John Muir quotes

John Muir photo
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John Muir

Birthdate: 21. April 1838
Date of death: 24. December 1914

John Muir also known as "John of the Mountains", was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books describing his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada, have been read by millions. His activism has helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and many other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is a prominent American conservation organization. The 211-mile John Muir Trail, a hiking trail in the Sierra Nevada, was named in his honor. Other such places include Muir Woods National Monument, Muir Beach, John Muir College, Mount Muir, Camp Muir, Muir Grove, and Muir Glacier. In Scotland, the John Muir Way, a 130-mile-long route, was named in honor of him.

In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite National Park. The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings has inspired readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. Today Muir is referred to as the "Father of the National Parks" and the National Park Service has produced a short documentary about his life.

John Muir has been considered "an inspiration to both Scots and Americans". Muir's biographer, Steven J. Holmes, believes that Muir has become "one of the patron saints of twentieth-century American environmental activity," both political and recreational. As a result, his writings are commonly discussed in books and journals, and he is often quoted by nature photographers such as Ansel Adams. "Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world," writes Holmes. Muir was noted for being an ecological thinker, political spokesman, and religious prophet, whose writings became a personal guide into nature for countless individuals, making his name "almost ubiquitous" in the modern environmental consciousness. According to author William Anderson, Muir exemplified "the archetype of our oneness with the earth", while biographer Donald Worster says he believed his mission was "...saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism." On April 21, 2013, the first ever John Muir Day was celebrated in Scotland, which marked the 175th anniversary of his birth, paying homage to the conservationist.

Photo: Underwood & Underwood / Public domain

Works

„In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.“

—  John Muir

"Mormon Lilies", San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (part 4 of the 4 part series "Notes from Utah") dated July 1877, published 19 July 1877; reprinted in Steep Trails (1918), chapter 9
1870s

„And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.“

—  John Muir

Once again, this is far from Muir's style of writing. The quote does not come up in any search of John Muir's Journals or his published texts on the John Muir Exhibit website. It is most commonly put on t-shirts - never in any scholarly source.
Misattributed

„Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where Nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.“

—  John Muir

The Yosemite http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/the_yosemite/ (1912), chapter 15: Hetch Hetchy Valley
1910s
Variant: Everybody needs beauty... places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul alike.

„God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. Even so, God cannot save them from fools.“

—  John Muir

Variant: God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods. But he cannot save them from fool
Source: 1900s, Our National Parks (1901), chapter 10: The American Forests <!-- Terry Gifford, EWDB, pages 604-605 -->
Context: Any fool can destroy trees. They cannot run away; and if they could, they would still be destroyed — chased and hunted down as long as fun or a dollar could be got out of their bark hides, branching horns, or magnificent bole backbones. Few that fell trees plant them; nor would planting avail much towards getting back anything like the noble primeval forests. … It took more than three thousand years to make some of the trees in these Western woods — trees that are still standing in perfect strength and beauty, waving and singing in the mighty forests of the Sierra. Through all the wonderful, eventful centuries … God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempests and floods; but he cannot save them from fools — only Uncle Sam can do that.

„I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!“

—  John Muir

July 1890, page 313
(From Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays, Second Series (1844) "Essay VI: Nature": "the trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment, rooted in the ground.")
John of the Mountains, 1938
Context: It has been said that trees are imperfect men, and seem to bemoan their imprisonment rooted in the ground. But they never seem so to me. I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!

„Going to the mountains is going home.“

—  John Muir

"In the Sierra Forests", San Francisco Daily Evening Bulletin (part 3 of the 11 part series "Summering in the Sierra") dated July 1875, published 3 August 1875; reprinted in John Muir: Summering in the Sierra, edited by Robert Engberg (University of Wisconsin Press, 1984) page 79
1870s
Variant: Going to the woods is going home.

„Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life.“

—  John Muir

Muir's marginal note in volume I of Prose Works by Ralph Waldo Emerson (This volume is located at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. See Albert Saijo, "Me, Muir, and Sierra Nevada", in Reinhabiting a Separate Country: A Bioregional Anthology of Northern California, edited by Peter Berg, San Francisco, California: Planet Drum Foundation, 1978, pages 52-59, at page 55, and Frederick W. Turner, Rediscovering America: John Muir in His Time and Ours (1985), page 193.)
1870s

„The world's big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.“

—  John Muir

attributed to Muir by Linnie Marsh Wolfe, Son of the Wilderness: The Life of John Muir (1945), page 331
1910s

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„When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.“

—  John Muir

These are paraphrases of Muir's quote from My First Summer in the Sierra (1911) - the actual quote is listed above: "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." See Sierra Club explanation http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/writings/misquotes.aspx.
Misattributed
Variant: Tug on anything at all and you'll find it connected to everything else in the universe.
Variant: When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world.

„The mountains are calling and I must go.“

—  John Muir

letter to sister Sarah Muir Galloway (3 September 1873); published in William Federic Badè, The Life and Letters of John Muir http://www.sierraclub.org/john_muir_exhibit/life/life_and_letters/default.aspx (1924), chapter 10: Yosemite and Beyond
1870s

„The world, we are told, was made especially for man — a presumption not supported by all the facts.“

—  John Muir, book A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf

Source: A Thousand-Mile Walk To the Gulf, 1916, chapter 6: Cedar Keys, page 160
Source: A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf

„I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.“

—  John Muir

page 439
Last line of the documentary film " John Muir in the New World http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/john-muir-in-the-new-world/watch-the-full-documentary-film/1823/" (American Masters), produced, directed, and written by Catherine Tatge.
John of the Mountains, 1938
Source: John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

„The power of imagination makes us infinite.“

—  John Muir

1 September 1875, page 226
John of the Mountains, 1938
Context: How infinitely superior to our physical senses are those of the mind! The spiritual eye sees not only rivers of water but of air. It sees the crystals of the rock in rapid sympathetic motion, giving enthusiastic obedience to the sun's rays, then sinking back to rest in the night. The whole world is in motion to the center. So also sounds. We hear only woodpeckers and squirrels and the rush of turbulent streams. But imagination gives us the sweet music of tiniest insect wings, enables us to hear, all round the world, the vibration of every needle, the waving of every bole and branch, the sound of stars in circulation like particles in the blood. The Sierra canyons are full of avalanche debris — we hear them boom again, for we read past sounds from present conditions. Again we hear the earthquake rock-falls. Imagination is usually regarded as a synonym for the unreal. Yet is true imagination healthful and real, no more likely to mislead than the coarser senses. Indeed, the power of imagination makes us infinite.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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