John Muir (21 April 1838 – 24 December 1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is a prominent American conservation organization.
John Muir Quotes and Sayings
#1 6 June 1869, Chapter 1: Through the Foothills with a Flock of Sheep, My First Summer in the Sierra
1. We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.
#2 13 June 1869, Chapter 2: In Camp on the North Fork of the Merced, My First Summer in the Sierra
2. Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.
#3 23 June 1869, Chapter 2: In Camp on the North Fork of the Merced, My First Summer in the Sierra
3. Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever.
#4 9 July 1869, Chapter 4: To the High Mountains, My First Summer in the Sierra
4. So extravagant is Nature with her choicest treasures, spending plant beauty as she spends sunshine, pouring it forth into land and sea, garden and desert. And so the beauty of lilies falls on angels and men, bears and squirrels, wolves and sheep, birds and bees, but as far as I have seen, man alone, and the animals he tames, destroy these gardens.
#5 27 July, Chapter 6: Mount Hoffman and Lake Tenaya, My First Summer in the Sierra
5. When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe. One fancies a heart like our own must be beating in every crystal and cell, and we feel like stopping to speak to the plants and animals as friendly fellow-mountaineers.
#6 Letter to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr, 7 October 1874, Yosemite Valley, The Life and Letters of John Muir by William Frederic Badè, 1924, chapter 11: On Widening Currents
6. I was alone and during the whole excursion, or period rather, was in a kind of calm incurable ecstasy. I am hopelessly and forever a mountaineer.
#7 Letter to wife Louie (Louisa Wanda Strentzel), July 1888, The Life and Letters of John Muir, 1924, chapter 15: Winning a Competence
7. Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.
#8 Chapter 3 Summer Days at Mount Shasta, Steep trails, 1919
8. Thus, by forces seemingly antagonistic and destructive, Nature accomplishes her beneficent designs — now a flood of fire, now a flood of ice, now a flood of water; and again in the fullness of time an outburst of organic life — forest and garden, with all their wealth of fruit and flowers, the air stirred into one universal hum with rejoicing insects, a milky way of wings and petals, girdling the newborn mountain like a cloud, as if the vivifying sunbeams beating against its sides had broken into a foam of plant-bloom and bees.
#9 Chapter 5 Shasta Rambles and Modoc Memories, Steep trails, 1919
9. Take a course of good water and air, and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you.
#10 Chapter 1 The Sierra Nevada, The Mountains of California, 1894
10. …Nature chose for a tool not the earthquake or lightning to rend and split asunder, not the stormy torrent or eroding rain, but the tender snowflowers noiselessly falling through unnumbered centuries, the offspring of the sun and sea. Laboring harmoniously in in united strength they crushed and ground and wore away the rocks in their march, making vast beds of soil, and at the same time developed and fashioned the landscapes into the delightful variety of hill and dale and lordly mountain that mortals call beauty.
#11-12 Chapter 10 A Wind-storm in the Forests, The Mountains of California, 1894
11. We all travel the milky way together, trees and men; but it never occurred to me until this storm-day, while swinging in the wind, that trees are travelers, in the ordinary sense. They make many journeys, not extensive ones, it is true; but our own little journeys, away and back again, are only little more than tree-wavings–many of them not so much.
12. As I gazed on the impressive scene, all the so called ruin of the storm was forgotten, and never before did these noble woods appear so fresh, so joyous, so immortal.
#13 The National Parks and Forest Reservations, address to the Sierra Club Meeting held 23 November 1895 [S]
13. Few are altogether deaf to the preaching of pinetrees. Their sermons on the mountains go to our hearts; and if people in general could be got into the woods, even for once, to hear the trees speak for themselves, all difficulties in the way of forest preservation would vanish.
#14 Chapter I The Wild Parks and Forest Reservations of the West, Our National Parks, 1901 [S]
14. Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.