (John Muir Memorial Issue, January 1916) pages 2-7 (at page 6); and in John Muir's Last Journey, edited by Michael P. Branch (Island Press, 2001), page 160
  • Good walkers can go anywhere in these hospitable mountains without artificial ways.
  • Cloudy all day. Showery on mtns. to eastward at noon. Fine thunderstorm evening, with grand display of zigzag intensely vivid & very near with keen cracks [and] grand trailing rain … Visited Elk ranch. About sixty old & young. Old bulls carry horns in noble style & grand airs.
    • journal entry, Island Park, Idaho (26 August 1913) — the last field entry in Muir's last field journal

A Thousand-Mile Walk To the Gulf, 1916 edit

A Thousand-Mile Walk To the Gulf (1916) Terry Gifford, EWDB,

  • On no subject are our ideas more warped and pitiable than on death. … Let children walk with nature, let them see the beautiful blendings and communions of death and life, their joyous inseparable unity, as taught in woods and meadows, plains and mountains and streams of our blessed star, and they will learn that death is stingless indeed, and as beautiful as life, and that the grave has no victory, for it never fights. All is divine harmony.
    • chapter 4: Camping Among the Tombs, page 140
  • There is that in the glance of a flower which may at times control the greatest of creation's braggart lords.
    • chapter 5: Through Florida Swamps and Forests, page 151
  • The world, we are told, was made especially for man — a presumption not supported by all the facts.
    • chapter 6: Cedar Keys, page 160
  • Why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation? And what creature of all that the Lord has taken the pains to make is not essential to the completeness of that unit — the cosmos? The universe would be incomplete without man; but it would also be incomplete without the smallest transmicroscopic creature that dwells beyond our conceitful eyes and knowledge. From the dust of the earth, from the common elementary fund, the Creator has made Homo sapiens. From the same material he has made every other creature, however noxious and insignificant to us. They are earth-born companions and our fellow mortals. … This star, our own good earth, made many a successful journey around the heavens ere man was made, and whole kingdoms of creatures enjoyed existence and returned to dust ere man appeared to claim them. After human beings have also played their part in Creation's plan, they too may disappear without any general burning or extraordinary commotion whatever.
    • chapter 6: Cedar Keys, pages 160-161
  • There is not a fragment in all nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself.
    • chapter 7: A Sojourn in Cubapage 168, omits the "all". This is a typo: see 1916 edition page 164

John of the Mountains, 1938 edit

Full title: John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir; edited by Linnie Marsh Wolfe (1938, reprinted by University of Wisconsin Press, 1979). According to Ronald Limbaugh and Kirsten Lewis (The Guide and Index to the Microform Edition of the John Muir Papers, 1986, page 2), this volume is a "highly selective and heavily emended" reflection of the original Muir journals.

  • Man has injured every animal he has touched.
    • 11 February 1869, page 23
  • If my soul could get away from this so-called prison, be granted all the list of attributes generally bestowed on spirits, my first ramble on spirit wings would not be among the volcanoes of the moon. Nor should I follow the sunbeams to their sources in the sun. I should hover about the beauty of our own good star. I should not go moping among the tombs, nor around the artificial desolation of men. I should study Nature's laws in all their crossings and unions; I should follow magnetic streams to their source and follow the shores of our magnetic oceans. I should go among the rays of the aurora, and follow them to their beginnings, and study their dealings and communions with other powers and expressions of matter. And I should go to the very center of our globe and read the whole splendid page from the beginning. But my first journeys would be into the inner substance of flowers, and among the folds and mazes of Yosemite's falls. How grand to move about in the very tissue of falling columns, and in the very birthplace of their heavenly harmonies, looking outward as from windows of ever-varying transparency and staining!
    • 18 January 1870, pages 43-44
  • 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.
    • 1872(?), page 92
  • One day's exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books. See how willingly Nature poses herself upon photographers' plates. No earthly chemicals are so sensitive as those of the human soul.
    • 1872(?), page 95
  • Earth hath no sorrows that earth cannot heal, or heaven cannot heal, for the earth as seen in the clean wilds of the mountains is about as divine as anything the heart of man can conceive!
    • 1872(?), page 99
    • (Echoing the 1816 hymn Come Ye Disconsolate by Thomas Moore: "Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.")
  • The snow is melting into music.
    • 15 January 1873, page 107
  • I know that our bodies were made to thrive only in pure air, and the scenes in which pure air is found.
    • September 1874, page 191
  • No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening — still all is Beauty!
    • 26 June 1875, page 208
  • Nature in her green, tranquil woods heals and soothes all afflictions.
    • August 1875, page 220
  • Who publishes the sheet-music of the winds, or the written music of water written in river-lines?
    • August 1875, page 220
  • Pollution, defilement, squalor are words that never would have been created had man lived conformably to Nature. Birds, insects, bears die as cleanly and are disposed of as beautifully as flies. The woods are full of dead and dying trees, yet needed for their beauty to complete the beauty of the living.... How beautiful is all Death!
    • August or September 1875, page 222
  • How infinitely superior to our physical senses are those of the mind! The spiritual eye sees not only rivers of water but of air. It sees the crystals of the rock in rapid sympathetic motion, giving enthusiastic obedience to the sun's rays, then sinking back to rest in the night. The whole world is in motion to the center. So also sounds. We hear only woodpeckers and squirrels and the rush of turbulent streams. But imagination gives us the sweet music of tiniest insect wings, enables us to hear, all round the world, the vibration of every needle, the waving of every bole and branch, the sound of stars in circulation like particles in the blood. The Sierra canyons are full of avalanche debris — we hear them boom again, for we read past sounds from present conditions. Again we hear the earthquake rock-falls. Imagination is usually regarded as a synonym for the unreal. Yet is true imagination healthful and real, no more likely to mislead than the coarser senses. Indeed, the power of imagination makes us infinite.
    • 1 September 1875, page 226
  • Our crude civilization engenders a multitude of wants, and lawgivers are ever at their wits' end devising. The hall and the theater and the church have been invented, and compulsory education. Why not add compulsory recreation? Our forefathers forged chains of duty and habit, which bind us notwithstanding our boasted freedom, and we ourselves in desperation add link to link, groaning and making medicinal laws for relief. Yet few think of pure rest or of the healing power of Nature.
    • 12 November 1875, page 234
  • Come to the woods, for here is rest.
    • page 235
  • I always befriended animals and have said many a good word for them. Even to the least-loved mosquitoes I gave many a meal, and told them to go in peace.
    • page 277
  • All the wild world is beautiful, and it matters but little where we go, to highlands or lowlands, woods or plains, on the sea or land or down among the crystals of waves or high in a balloon in the sky; through all the climates, hot or cold, storms and calms, everywhere and always we are in God's eternal beauty and love. So universally true is this, the spot where we chance to be always seems the best.
    • June 1890, page 299
  • It has been said that trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment rooted in the ground. But they never seem so to me. I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!
    • July 1890, page 313
    • (From Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, Second Series (1844) "Essay VI: Nature": "the trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment, rooted in the ground.")
  • The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.
    • July 1890, page 313
  • There is a love of wild Nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love ever showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties.
    • July 1890, page 315
  • The mountains are fountains of men as well as of rivers, of glaciers, of fertile soil. The great poets, philosophers, prophets, able men whose thoughts and deeds have moved the world, have come down from the mountains — mountain-dwellers who have grown strong there with the forest trees in Nature's workshops.
    • July 1890, pages 315-316
  • In God's wildness lies the hope of the world — the great fresh, unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and wounds heal ere we are aware.
    • July 1890, page 317
  • Most people are on the world, not in it — have no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them — undiffused, separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate.
    • July 1890, page 320
  • How hard to realize that every camp of men or beast has this glorious starry firmament for a roof! … In such places standing alone on the mountain-top it is easy to realize that whatever special nests we make — leaves and moss like the marmots and birds, or tents, or piled stone — we all dwell in a house of one room — the world with the firmament for its roof — and are sailing the celestial spaces without leaving any track.
    • 18 July 1890, page 321
  • I always enjoyed the hearty society of a snowstorm.
    • 19(?) July 1890, page 321
  • Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts.
    • 24 March 1895, page 337
  • April 21. My birthday — I am told the fifty-seventh, and yet I feel only a boy. Must make haste and get my work done ere the night falls. Made an excursion with the babes to Mount Wanda.
    • 21 April 1895, page 340
  • Yosemite Park is a place of rest, a refuge from the roar and dust and weary, nervous, wasting work of the lowlands, in which one gains the advantages of both solitude and society. Nowhere will you find more company of a soothing peace-be-still kind. Your animal fellow beings, so seldom regarded in civilization, and every rock-brow and mountain, stream, and lake, and every plant soon come to be regarded as brothers; even one learns to like the storms and clouds and tireless winds. This one noble park is big enough and rich enough for a whole life of study and aesthetic enjoyment. It is good for everybody, no matter how benumbed with care, encrusted with a mail of business habits like a tree with bark. None can escape its charms. Its natural beauty cleans and warms like a fire, and you will be willing to stay forever in one place like a tree.
    • 1895, page 350
  • Government protection should be thrown around every wild grove and forest on the mountains, as it is around every private orchard, and the trees in public parks. To say nothing of their value as fountains of timber, they are worth infinitely more than all the gardens and parks of towns.
    • 1895, pages 350-351
  • Sit down in climbing, and hear the pines sing.
    • page 428
  • The wrongs done to trees, wrongs of every sort, are done in the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, for when the light comes, the heart of the people is always right.
    • about 1900, page 429
  • This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on sea and continents and islands, each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
  • I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.
    • page 439
    • (Last line of the documentary film "John Muir in the New World" (American Masters), produced, directed, and written by Catherine Tatge.)
  • The rugged old Norsemen spoke of death as Heimgang — home-going. So the snow-flowers go home when they melt and flow to the sea, and the rock-ferns, after unrolling their fronds to the light and beautifying the rocks, roll them up close again in the autumn and blend with the soil. Myriads of rejoicing living creatures, daily, hourly, perhaps every moment sink into death’s arms, dust to dust, spirit to spirit — waited on, watched over, noticed only by their Maker, each arriving at its own heaven-dealt destiny. All the merry dwellers of the trees and streams, and the myriad swarms of the air, called into life by the sunbeam of a summer morning, go home through death, wings folded perhaps in the last red rays of sunset of the day they were first tried. Trees towering in the sky, braving storms of centuries, flowers turning faces to the light for a single day or hour, having enjoyed their share of life’s feast — all alike pass on and away under the law of death and love. Yet all are our brothers and they enjoy life as we do, share heaven’s blessings with us, die and are buried in hallowed ground, come with us out of eternity and return into eternity. 'Our little lives are rounded with a sleep.'
    • pages 439-440
    • ("Trees towering … into eternity" are the next-to-last lines of the documentary film "John Muir in the New World" (American Masters), produced, directed, and written by Catherine Tatge.)

About John Muir edit

  • Certainly humans can be destructive and shortsighted; they can also be forward-thinking and altruistic. Time and time again, people have demonstrated that they care about what Rachel Carson called "the problem of sharing our earth with other creatures," and that they're willing to make sacrifices on those creatures' behalf...John Muir wrote about the damage being done in the mountains of California, and this led to the creation of Yosemite National Park...
  • "that shepherd," "a mere sheepherder," "an ignoramus"
    • attributed to Josiah D. Whitney, Professor of Geology at Harvard University and State Geologist of California who incorrectly believed that Yosemite valley was formed by the sinking of the valley floor. Found in Linnie Marsh Wolfe, Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (1945), page 133
  • John Muir, Esquire, a distinguished naturalist and explorer
    • from a cable issued 8 July 1911 on behalf of President William H. Taft, instructing US diplomatic officers to aid Muir during his 1911-1912 trip to South America and Africa; reproduced in John Muir's Last Journey, edited by Michael P. Branch (Island Press, 2001), page 45
  • Ordinarily, the man who loves the woods and mountains, the trees, the flowers, and the wild things, has in him some indefinable quality of charm, which appeals even to those sons of civilization who care for little outside of paved streets and brick walls. John Muir was a fine illustration of this rule. He was by birth a Scotchman — a tall and spare man, with the poise and ease natural to him who has lived much alone under conditions of labor and hazard. He was a dauntless soul, and also one brimming over with friendliness and kindliness.
    He was emphatically a good citizen. Not only are his books delightful, not only is he the author to whom all men turn when they think of the Sierras and northern glaciers, and the giant trees of the California slope, but he was also — what few nature lovers are — a man able to influence contemporary thought and action on the subjects to which he had devoted his life. He was a great factor in influencing the thought of California and the thought of the entire country so as to secure the preservation of those great natural phenomena — wonderful canyons, giant trees, slopes of flower-spangled hillsides — which make California a veritable Garden of the Lord. …
    John Muir talked even better than he wrote. His greatest influence was always upon those who were brought into personal contact with him. But he wrote well, and while his books have not the peculiar charm that a very, very few other writers on similar subjects have had, they will nevertheless last long. Our generation owes much to John Muir.
  • No man was more influential than John Muir in preserving the Sierra's integrity. If I were to choose a single Californian to occupy the Hall of Fame, it would be this tenacious Scot who became a Californian during the final forty-six years of his life. It was John Muir whose knowledge wedded to zeal led men and governments to establish the National Park Service. Yosemite and Sequoia in California, the Petrified forest and the Grand Canyon in Arizona, and the glacier wilderness of Alaska are what they are today largely because of this one man, in whom learning and love were co-equal. More than any other, he was the answer to that call which appears on the Courts Building in Sacramento: Give me men to match my mountains.
  • If you think about all the gains our society has made, from independence to now, it wasn't government. It was activism. People think, "Oh, Teddy Roosevelt established Yosemite National Park, what a great president." BS. It was John Muir who invited Roosevelt out and then convinced him to ditch his security and go camping. It was Muir, an activist, a single person.
  • John Muir has been a role model to generations of Californians and to conservationists around the world. He taught us to be active and to enjoy — but at the same time protect — our parks, our beaches, and our mountains.

Sierra Club Bulletin - Memorial Issue edit

"John Muir Memorial Issue", Sierra Club Bulletin, volume 10, number 1 (January 1916).

  • He was the patriarch of American lovers of mountains, one who had not only a passion for the splendours of Nature, but a wonderful power of interpreting her to men. The very air of the granite peaks, the very fragrance of the deep and solemn forest, seem to breathe round us and soothe our sense as we read the descriptions of his lonely wanderings in the Sierras when their majesty was first revealed. California may well honour the service of one who did so much to make known her charms and to shield them from desecration. And you of the [Sierra] Club will cherish the memory of a singularly pure and simple character, who was in his life all that a worshipper of nature ought to be.
    • James Bryce, British ambassador to the US, in a letter "To my friends and fellow members of the Sierra Club" (19 February 1915) (page 1)
  • His countrymen owe him gratitude as the pioneer of our system of national parks. … Out of the fight which he led for the better care of the Yosemite by the State of California grew the demand for the extension of the system. To this many persons and organizations contributed, but Muir's writings and enthusiasm were the chief forces that inspired the movement. All the other torches were lighted from his.
    • Robert Underwood Johnson (page 12)
  • John Muir will never be fully appreciated by those whose minds are filled with money getting and the sordid things of modern every-day life. To such Muir is an enigma — a fanatic — visionary and impractical. There is nothing in common to arouse sympathetic interest. That anyone should spend his whole life in ascertaining the fundamental truths of nature and glory in their discovery with a joy that would put to shame even the religious zealot is to many utterly incomprehensible. That a man should brave the storms and thread the pathless wilderness, exult in the earthquake's violence, rejoice in the icy blasts of the northern glaciers, and that he should do all this alone and unarmed, year in and year out, is a marvel that but few can understand. These solitary explorations were quite in contrast with the usual heavily equipped expeditions which undertake such work. John Muir loved and gloried in this sort of life and approached it with an enthusiasm and power of will that made hardships and those things which most human beings consider essentials, mere trifles by comparison. He was willing to subordinate everything in life to this work which he had set out to do supremely well, and it is little wonder that he attained his goal.
  • It is not easy to write of my good friend, John Muir. The impression of his personality was so strong on those who knew him that all words seem cheap beside it. Those who never knew him can never, through any word of ours, be brought to realize what they have missed. … He had a quaint, crisp way of talking, his literary style in fact, and none of the nature lovers, the men who know how to feel in the presence of great things and beautiful, have expressed their craft better than he.
    • David Starr Jordan, first President of Stanford University (page 8)
  • Never have I met another man of such singleness of mind in his devotion to nature as Muir. He lived and moved and had his being as a devotee. … Of himself he took little heed, but no zealous missionary ever went abroad to spread the gospel with his fervor in communicating a love of nature. And with him a love of nature meant an understanding of her laws. He sauntered over the mountains, claiming kinship with the rocks and growing things and gathering them all to his heart. He has told me that he found it necessary, in getting people to listen, to tell them stories such as his immortal tale of Stickeen, but the real hope in his heart was to awaken their interest so they would want to go to nature themselves and to delve into the mysteries of her ways. … Every tree and flower, every bird and stone was to him the outward token of an invisible world in process of making.
    • Charles Keeler (pages 17-18)
  • His simplicity was his power. He knew nature as no one else did... . His affection for the commonplace little pine-needle was as genuine as that for the most beautiful flower or the grandest tree, and the little flakes of snow and the little crumbs of granite were each to him real life, and each has a personality worthy of his wonderful mind's attention; and he talked and wrote of them as he did of the ouzel or the Douglas squirrel — made real persons of them, and they talked and lived with him and were a part of his life as is our own flesh and blood. … One cannot describe Mount Rainier, one cannot describe the Grand Canyon, one cannot describe his beloved Yosemite; humanity is silent in their presence. So it was with John Muir to all who knew him; so has his influence affected mankind, and so will his life and work impress generations to come. This most wonderful of men, lifted above death and time by his human sympathy no less than by his genius, will forever influence the world, and it will be the better for his example and his inspiration.
    • Robert B. Marshall (pages 23-24)
  • To few men was it given to realize so completely the element of eternity — of time-effacing enjoyment in work — as it was to John Muir. The secret of it all was in his soul, the soul of a child, of a poet, and of a strong man, all blended into one. … An innate nobility of character, an unstudied reverence for all that is sublime in nature or in life, unconsciously called forth the best in his friends and acquaintances. In the spiritual as in the physical realm flowers blossomed in his footsteps where he went. After all it is to such men as John Muir that we must look for the sustenance of those finer feelings that keep men in touch with the spiritual meaning and beauty of the universe, and make them capable of understanding those rare souls whose insight has invested life with imperishable hope and charm. … To all who knew John Muir intimately his gentleness and humaneness toward all creatures that shared the world with him, was one of the finest attributes of his character. … Among those who have won title to remembrance as prophets and interpreters of nature he rises to a moral as well as poetical altitude that will command the admiring attention of men so long as human records shall endure.
    • William Frederic Badé (pages 38-40)

Misattributed edit

  • When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
    • Variant: Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe.
    • These are paraphrases of Muir's quote from My First Summer in the Sierra (1911) - the actual quote is listed above: "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." See Sierra Club explanation.
  • Brought into right relationship with the wilderness … he would see that his appropriation of earth's resources beyond his personal needs would only bring imbalance and beget ultimate loss and poverty for all.
    • This statement is not by Muir, but by his biographer Linnie Marsh Wolfe, in Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (1945) page 188.
  • Men use care in purchasing a horse, and are neglectful in choosing friends.
    • Attributed to John Mair, not John Muir, in Toasts and Tributes, edited by Arthur Gray (Rohde and Haskins, New York, 1904) page 154.
  • Society speaks and all men listen, mountains speak and wise men listen.
    • Frequently attributed to Muir without source. An extensive search of Muir's published and unpublished writings found several sharp and cogent observations concerning society (see above) but not this one.
  • Wilderness is not only a haven for native plants and animals but it is also a refuge from society. It's a place to go to hear the wind and little else, see the stars and the galaxies, smell the pine trees, feel the cold water, touch the sky and the ground at the same time, listen to coyotes, eat the fresh snow, walk across the desert sands, and realize why it's good to go outside of the city and the suburbs. Fortunately, there is wilderness just outside the limits of the cities and the suburbs in most of the United States, especially in the West.
    • Unlikely to be by Muir, as the discovery of the existence of multiple "galaxies" (rather than a single Milky Way galaxy) was published by Edwin Hubble in 1929, fifteen years after Muir's death.
  • "Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt."
    • I searched for keywords of that text in his books online and on an electronic copy of Muir of the Mountains, and was unable to find it. On rare occasions we find something in Muir's unpublished journals that is new and which can be verified. So I also did a search of the John Muir Papers at the University of the Pacific, and once again came up empty: Widening the search on the Internet, it appears that the quote is frequently attributed to John Muir but is also fairly often just listed as "anonymous" or "Unattributed." This quote does not sound like anything John Muir would have said. He did not write that way.

  • "And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul."
    • Once again, this is far from Muir's style of writing. The quote does not come up in any search of John Muir's Journals or his published texts on the John Muir Exhibit website. It is most commonly put on t-shirts - never in any scholarly source.
  • "Handle a book as a bee does a flower, extract its sweetness but do not damage it.”
    • Again, this is far from Muir's style of writing. The quote does not come up in any search of John Muir Papers at University of the Pacific or any of his published texts on the John Muir Exhibit website. It is found only on social media, one book on beekeeping, and one blog; never in any of Muir's actual writings or any biography of him. In one place the quote is attributed to Emily Dickinson, but not source is given.
  • "To sit in solitude, to think in solitude with only the music of the stream and the cedar to break the flow of silence, there lies the value of wilderness."
    • This quotation is widely popping up around the internet and even in some "trail quote" books, and is attributed to John Muir. Nonetheless, the purported quote does not show upin any of Muir's published writings, nor in the John Muir Papers at the University of the Pacific. As read, it sounds more like a description "about" Muir's views of solitude, not an actual quote, likely from one of the numerous Muir biographies or commentaries.

You may want to review this page about "John Muir Misquotes"

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