We Are Wilderness: John Muir

In these fearfully uncertain times, when “self-isolating” and “social distancing” send us into defensive self-protection, the wise and wild words of Muir echo through the fresh, healthy mountain air.  As Thoreau said, “Nature is but another name for health.” (Wild Fruits)

How many stop to contemplate that a virus is a wild creature as much at home on this little spinning blue ball in space as we are?  Fear it!  Kill it!  we cry.  As we have the bear and wolf, the lion and rhino, the whale and shark.  Crazy thinking? Maybe.

I don’t want to be sick or see others suffer and die.  I simply choose to see the wider, deeper, bigger picture of what we call “wilderness”– even in our own bodies.

“We all are only microscopic [creatures].”

-A Thousand Mile Walk, 1916

“Leave all and go [to the mountains] and you cannot escape a cure for all care.  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 [humanity] can conceive!” 

-Journal, 1872

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are finding out that going to the mountains is going home.  That wildness is a necessity.”

-Our National Parks, 1901

“So truly blind is lord man; so pathetically employed in his little jobs of town-building, church-building, bread-getting, the study of the spirits and heaven, etc., that he can see nothing of the heaven he is in.”

-Journal, 1879

“But let children walk with Nature, let them see the beautiful blending 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.”

-A Thousand Mile Walk, 1916

Muir wrote the following after suffering for three months with malaria in Florida:

“The world, we are told, was made especially for [human beings]–a presumption not supported by all the facts …  The universe would be incomplete without [human beings]; but it would also be incomplete without the smallest transmicroscopic creature that dwells beyond our conceitful eyes and knowledge.”

-A Thousand Mile Walk, 1916

Finally, one of my favorite passages in all of Muir’s “natural scripture”:

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as the sunshine into the trees, the winds will blow their freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away like autumn leaves.”

-My First Summer in the Sierra, 1911


It just now occurred to me:  this virus has a corona, a crown.  Perhaps reminding us, as Muir does, that we are not the King, Queen, Ruler of the earth.  As his favorite poet, Robert Burns, wrote:

“Wildly here, without control.  Nature reigns and rules the whole!” (Castle Gordon)

Be well!

 

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