On This Earth Day

This is an op-ed piece by Anne Rowthorn, compiler of The Wisdom of John Muir: 100+ Selections from the Letters, Journals, and Essays of the Great Naturalist (Wilderness Press).

In John Muir’s book, every day was “Earth Day,” and although he was long gone when the US celebrated Earth Day for the first time in 1970, we can imagine some of his advice he might have shared with us on how to observe it:

Take a hike: “Who wouldn’t be a mountaineer! Up here all the world’s prizes seem nothing.” (Atlantic Monthly, March, 1911)

Climb a mountain: “Here it is six or seven thousand feet above the sea. Every sense is satisfied. There is no past, no future. We live in the present and are full. No room for hungry hopes, none for regrets, none for fear.” (John of the Mountains)

Walk softly on the land: “Indians walk softly and hurt the landscape hardly more than the birds and squirrels. How different [from most of the rest of us]; roads blasted in solid rock, wild streams dammed and tamed.” (My First Summer in the Sierra)

Spend the night under the stars: “Stay on the mountain and spend the night among the stars. Watch their glorious bloom until the dawn, and get one more baptism of light. Then, with fresh heart, go down to your work, and whatever your fate, you will remember these fine beautiful views, and look back with joy to your wanderings.” (Our National Parks)

Rise early to greet the sun: “In the morning everything is joyous and bright, the delicious purple of the dawn changes softly to daffodil yellow and white.” (The Mountains of California)

Take a stand and defend the natural places you love: “The battle we have fought, and are still fighting for the forests is a part of the eternal conflict between right and wrong.”

Breathe deeply, live peacefully: “How gently the winds blow. Scarce can these tranquil; air-currents be called winds. They seem to be the very breath of Nature, whispering peace to every living thing.” (Journal, June 11, 1869)

Remember that Earth’s cycles are eternal: “This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never dried all at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor ever rising. Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming, on seas and continents and islands, each in turn, as the round earth rolls.” (John of the Mountains)

Photo: Mt. Ritter and Banner Peak, along the John Muir Trail/Wikipedia


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The Wisdom of John Muir Wilderness Press

The Wisdom of John Muir: 100+ Selections from the Diaries, Journals, and Essays of the Great Naturalist marries the best aspects of a Muir anthology with the best aspects of a Muir biography. The fact that it is neither, and yet it is both, distinguishes this book from the many extant books on John Muir. Building on her lifelong passion for the work and philosophy of John Muir, author Anne Rowthorn has created this entirely new treatment for showcasing the great naturalist’s philosophy and writings. By pairing carefully selected material from various stages of Muir’s life, Rowthorn’s book provides a view into the experiences, places, and people that inspired and informed Muir’s words and beliefs. The reader feels able to join in with Muir’s own discoveries and transformations over the arc of his life. Rowthorn is careful not to overstep her role, in that she stands back and lets Muir’s words speak for themselves.


Tanya Twerdowsky

I am a Jersey girl living in Alabama who loves to run far and eat lots.

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