Read the name John Muir in any history text, magazine or book, and there may be a chance of slight familiarity. Maybe there is a dim recollection of a naturalist...the original tree hugger, according to your history teacher. Like most names learned in history, the name fades in and out of significance, no longer pertinent once the class has been passed. John Muir...not any particularly extraordinary name in itself. It doesn't proclaim heroism, genius, or exotic travels.
But, a hero he was: adventurer, an inventor, spiritual and independent, free. Muir was a self-proclaimed "poetico-trampo-geologist-botanist and ornithologist naturalist” (ix). Not that the man thought highly of himself- he was raised far too strictly to become one of those educated egocentric types. Unfortunately, we all know one of those; just the opposite, Muir was deeply humbled by nature.
Through his wanderings and revelations, John Muir came to understand the profound connection between the human race and the Earth itself. The botanist recorded his musings in his journals, articles and books; what he penned over a hundred years ago is still strikingly relevant, if not more so than ever before. His writings are a rallying cry for action on behalf of nature's survival.
Essential Muir is a compilation of Muir's journal entries, articles and book chapters; it will leave questions and new considerations in the reader's mind. His vividly descriptive, yet controlled and erudite style conveys a love of nature which defies naming or boundaries; it led Muir to glacial mountain passes, through stormy pine forests, across oceans, into desert and savannah.
There is a certain intellectual, slightly eccentric charm to Muir’s writing. As a scientist, he describes flowers, trees and animals with precise diction, making detailed observations. Conversely, the man has the heart of a giddy child- one who finds wonder in everything. That wonder manifests itself in his moments of wild abandon, dancing and laughing alone in the sequoia woods and mountains.
In this day and age, we as a society have become largely dismissive of the “tree huggers.” Often they are seen as uneducated, delusional hippies with immensely complex conspiracy theories. However, Muir breaks this stereotype through the information he gives about his past. Having attended Wisconsin State University, Muir studied higher level mathematics, physics, chemistry, and geology; in addition, he invented several small complex machines for everyday use. Muir’s past dispels any doubts concerning his rationality or intelligence, and yet the naturalist remains humble, simply telling his story as it happened, and never claiming any throne in science nor religion.
The word “evangelist” is, in a sense, the word which best describes John Muir the man. He was a deeply spiritual person who felt the primal connection to nature and was driven to spread his message of salvation to the human race; Man has stewardship of Nature, and it is, as follows, our duty to care for it.
--by Kristian Rivera