John Muir’s passion for nature started as an act of rebellion against his father. His father was a strict religious man and he believed anything that distracted the young Muir from his Bible studies deserved a whipping. But Muir had a restless spirit, so it’s said he was “prone to lashings.”
John Muir was born in Scotland in 1838, but his family emigrated to the United States when he was 11 to join the Campbellite Restoration Movement. His father really did force Muir to memorize most of the Bible under threat of physical punishment and while he remained spiritual his entire life, he abandoned religious orthodoxy as soon as he could.
He eventually made his way to San Francisco where he discovered Yosemite. His biographer, Frederick Turner, later wrote that Muir’s journal entry describing his first visit to the valley, “blazes from the page with the authentic force of a conversion experience.”
Muir went on to found the Sierra Club and played an instrumental role in the creation of the national park system. He’s been described as the patron saint of the American wilderness and his writings bear a prophetic quality that stirs our environmental consciousness and inspires the return to nature.
For today’s inspiration, we’re looking at a piece of Muir’s writing that invites us to find spiritual nourishment from the natural world. It’s a passage from his book Our National Parks that we’re calling, “Walk Away Quietly.”
WALK AWAY QUIETLY
(Excerpt from OUR NATIONAL PARKS)
By John Muir
Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer.
Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir
More nuggets for today:
As we’ve struggled to control the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of a federal quarantine has been controversial. But on this day in 1799, the U.S. Congress passed the first federal quarantine legislation.
Three years earlier, Congress authorized the president to take action in support of state health laws as a response to the yellow fever epidemic. The 1799 legislation was a more expansive piece of legislation that increased federal agencies ability to assist states in enforcing “quarantines and other restraints.” The act also empowered the president to direct and remove federal employees and prisoners in the event of an epidemic.
And on this day in 1862, Congress passed the First Legal Tender Act.
The act introduced flat paper money called “greenbacks” as legal currency. It was passed to help the nation finance the Civil War and allowed the government to print paper money that was not backed by an equal amount of gold or silver.
The introduction of the words “In God We Trust” on paper currency didn’t happen until much later, in 1957. It was passed by Congress and signed into law by Eisenhower a year earlier. Historically, it’s been a source of controversy — opponents argue that the inclusion of religious terminology on government-produced currency violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
But apparently most Americans don’t have a problem with it. When surveyed, a whopping 90% of Americans indicated support for the “In God We Trust” inscription on American currency.
Finally, today’s word of wisdom comes to us from the great American novelist, John Steinbeck. He said:
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac. For additional reading, see A Passion for Nature: The Life of John Muir.
Thanks for listening. If you like what you heard today, do me a favor and tell a friend. Until tomorrow, be kind and take good care of yourself.
“Walk Away Quietly” excerpted from Our National Parks by John Muir. Public domain.
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