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Essential Muir: A Selection of John…

Essential Muir: A Selection of John Muir's Best Writings (Essential)…

by Fred D. White

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This is a nice collection of essays to read before bed or in any free moment. I knew a little bit about Muir through documentaries and visiting the national parks, but now I have read his voice and been guided through some of his experiences via his essays. Like the book's dedication says, "May his voice always be heard... and heeded".

The reason his voice should be heeded is because he reminds us of what can be perceived if we pay attention, how appreciate nature and all living things, and reminds us that we are all stewards of the environment in which we live. He also warns that destruction can take place in the act of creating a better world for ourselves and we must understand what we destroy as well as what we create.

All thirteen essays are worth reading, but some stood out both in their ability to convey what's mentioned above and Muir's beautiful language. In Windstorm in the Forest (p.55), he climbs a conifer to experience a windstorm from the tree's vantage and writes poetically about how the invisible winds advertise all they touch, carrying debris and fragrance. In his characteristic style, he reduces life to "tree wavings" — away and back again. In Yosemite Glaciers (p.73), he describes the importance of glaciers in forming the mountain landscape and sorrowfully describes their deaths as “calm as when they came in crystals from the sky.” In Strickeen and the Glacier (p.93), Muir tells the story about his friendship with a dog who overcomes the crossing of a deep crevasse and celebrates with jubilant emotion when he accomplishes the feat.

Yet, some of the most important essays in this collection are the final ones. Muir describes, in The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West (p.119), his joy that people are rediscovering the wild, "awakening from the stupefying effects of the vice of over-industry and the deadly apathy of luxury". However, he reminds all of us who have awoken the threats that are harming forests, plants, and animals and works to inform people in an effort to preserve the wilderness.

This book at different times excites you, motivates you to climb a mountain, and makes you laugh. Muir was a prolific and remarkable person whose intelligence is clear and his love for life incomparable. I am inspired to keep learning from wilderness, especially since it affected a person like Muir so much. ( )
  danrk | Sep 30, 2017 |
Muir's writing is very lovely, full of great descriptions and utter enthusiasm for his surroundings. Also included in this collection were excerpts from his autobiography, The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, which was a fascinating look at his strict religious upbringing and his desire to explore and invent new things. As White says in his introduction, when most people think of John Muir, they think of an old barefoot hippie who lives in the mountains and climbs trees in windstorms. While he indeed do these things, he did so much more as a writer, adventurer, and conservationist. This was a wonderful little collection of Muir's writing that left me wanting to read his works in full. ( )
  kaylaraeintheway | Jun 2, 2015 |
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