Muir’s colossal accomplishments, one must first understand the reason behind his drive for these accomplishments. John Muir’s infatuation with the wilderness developed when he was a young boy growing up in Dunbar, Scotland. Events in which led to him becoming an influential environmentalist include his tragic blinding eye injury, his thousand mile walk from Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico, and his visit to Yosemite Valley where he abandoned all previous strict religious beliefs and adopted a new outlook on life and nature. He set himself on a mission to “save the American soul from absolute surrender to materialism” (Muir). A mission in which prevailed when he was able to establish the idea of preservation and allowing parks to be a place that people can enjoy at no expense to them (Neil Oliver). As a young boy growing up in Scotland, Muir was filled with an intense desire for wildness and adventure that was sure to be fulfilled. He enjoyed wandering off into the fields of his native town, Dunbar, to listen to the birds sing and to experience nature in all of her glory. He became one with nature. He embraced and evolved into all that she is; wild and, essentially, free. In his book, The Story of my Boyhood and Youth , Muir talks about his frequent escapes to the fields and seashore despite being severely punished for what was considered a mischievous act by his father. The joy he found in the blissfulness of nature however, seemed to be worth these brief moments of agony to him. He believed that the reason for his natural inherited wildness was deeply embedded in the nature of his being. In his book, Muir exclaimed that;
...no punishment, however sure and severe, was of any avail against the attraction of the fields and woods... Wildness was ever sounding in our ears, and Nature saw to it that besides school lessons and church lessons some of her own lessons should be learned, ….. Kings may be blessed; we were glorious, we were free,—school cares and scoldings, heart thrashings and flesh thrashings alike, were forgotten in the fullness of Nature's glad wildness. These were my first excursions,—the beginnings of lifelong wanderings (50). This devotion to the wilderness further blossomed when the Muir family emigrated to Hickory Hill Farm near Portage, Wisconsin where he would roam the fields and countryside. John Muir, only 11 years old when they moved, was yet again fascinated by nature and submerged himself into all that she was. He described it as a, “...sudden plash into pure wildness—baptism in Nature's warm heart—how utterly happy it made us!” ( The Story of my Boyhood and Youth).
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- Fall '14
- John Muir, Yosemite National Park, Muir, Sierra Nevada