John Muir on the Calm Assurance of Autumn as a Time of Renewal and Nature as a Tonic for Mental and Physical Health

In the last year of his twenties, penniless and starving for significance, John Muir (April 21, 1838– December 24, 1914) left the Wisconsin frontier, where his family had emigrated from Scotland 20 years earlier in search of a much better life, to wander throughout the wilderness of his brand-new homeland. He started taping his encounters with nature, with its charm and its capacity for transcendence, in a little pocket note pad– the very first of the sixty journals he would keep for the remainder of his life, on the pages of which he emerged as the prose-poet laureate of nature, his emotional sensibility echoing throughout the generations in the writings of lyrical researchers like Rachel Carson and contemporary naturalists like Terry Tempest Williams and Robert Macfarlane. He would live as a delighted lover of the wilderness and die as a starting dad of the National Parks.

John MuirGrowing up, the concept of becoming a writer never ever got in Muirs creativity. Rather, he imagined ending up being a developer; then a physician; then a botanist. He required to “the making of books” just late in life, stating: “When I initially left house to go to school, I thought about fortune as a developer, however the glance I got of the Cosmos at the University, put all the webcams and wheels and levers out of my head.” It was during those school years that the polymath Alexander von Humboldts epoch-making book Kosmos first captivated the popular imagination with the idea of nature as a cosmos of connections, motivating the young Walt Whitman to declare that “a leaf of lawn is no less than the journey work of the stars” and the young John Muir to compose his address on the flyleaf of his first journal as “John Muir, Earth-Planet, Universe.” On the pages of his journals, Muir would come to his stimulating credo that “when we try to select anything by itself, we discover it hitched to whatever else in deep space.”

Still in his twenties, a century and a half before neurologists began revealing the recovery power of nature, Muir started discerning the enormous mental and physiological rewards of immersion in the living cosmos of nature and its uncommon salve for the numerous despairs, distempers, and wearinesses of mind and body we accumulate in the course of living as thinking, feeling creatures in a perpetually precarious world. In among those note pads, posthumously collected in the 1938 treasure John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (town library), he writes:

Nature, while advising to utmost efforts, leading us with work, providing cause beyond cause in limitless chains, lost in boundless distances, yet cheers us like a mom with tender prattle words of love, ministering to all our friendlessness and weariness.

In an entry from the journals he kept throughout his transformative time in the Sierra Mountains, he celebrates nature not only as a psychological, emotional, and spiritual buoy however as a holistic peace of mind tonic distilled in the body. Well before Walt Whitman designed his magnificent outdoor exercise while recovering from his paralytic stroke, well before William James advanced his revolutionary theory of how our bodies affect our sensations, Muir composes:

Gain health from lusty, heroic workout, from complimentary, firm-nerved experiences without stress and anxiety in them, with rhythmic leg motion in runs over boulders needing quick decision for each step. Fording streams, tingling with flesh brushes as we move down white slopes thatched with close snow-pressed chaparral, half swimming or flying or slipping– all these make excellent counter-irritants. Then delight in the utter peace and solemnity of the trees and stars … Find a strange presence in a thousand coy concealing things.

Art by Margaret C. Cook from an unusual 1913 English edition of Walt Whitmans Leaves of Grass. (Available as a print.) In another fragment from his Yosemite note pad bearing the heading “Indian Summer,” in a belief Colette would echo generations later in her soulful meditation on the elegance of fall and the fall of life as a beginning rather than a decline, Muir assesses the particular, counterproductive life-affirmation of fall:

In the yellow mist the rough angles melt on the rocks. Forms, lines, tints, reflections, sounds, all are softened, and although the passing away time, it is likewise the color time, the time when faith in the steadfastness of Nature is best … The seeds all have next summer in them, a few of them countless summertimes, as the sequoia and cedar. In the holiday range all go calmly down into the white winter season rejoicing, clearly hopeful, faithful … everything taking what comes, and eagerly anticipating the future, as if piously stating, “Thy will be carried out in earth as in paradise!”

Garden Supernovae by Maria Popova. (Available as a print.) Numerous passages later on, he includes:

Couple the completely soul-salving John of the Mountains with a cinematic homage to Muirs wilderness legacy, then review Mary Shelley on natures charm as a lifeline to gaining back sanity and other beloved authors on the natural world as a solution for depression.

Earth hath no sorrows that earth can not recover, or paradise can not recover, for the earth as seen in the clean wilds of the mountains has to do with as magnificent as anything the heart of guy can develop!

In the final year of his twenties, hungry and poverty-stricken for meaning, John Muir (April 21, 1838– December 24, 1914) left the Wisconsin frontier, where his family had actually emigrated from Scotland two years earlier in search of a much better life, to roam throughout the wilderness of his brand-new homeland. He began taping his encounters with nature, with its beauty and its capability for transcendence, in a small pocket notebook– the very first of the sixty journals he would keep for the remainder of his life, on the pages of which he emerged as the prose-poet laureate of nature, his soulful sensibility echoing throughout the generations in the works of lyrical researchers like Rachel Carson and modern naturalists like Terry Tempest Williams and Robert Macfarlane. John MuirGrowing up, the concept of becoming an author never got in Muirs creativity. In another fragment from his Yosemite note pad bearing the heading “Indian Summer,” in a belief Colette would echo generations later in her soulful meditation on the elegance of fall and the autumn of life as a beginning rather than a decrease, Muir reflects on the particular, counterproductive life-affirmation of fall:

Forms, lines, tints, reflections, sounds, all are softened, and although the dying time, it is also the color time, the time when faith in the steadfastness of Nature is best … The seeds all have next summer season in them, some of them thousands of summers, as the sequoia and cedar.