We all flow from one fountain Soul
I wish you could come here and rest a year in the simple unmingled Love fountains of God. You would then return to your scholars with fresh truth gathered and absorbed from pines and waters and deep singing winds, and you would find that they all sang of fountain Love just as did Jesus Christ and all of pure God manifest in whatever form. You say that good men are “nearer to the heart of God than are woods and fields, rocks and waters.” Such distinctions and measurements seem strange to me. 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.
You say some other things that I don’t believe at all, but I have no room to say them nay; further – I don’t stab the old grannies where I wasted so much time, the colleges of all kinds, “Christian” and common, West and Northwest, with their long tails of pretensions. I only said a few words of free sunshine, using the dim old clouds of learning for a background.
by John Muir (21 April 1838 – 24 December 1914)
from a letter to Catherine Merrill
sent from Yosemite Valley, June 9th, 1872
from John Muir: His Life and Letters and Other Writings (1996)
image – AmandaWalker
Undivided and Shoreless
I was going to take a break today, but Muir (and history) had other ideas. Today is the anniversary of the 1890 founding of Yosemite National Park. Yosemite was one of Muir’s special great loves. It’s a dank cool day and wanted to take gratuitous naps or maybe putter at making soup. No joy. Instead, whenever I got to that peaceful puttering place I felt like I could hear Muir calling, “Come out! Come out!” Eventually I surrendered.
Muir had little use for religious dogma – “churchianity,” as my mom used to say. He was so very gut level, straight-from-the-heart honest. Muir was puzzled, at first, that there could be a benefit to reading his writing about nature. He compared to it to a hungry man reading a description of food, when what the man really needed was to eat. Catherine Merrill, one of the first female professors in America, may have disagreed with Muir about religion, but she never stopped being his friend and admirer.
The excerpt above was written to Catherine Merrill in June. In October of that same year John Muir was writing to another long-term friend about hiking up to the tops of glaciers with that same sense of rapture… and no sign of kvetching over colder and wetter weather:
Here is a clean white-skinned glacier from the back of McClure with glassy emerald flesh and singing crystal blood, all bright and pure as a sky, yet handling mud and stone like a navvy, building moraines like a plodding Irishman. Here is a cascade two hundred feet wide, half a mile long, glancing this way and that, filled with bounce and dance and joyous hurrah, yet earnest as a tempest, and singing like angels loose on a frolic from heaven.
When I had scrambled to the top of the moraine I saw what seemed to be a huge snowbank four or five yards in length by half a mile in width. Embedded in its stained and furrowed surface were stones and dirt like that of which the moraine was built. Dirtstained lines curved across the snowbank from side to side, and when I observed that these curved lines coincided with the curved moraine, and that the stones and dirt were most abundant near the bottom of the bank, I shouted, “A living glacier!” These bent dirt lines show that the ice is flowing in its different paths with unequal velocity, and these embedded stones are journeying down to be built into the moraine, and they gradually become more abundant as they approach the moraine where the motion is slower…
another Muir letter
also published in John Muir: His Life and Letters and Other Writings (1996)
this time, to Mrs Ezra S Carr
Yosemite Valley; Oct 8th, 1872
If you like reading collections of letters, whole letters, not bits and pieces, “John Muir: His Life and Letters and Other Writings” is a very nice compilation. Muir may have been comfortable being alone in the middle of nowhere, but he was also quite the letter-writer!
Muir the Mountain Man
Muir was known for taking off on foot, on his own with nothing but “a tin cup, a handful of tea, a loaf of bread, and a copy of Emerson,” walking and camping for weeks on end. I’d read about this, but didn’t fully appreciate it until hearing Peter Coyote, narrator of “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” tell the tale with the reverence of a lover retelling a beloved’s life story. As long as I’m being free with the Amazon links, did you know Amazon Prime members can see the video free, on demand?
I’m sure Muir would prefer that I turn off electronic media, bundle up and get joyful over discovering Soul outdoors, but today I’m more of a cocoon bunny. If you’re in cocoon mode, especially if you liked Siddhartha, try snuggling on the couch with John Tallmadge‘s American version of self-finding. “Meeting the Tree of Life: A Teacher’s Path,” his exploration of John Muir, Henry Thoreau, Edward Abbey and others, is out of print now but can be found used on Amazon, for pocket change. It’s is a lovely read to curl up with.