Friday, January 22, 2010

A Wind-Storm in the Forests

John Muir (1838–1914)
From American Earth: Environmental Writing Since Thoreau

This selection has been reposted with a newly researched and more detailed introduction here.

John Muir—the surprise star of Ken Burns’s recent PBS documentary, The National Parks—is most remembered for founding the Sierra Club in 1911 and for the preservation of Yosemite, but another of his great legacies is his prose, which introduced a new vocabulary to the genre of nature writing. Passionate and witty, his books and essays captured the national imagination and fueled support for the preservation movement. Included as a chapter of The Mountains of California in 1894, “A Wind-Storm in the Forests” exhibits Muir’s awe and love of the wilderness, twin feelings that motivated one of the most remarkable of American lives.

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The mountain winds, like the dew and rain, sunshine and snow, are measured and bestowed with love on the forests to develop their strength and beauty. However restricted the scope of other forest influences, that of the winds is universal. The snow bends and trims the upper forests every winter, the lightning strikes a single tree here and there, while avalanches mow down thousands at a swoop as a gardener trims out a bed of flowers. . . . If you don't see the full story below, click here (PDF) or click here (Google Docs) to read it—free!

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