John Muir
January 24, 2021
Roberta McReynolds

God holds our lives, and also the lives of all the creatures on earth, and, we might say, the lives of rocks, grasses, and streams. An early 20th Century Californian by the name of John Muir realized this about God and nature, perhaps as well as anyone has. I want to read you two short selections from Muir’s writings about the Sierras and about Yosemite, the first about a startling experience and the second, about a beautiful one.

“When the avalanche started I threw myself on my back and spread my arms to try to keep from sinking. Fortunately, though the grade of the canyon is very steep, it is not interrupted by precipices large enough to cause outbounding or free plunging. On no part of the rush was I buried. I was only moderately embedded on the surface or, at times, a little below it, and covered with a veil of backstreaming dust particles; and as the whole mass below me and about me joined in the flight, there was no friction, though I was tossed here and there and lurched from side to side. When the avalanche swedged and came to rest, I found myself on top of the crumpled pile without a bruise or scar. This was a fine experience! . . .This flight in what might be called a milky way of snow-stars was the most spiritual and exhilarating of all the modes of motion I have ever experienced. Elijah’s flight in a chariot of fire could hardly have been more gloriously exciting.”

“Climbing along the dashing border of the cascade, bathed from time to time in waftings of irised spray, you are not likely to feel much weariness, and all too soon you find yourself beyond its highest fountains. Climbing higher, new beauty comes streaming on the sight. . .All the streams and the pools at this elevation are furnished with little gardens which, though making scarce any show at a distance, constitute charming surprises to the appreciative mountaineer in their midst. In so wild and so beautiful a region your first day will be spent, every sight and sound novel and inspiring, and leading you far from yourself. . .With the approach of evening long blue spiky-edged shadows creep out over the snowfields, while a rosy glow, at first scarce discernable, gradually deepens, suffusing every peak and flushing the glaciers and the harsh crags above them. This is the alpenglow, the most impressive of all the terrestrial manifestations of God. At the touch of this divine light, the mountains seem to kindle to a rapt religious consciousness, and stand hushed like worshippers waiting to be blessed. And then comes suddenly darkness and the stars.”

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