Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Method of Study

Linnie Marsh Wolfe, ed., John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1938; rpt. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1979), p. 69:
This was my 'method of study': I drifted about from rock to rock, from stream to stream, from grove to grove. Where night found me, there I camped. When I discovered a new plant, I sat down beside it for a minute or a day, to make its acquaintance and try to hear what it had to say. When I came to moraines, or ice-scratches upon the rocks, I traced them, learning what I could of the glacier that made them. I asked the boulders I met whence they came and whither they were going. I followed to their fountains the various soils upon which the forests and meadows are planted; and when I discovered a mountain or rock of marked form and structure, I climbed about it, comparing it with its neighbors, marking its relations to the forces that have acted upon it, glaciers, streams, avalanches, etc., in seeking to account for its form, finish, position, and general characters. It is astonishing how high and far we can climb in mountains that we love, and how little we require food and clothing. Weary at times, with only the birds and squirrels to compare notes with, I rested beneath the spicy pines, among the needles and burrs, or upon the plushy sod of a glacier meadow, touching my cheek to its gentians and daisies. No evil consequence from 'waste of time,' concerning which good people who accomplish nothing make such a sermonizing, has befallen me.

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