Friday, November 6, 2015

Beauty and Adventure: The Wild Muir

The Wild Muir: Twenty-Two of John Muir's Greatest Adventures
selected by Lee Stetson

Kansas Dad and I have been entertaining the idea of a camping trip in the western United States. Though I told myself I was not going to change our planned history, geography, or science studies for the year just because we might take a vacation in the spring....well, I couldn't help myself. I started looking through our library catalog for books I could read aloud to all four children (11, 9, 7, and 5) that would spark their interest in the natural world, especially the nature of the western United States, and would give them some small glimpse into the greater experience, something to anticipate. I remembered Brandy's post about a book on John Muir and finally requested our library purchase a copy because it seemed better than anything they had.

Oh, and it is! Lee Stetson, who immerses himself in the character of John Muir for performances at Yosemite National Park and elsewhere, has selected twenty-two adventures from John Muir's life as written by John Muir, and presented them in chronological order. In the introduction, Mr. Stetson claims the tales "reflect some of his [Muir's] best and most engaging writing."

Muir's writing is indeed exquisite. I wanted to copy entire pages of it into my commonplace book.
Most delightful it is to stand in the middle of Yosemite on still clear mornings after snow-storms and watch the throng of avalanches as they come down, rejoicing, to their places, whispering, thrilling like birds, or booming and roaring like thunder. The noble yellow pines stand hushed and motionless as if under a spell until the morning sunshine begins to sift through their laden spires; then the dense masses on the ends of the leafy branches begin to shift and fall, those from the upper branches striking the lower ones in succession, enveloping each tree in a hollow conical avalanche of fairy fineness; while the relieved branches spring up and wave with startling effect in the general stillness, as if each tree was moving of its own volition.
My favorite chapter tells of Muir's heroic actions to save a stranded fellow mountain climber. I especially loved the excerpt from the injured climber's own book, Alaska Days with John Muir.

I intend to read this book aloud to the children, even if we never make it to California or Muir's beloved Yosemite. Combining the dangerous with the beautiful creates a book that would appeal to a wide variety of ages and propensities, though I do wonder whether my own adventurous children might attempt some of Muir's feats.
No. I must wait until next summer. I would only approach the mountain now, and inspect it, creep about its flanks, learn what I could of its history, holding myself ready to flee on the approach of the first storm-cloud. But we little know until tried how much of the uncontrollable there is in us, urging across glaciers and torrents, and up dangerous heights, let the judgment forbid as it may.
We'll hope they are inspired more by the descriptions of the natural world than the exploits. 

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