I believe in serendipity, especially when it comes to the discovery of a good book. At a Friends of the Library sale, I came upon The Wilderness World of John Muir, Edited by Edwin Way Teale. Having ancestors who are Scots-Irish and knowing members of the Muir Clan, I was intrigued. With this book, I encountered the real man, a real Scottish man who had changed the world by changing man’s view and estimation of his environment. Reading an overview of his on-foot journeys, reminded me of Guy Clarke’s song, “Walking Man.” The book is dedicated to The Sierra Club, The Wilderness Society, The National Parks Association, and all those who are fighting the good fight to preserve what John Muir sought to save.
I had heard of Muir, but knew little about him. From this book, I learned many surprising things about him–his Scottish outspokenness, his family, his journeys and journals, and most of all, I realized how ignorant much of America is about this Scotsman, who came to a land rich in beauty and wanted the world to know.
Muir had a toughness that few even in those hard frontier days had. According to the jacket of the book, from 1838-1914, he covered most of the American wilderness alone and on foot, without a gun or sleeping bag with only a sackful of provisions (prob. hardtack and tea) that would have challenged the will of the most dedicated ascetic monk.
The introduction ends with this very fitting quote: “His [Muir] finest monument is the wild beauty he called attention and helped preserve–beauty, however, that is never entirely safe, beauty that needs as vigilant protection and tomorrow as it needed yesterday (xx).
Muir once said, “A man in his books,” he once wrote, “may be said to walk the earth long after he had gone.” Muir did make our world better. He loved nature as much, if not more, than the Transcendentalists, and without a doubt, I think he knew nature better than they. If I’ve tweaked your interest, find this book. Used copies can be had cheaply on Amazon. And if you have an unusual story about John Muir, post it in a comment or email me, firstname.lastname@example.org