If you haven’t seen the Ken Burns series on the National Parks, they are more than eye candy. In them lies the story of both tragedy and glory, of mankind’s temptation to control and his willingness to be smitten by nature.
The second installment we just completed ends in a wonderful quote from John Muir, whose death has just been described–on the heels of the apparent defeat against those who would dam his cherished Hetch Hetchy valley–and yet, in that defeat was planted the seeds of what would become the National Park Service, so that (ostensibly) such insults of convenience over irreplaceable beauty and grandeur would never happen again.
I was struck by Muir’s words, because I think I have been infected by the same great spirits that bore him along all his life. And for that, I can never express adequate gratitude.
“Muir said, ‘As long as I live I’ll hear the birds and the winds and the waterfalls sing. I’ll interpret the rocks and learn the language of flood and storm and avalanche. I’ll make the acquaintance of the wild gardens and the glaciers and get as near to the heart of this world as I could. And so I did. I sauntered about from rock to rock, from grove to grove, from stream to stream, and whenever I met a new plant I would sit down beside it for a minute or a day, to make its acquaintance, hear what it had to tell. I asked the boulders where they had been and whither they were going, and when night found me, there I camped. I took no more heed to save time or to make haste than did the trees or the stars. This is true freedom, a good, practical sort of immortality.”