Tuesday, April 24, 2018

National Park Week: John Muir, Yosemite and the Action of Flowing Ice

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Yosemite National Park.

No one wrote more passionately — or poetically — about his natural environment than John Muir. During National Park Week we revisit his words, more specifically, his words about Yosemite National Park. It was at Yosemite, camping with President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903, that the seed was planted to create the National Park Service. The following words were first published in 1914 in The Yosemite. They come from the last paragraph of the chapter, The Ancient Yosemite Glaciers, arranged poetically.


Action of Flowing Ice

The action of flowing ice,
whether in the form of
river-like glaciers or broad mantles,
especially the part it played
in sculpturing the earth,
is as yet but littler understood.

Water rivers work openly where people dwell,
and so does the rain, and the sea,
thundering on all the shores of the world;
and the universal ocean of air,
though invisible,
speaks aloud in a thousand voices,
and explains its modes of working and its power.

But glaciers,
back in their white solitudes,
work apart from men,
exerting their tremendous energies
in silence and darkness.

Outspread, spirit-like,
they brood above the predestined landscapes,
work on unwearied through immeasurable ages,
until, in the fullness of time,
the mountains and valleys are brought forth,
channels furrowed for rivers,
basins made for lakes and meadows,
and arms of the sea,
soils spread for forests and fields;
then they shrink and vanish like summer clouds.


— John Muir


John Muir founded the Sierra Club in 1892 and in the 1998 Sierra Club Books edition of The Yosemite, David Brower writes in his foreword that, "from 1868, when he first discovered Yosemite, until Christmas Eve, 1914, when he died, John Muir believed that Yosemite was one of the most important places on Earth."

National Parks will host a variety of programs and events during National Park Week 2018 which runs from April 21 through 29. Plan your visit to Yosemite National Park by checking out their schedule of events and unleash your inner John Muir.