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John Muir Made Essences? A Cheer and a Jeer

Posted by admin on Nov 7, 2009

One of our editors — who prefers to remain nameless — subscribes to the Reader’s Digest.  Go figure. The July, 2009 issue featured an article about the formation of U.S.’s national parks, and in particular about Yosemite.  (Film-maker Ken Burns’s “This Land is your Land,” pp. 94-105).  One of the many who championed and participated in the movement to establish the parks was the eminent naturalist John Muir (here’s his Wikipedia entry). He was actively involved in exploring and preserving Yosemite from 1870 until his death, and was honored by having his image on the U.S. Mint’s quarter for California in 2005 (image reproduced here).

muirHis relationship with nature — and in particular with trees — was profound.  The article notes that in the midst of a violent thunderstorm, he would claw his way high into a huge pine in order to experience how the tree felt during the storm.  He soaked sequoia cones in water and drank the purple sap that came out so that he could become, “tree-wise and sequoia -like.”  In other words, he made an essence of the pine.   A cheer, then, to a man who recognized the spirit and essence of the pine in the last 1800s, at least 30 years before Bach did so.

A jeer, however, is deserved by the Reader’s Digest and by the author, Ken Burns for the following comment on these actions:  “The man did unbelievably bizarre and rapturous things in California’s High Sierra in the name of national parks.”  (p.98)  If they think Muir was bizarre, one wonders what they’d think of us who take part in today’s essence world.  Hmm. At the next renewal period for Reader’s Digest, our editor is likely to remember this.

(Also see the website for the magnificent Ken Burns series on PBS called The National Parks: America’s Best Idea — even if his ideas about human relationships with trees is somewhat… pedestrian: http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/.)

3 Comments »

Anne Ryan:

It would be good to know more about Muir and his relationship to trees. In general people feel anything natural to be strange. Demonstrates how far in we are to plastic. But i do not think riding the PBS national park wave is such a bad thing to do if it brings people closer to the essence of nature. We are in such fragile condition.

November 7th, 2009 | 8:39 am

I’ve seen the PBS series. It’s excellent, and Muir does come off as quite eccentric. I am still careful with whom I share my flowery leanings. I do expect, though, that the more we learn as a species in general, the more go back to rediscover old truths. Eventually, flower essences will become more mainstream as quantum physics brings science and spirituality together again–at last. (I am not banking on living to see it, though!)

November 7th, 2009 | 8:46 am
Carolyn Perkins:

I do not believe that the sequoias are pines. According to Wikipedia they are the sole surviving tree of the Sequoia genus and related to cypress. I love these trees and would recommend the reading of THE MOUNTAINS OF CALIFORNIA by John Muir to anyone. He was perhaps eccentric, but who’s judging?

November 8th, 2009 | 6:49 am