This is the third of Muir's books that I have read, the first in several years. Gretel Ehrlich writes in her introduction: "[Muir] wrote: 'I should like to live here always. It is so calm and withdrawn while open to the universe in full communion with everything good.' And in so speaking of the place he loved best, described himself."
In the inimitable way of John Muir, the book is essentially a journal, in this case of his thoughts and travels in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the summer of 1869. On one day (July 15) he tells of his great desire to look directly down the thousands of vertical feet of Yosemite Falls leading him into a death-defying pilgrimage onto shear rock: "If I was to get down to the brink at all that rough edge, which might offer slight finger-holds, was the only way. But the slope . . . looked dangerously smooth and steep, and the swift roaring flood beneath, overhead, and beside me was very nerve-trying. I therefore concluded not to venture farther, but did nevertheless." I'll guess that Muir is the only person to have ever positioned himself on the lip of this great waterfall. Having earlier read of his mountaineering and storm-reveling experiences, even this is not quite surprising. On another day he writes of encountering a brown bear, a housefly, and a grasshopper, and treats them all as being equally fascinating.
In a later entry, Muir contemplates raindrops with these words:
"How far they have to go, how many cups to fill, great and small, cells too small to be seen, cups holding half a drop as well as lake basins between the hills, each replenished with equal care, every drop in all the blessed throng a silvery newborn star with lake and river, garden and grove, valley and mountain, all that the landscape holds reflected in its crystal depths, God's messenger, angel of love sent on its way with majesty and pomp and display of power that make man's greatest shows ridiculous.
Now the storm is over, the sky is clear, the last rolling thunder-wave is spent on the peaks, and where are the raindrops now -- what has become of all the shining throng? In winged vapor rising some are already hastening back to the sky, some have gone into the plants, creeping through invisible doors into the round rooms of cells, some are locked in crystals of ice, some in rock crystals, some in porous moraines to keep their small springs flowing, some have gone journeying on in the rivers to join the larger raindrop of the ocean. From form to form, beauty to beauty, ever changing, never resting, all are speeded on with love's enthusiasm, singing with the stars the eternal song of creation."
For Muir, the mostly self-educated botanist and geologist, nothing Nature does is anything less than miraculous. Only in our finest moments of insight, revelation if you will, do we see the world as Muir saw it always.
[July 12, 1869] "We saw another party of Yosemite tourists to-day. Somehow most of these travelers seem to care but little for the glorious objects about them, though enough to spend time and money and endure long rides to see the famous valley. And when they are fairly within the mighty walls of the temple and hear the psalms of the falls, they will forget themselves and become devout. Blessed, indeed, should be every pilgrim in these holy mountains!"