John Muir

In the chapter of Landmarks titled “The Black Locust and the Silver Pine,” Robert Macfarlane recounts of Muir, “In March 1867 he slipped while using a sharp cuttering tool, and drove its point into his eye. Cupping a hand to his eye in agony, he felt the aqueous humour trickling through his fingers. When he took his hand away he could see only blackness. Hours later, the vision of his left eye also vanished in sympathetic reaction to the injury. For six weeks Muir lay bandaged in a darkened room, having been told he was unlikely ever to see again. But at last he recovered his sight, felt his eyes had been ‘opened to…inner beauty’, and decided to dedicate himself to the study of trees and plants, and to the exploration of nature.

Muir fell in love with the Sierra Nevadas, preferring beds, as Macfarlane describes, “on “galefelled brances for a frame, pine needles for a mattress and a rock for a pillow,” wrote The Mountains of California (1894), further opened President Teddy Roosevelt’s eyes to the “preaching of pine trees” on a three-night camping trip in May 1903, and established the Sierra Club. The wild life of Muir, who delightedly described himself as a “poetico-trampo-geologist-bot and ornith-natural,” was consequential for the preservation of millions of acres of wild places.


p. 290

The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”


    p. 295

    “When a big winter storm hit the valley in December 1874, Muir clambered to the top of a hundred-foot-high Douglas spruce in order to experience the wind as a tree might.


      p. 290

      Everyone needs beauty as well as bread.


      For six weeks Muir lay bandaged in a darkened room, having been told he was unlikely ever to see again. But at last he recovered his sight, felt his eyes had been ‘opened to…inner beauty’, and decided to dedicate himself to the study of trees and plants, and to the exploration of nature.

      p. 293


      p. 295

      He sketched…touched, tasted and smelt the trees he met, in an effort to distinguish the character of each species.


      Muir Woods Photos

      Photo: Melody Griffin

      Photo: Melody Griffin

      Photo: Melody Griffin

      Photo: Melody Griffin

      Photo: Melody Griffin

      Photo: Melody Griffin

      Photo: Melody Griffin

      Photo: Melody Griffin