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My First Summer in the Sierra by John Muir

My First Summer in the Sierra (1911)

by John Muir

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I think some of the people who quote his "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe" phrase would be surprised to see it in the context of the rest of the paragraph (p87). He relates a lot of what he sees to God's presence. At times I felt his gushing enthusiastic words were a bit over the top, and wondered that he could have so much boundless enthusiasm day after day--but my reaction is doubtless a result of our comparative ages. There were sections where his imagery was strongly appealing, e.g. "some [raindrops]sift spray through the shining needles, whispering peace and good cheer to each one of them." (p 69)
He does animate nature; I thought it was refreshing the way he would identify plants etc as people, in a manner we are used to only hearing from Native Americans. I wonder how much of our innate attraction to specific landscapes has to do with some genetic predisposition: he comes from a Scots family which I assume lived for centuries in highlands.
I wonder what reference books he might have had with him. For example, in the beginning he wonders at the bird that walks under water in the streams but by the end he names it ouzel in his observations. ( )
  juniperSun | Jul 20, 2015 |
This was a very nice account of a summer in the Sierras. Full of detailed recordings of the flora, fauna, and natural beauty, Muir takes the reader on the journey with him. ( )
  hemlokgang | Mar 31, 2015 |
John Muir came to live in the United States in 1849, when he was nine years old and his parents moved there. In his twenties he spent several years studying various subjects at university, including botany and geology, in an entirely eclectic fashion and without ever taking a degree. To avoid conscription he moved to Canada, where he spent time trekking through the wilderness. He spent the following several years wandering the woods in the good season and working to make money as it ran out, usually in the winter season, when collecting plants would be difficult.

Between 1868 and 1871, Muir visited Yosemite several times, spending most of his time there. My first summer in the Sierra, although written and published many years later, in 1911, describes this period of his life.

The descriptions in the book bespeak Muir's adoration of the wild nature he observed in the Yosemite. Muir's youthful vigor emblazons the his writing about the paradisaical nature he encountered in this place, including rich descriptions of the landscape, flora and fauna.

My first summer in the Sierra is written in the form of a diary, describing the wanderings and daily occupations of Muir as a shepherd, and although Muir did spend a season in the Yosemite as a shepherd, My first summer in the Sierra is inspired by the many more years he spend there. However, the chosen structure and story tie the book together into an enticing story.

The edition of Mariner Books is illustrated with prints of original photos, etchings and drawings by Muir.

Indispensable reading for anyone with an interest in Natural History, botany and the ecological movement, particularly in the United States. ( )
2 vote edwinbcn | Aug 16, 2013 |
Muir's prose is ecstatic: but it is also aware, accurate, and detailed. Page after page records observations of botany, geology, the climate. And while Muir is alone much of the time his notes on the personalities he meets — Portuguese, Indian, tourists; and also squirrels, houseflies, bear, not to mention the tedious sheep — enliven the book and bring his ecstasy back to earth.
  pieterpad | Jan 1, 2009 |
This is an incredible book. Not because he is a great writer but because the Sierra are incredible. It is great how he describes areas that you can go to today that are very little changed, and some areas that are changed you can read about the way they used to be. I enjoyed his eye for the botanical treasures as well. "Hooved locusts.." awesome!
  tkraft | Feb 12, 2008 |
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» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Muirprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davis, MikeIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ehrlich, GretelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Praetzellis, AdrianNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In the great Central Valley of California there are only two seasons, -- spring and summer.
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe. (p 87)
...we are reminded that everything is flowing--going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks as well as water. Thus the snow flows fast or slow in grand beauty-making glaciers and avalanches; the air in majestic floods carrying minerals, plant leaves, seeds, spores, with streams of music and fragrance; water streams carrying rocks both in solution and in the form of mud particles, sand, pebbles, and boulders. Rocks flow from volcanoes like water from springs, and animals flock together and flow in currents modified by stepping, leaping, gliding, flying, swimming, etc. While the stars go streaming through space pulsed on and on forever like blood globules in Nature's warm heart. (p 130)
We never know where we must go nor what guides we are to get--men, storms, guardian angels, or sheep. Perhaps almost everybody in the least natural is guided more than he is ever aware of. All the wilderness seems to be full of tricks and plans to drive and draw us up into God's Light. (p 136)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0140255702, Paperback)

John Muir, a young Scottish immigrant, had not yet become the famed conservationist whom he liked to call "John o' the Mountains" when he first trekked into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada not long after the end of the Civil War. Having caught a glimpse of such magical places as Tuolumne Meadows and El Capitan, Muir ached to return, and in the summer of 1869 he signed on with a crew of shepherds and drove a flock of 2,500 woolly critters toward the headwaters of the Merced River.

The diary he kept while tending sheep forms the heart of My First Summer in the Sierra; published in 1911, it enticed thousands of Americans to visit the Yosemite country. The book is full of the concerns Muir would later voice as America's foremost preservationist and wildlands advocate, which would bear fruit in the creation of several national parks and monuments. And it resounds with Muir's nearly pantheistic regard for the natural world: with celebrations of the Sierra's lizards that "dart about on the hot rocks, swift as dragonflies," its mountain lions and tall trees and fierce thunderstorms and bears; with Muir's overarching awe for places that civilization had yet to tame. Though perhaps a little purple by modern standards, Muir's book continues to inspire readers to seek out such places for themselves and make them their own--and as such it stands among the enduring classics of environmental literature. --Gregory McNamee

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:19 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Published in 1911, this book is derived from John Muir's journal account of his experiences while herding 2,500 sheep into the High Sierra meadows in the summer of 1869. Muir records his daily activities, discoveries of plants and wildlife, and his eloquent musings on what he calls the holy wilderness. Written in a heartfelt, moving style, My First Summer in the Sierra is a classic of environmental literature.… (more)

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