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John Muir

by Robert B. Marshall

From Sierra Club Bulletin, John Muir Memorial Number, Vol. 10, No. 1 (January, 1916).


I have put my brain to the test to find if it could choose words expressive of the grand old man Muir. It does not respond at all fittingly. My appreciation, feelings, respect and love for my friend Muir are all of the heart, and so intense and sacred that I cannot tell them even to my friends. Most of us have suffered the loss of those dear to us, and each one who has so suffered surely appreciates the force of my reluctance in attempting to put down in words my soul's sorrow in the loss of a friend so big, so powerful and yet he was the plainest and simplest person I ever knew. His simplicity was his power. He knew nature as no one else did, and with his God, he worshipped it. It was so much a part of him that the little children could understand him and knew what he said, and loved him even more than the older children, such as we all became in his presence.

His affection for the commonplace little pine-needle was as genuine as that for the most beautiful flower or the grandest tree, and the little flakes of snow and the little crumbs of granite were each to him real life, and each had a personality worthy of his wonderful mind's attention; and he talked and wrote of them as he did of the ouzel or the Douglas squirrel made real persons of them, and they talked and lived with him and were a part of his life as is our own flesh and blood.

I knew Mr. Muir long and intimately, and each day I learned something new and beautiful of life and of his wonderful mind. He did not enjoy answering questions, and in fact it was rarely necessary to ask one. Only allow him to be with a person for a short time and some sort of conversation would start; then by sheer force of intellect his mind would take the lead and his companion would drink in the purest of English, charmingly phrased, until soon a sermon of life was given that would remain one of the most wonderful experiences of a lifetime.

I cannot write a line worthy of the man we wish to honor. One cannot describe Mount Rainier, one cannot describe the Grand Canyon, one cannot describe his beloved Yosemite: humanity is silent in their presence. So it was with John Muir to all who knew him; so has his influence affected mankind, and so will his life and work impress generations to come. This most wonderful of men, lifted above death and time by his human sympathy no less than by his genius, will forever influence the world, and it will be the better for his example and his inspiration.


Source: Sierra Club Bulletin, Vol. 10, No. 1 (1916 January)


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