For my 2019 writing challenge and in preparation for the Pacific Crest Trail in 2020, I am spending the entire year reading and writing about books focused on a journey. For my fourth book, I dove into “Wild by Nature” by Sarah Marquis.
A Name for Everything
In hiking circles and among nature enthusiasts, John Muir is a god. His long walk to the Gulf of Mexico, time spent in the Sierra Mountain Range of California, and many more adventures cemented his name into eternity. What I found profound about the reading of his adventures through the American south was his ability to stop and call everything by its proper name. Each plant, tree, and flower that came into sight was named. To me, this is powerful. This is reverence on his part. This is stopping to pause and linger on the moment. This is doing your best to catalog everything in your mind because everything about nature is worthy of our respect.
Life Down Low
The constant cataloging meant Muir spent a great deal of time down low analyzing what was happening in between the blades of grass or between fallen leaves on the forest floor. For him, it was just as exciting as what was happening above. For most of us, this is just space used to get us from one point to the next. It shouldn’t be though. Once again, the space between trunks of trees is worthy of our admiration and contemplation. After reading this book, I promise to do a better job of fully being in the moment from the floor of the forest to the canopy of trees above my head.
Life after the Civil War
John Muir began his journey through the American south shortly after the Civil War. The south he encountered was in shambles trying to rebuild itself and come to terms with what had occurred. African Americans were free and were trying to build lives from scratch. As Muir walks, we are confronted with bias, prejudice, racism, and ignorance; some of which falls at the feet of our hero. As a reader, I did my best to take this in context. Still, his characterizations were hard for me to read and made me uncomfortable.
Next year, when the Pacific Crest Trail reaches the Sierra’s, the trail will join the John Muir Trail. Then and there, I think I will begin to understand this man’s legacy and the impact he had on the conservation movement in the United States. Until then, all I can do is read his essays and use them to shape how I view this experience. Without a doubt, he has already taught me to slow down and more deeply understand the privilege of being able to stand in these beautiful spaces.
Be good to each other,
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