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The Writings of John Muir
Volume 9 - Life and Letters of John Muir, Volume 1
Chapter VIII. Yosemite, Emerson, and the Sequoias

WHEN the early winter storms of 1870 stopped Muir's rambles among the peaks he was able to take refuge in his snug den near the foot of the lower Yosemite Fall. Though dispossessed for a time by Mr. Hutchings, as indicated in his December letter from La Grange, he probably passed the greater part of the winter, as well as the following spring and summer, in his attractive sugaipine cabin. There, as the letter of a reminiscent friend reveals, he might of an evening be found under the lamp, beside his cozy fireplace, reading the writings of Alexander von Humboldt, Sir Charles Lyell, John Tyndall, Charles Darwin, and the latest botanical works on trees. Thus the "harvests of revealed glory," gathered on the mountains during the summer months, were further enriched by wide-ranging study during the long winter evenings. "I think of you as far too blessed," writes Mrs. Carr at this time, "to need words from the lower world, and yet I meant to send many and oft repeated greetings to your winter quarters. I think with delight of how the winter home looks, of little brown 'Squirrel' in the glow of the firelight, of the long walks, and readings, and thinkings - the morning tintings of the rocks, the comforting warmth of the pines and firs."

But the approach of the winter of 1871 found him homeless in dead earnest. There is reason for thinking that Muir's employer, Mr. Hutchings, did not look with favor upon the young Scotchman's growing fame and popularity as an interpreter of the Valley. It was a function which he himself had exercised so long that he had come to regard it as peculiarly his own. What could have been more natural under the circumstances than that Hutchings, having no scientific competence to formulate independent ideas on the origin of the Valley, should make a combination of other men's views and preach it to all comers in opposition to Muir? The latter, too, had found the work of a sawmill operator increasingly irksome. In any case, he left the employ of Hutchings during the summer of 1871, and after the close of the tourist season we find him busy removing his chattels from Hutchings' to Black's Hotel, then the newest of the three hostelries in the Valley. Like Leidig's Hotel, still farther down the stream, it was situated on the south bank of the Merced almost opposite Sentinel Rock.

With this habitational background of John Muir in mind, let us resume the thread of his correspondence after his return to Yosemite from La Grange. The first letter, bearing no date, probably was written toward the end of February, or the beginning of March, 1871, for his statement that many storms had swept over the mountains since he returned to the Valley, shows that he had been there for some time.

To Mrs. Ezra S. Carr

[YOSEMITE, February or March, 1871


"The Spirit" has again led me into the wilderness, in opposition to all counter attractions, and I am once more in the glory of Yosemite.

Your very cordial invitation to your home reached me as I was preparing to ascend, and when my whole being was possessed with visions of snowy forests of the pine and spruce, and of mountain spires beyond, pearly and half transparent, reaching into heaven's blue, not purer than themselves.

In company with another young fellow whom I persuaded to walk, I left the plains just as the first gold sheets were being outspread. My first plan was to follow the Tuolumne upward • as I had followed the Merced downward, after reaching Hetch Hetchy Valley, which has about the same altitude as Yosemite, and spending a week or so in sketching and exploring its falls and rocks, crossing the high mountains past the west end of the Hoffman range, and going down into Yosemite by Indian Cañon, passing thus a glorious month with the mountains, with all their snows and crystal brightness, and all the nameless glories of their magnificent winter. But my plan went agley. I lost a week's sleep by the pain of a sore hand, and I became unconfident in my strength when measured against weeks of wading in snow up to the neck. Therefore I reluctantly concluded to push directly for the Valley by Crane's Flat and Tamarack.

Our journey was just a week in length, including one day of rest in the Crane's Flat cabin. Some of our nights were cold, and we were hungry once or twice. We crossed the snow line on the flank of Pilot Peak ridge six or eight miles below Crane's Flat.

From Crane's Flat to the brim of the Valley the snow was about five feet in depth, and as it was not frozen or compacted in any way we of course had a splendid season of wading.

I wish that you could have seen the edge of the snow-cloud which hovered, oh, so soothingly, down to the grand Pilot Peak brows, discharging its heaven-begotten snows with such unmistakable gentleness and moving, perhaps, with conscious love from pine to pine as if bestowing separate and independent blessings upon each. In a few hours we climbed under and into this glorious storm-cloud. What a harvest of crystal flowers, and what wind songs were gathered from the spirey firs and the long fringy arms of the Lambert pine! We could not see far before us in the storm, which lasted until some time in the night, but as I was familiar with the general map of the mountain we had no difficulty in finding our way.

Crane's Flat cabin was buried, and we had to grope about for the door. After making a fire with some cedar rails I went out to watch the coming on of the darkness, which was most impressively sublime. Next morning was every way the purest creation I ever beheld. The little Flat, spot-like in the massive spiring woods, was in splendid vesture of universal white, upon which the grand forest-edge was minutely repeated and covered with a close sheet of snow flowers.

Some mosses grow luxuriantly upon the dead generations of their own species. The common snow flowers belong to the sky and in storms are blown about like ripe petals in an orchard. They settle on the ground - the bottom of the atmospheric sea - like mud or leaves in a lake, and upon this soil, this field of broken sky flowers, grows a luxuriant carpet of crystal vegetation complete and ripe in a single night.

I never before knew that these mountain snow plants were so variable and abundant, forming such bushy clumps and thickets and palmy, ferny groves. Wading waist-deep I had fine opportunities for observing them, but they shrink from human breath -not the only flowers which do so. Evidently not made for man! - neither the flowers composing the snow which came drifting down to us broken and dead, nor the more beautiful crystals which vegetate upon them!

A great many storms have come to the mountains since I passed them, and there can hardly be less than ten feet at the altitude of Tamarack and toward the summit still more.

The weather here is balmy now, and the falls are glorious. Three weeks ago the thermometer at sunrise stood at 12°. I have repaired the mill and dam, and the stream is in no danger of drying up and is more dammed than ever.

To-day has been cloudy and rainy. Tissiack and Starr King are grandly dipped in white cloud. I sent you my plants by express. I am sorry that my Yosemite specimens were not with the others. I left a few notes with Mrs. Yelverton when I left the Valley in the fall. I wish that you would ask her, if you should see her, where she left it, as Mrs. Hutchings does not know.

I have been nearly blind since I crossed the snow. Give my kindest regards to all your homeful, and to my friends. I am

Always yours most cordially

J. M.

The following letter is of special interest because it contains a brief description of the "hang-nest" attached to the west-end gable of the sawmill. The included sketch is the only surviving pictorial record both of the mill and of his retreat. The adventure of which he hesitated to tell his sister had already been described in a letter to Mrs. Carr, but follows here more logically the one to his sister. Both are striking revelations of his nature enthusiasms at this time.

To Sarah Muir Galloway

YOSEMITE VALLEY, April 5th, 1871


This is one of the most surpassingly glorious of Yosemite days, and I have suddenly thought to write you. We have rain and storm. The vast column of the upper Yosemite Falls is swaying with wonderful ever-changing forms of beauty, and all our mountain walls are wreathed in splendid clouds. In some places a strip of muffy white cloud reaches almost from the bottom of the wall to the top, and just across the meadow the summit of a pine-crested mountain is peering above the clouds like an island in the sky - thus:

It is hard to write here, as the mill jars so much by the stroke of the saw, and the rain drips from the roof, and I have to set the log every few minutes. I am operating this same mill that I made last winter. I like the piney. fragrance of the fresh-sawn boards, and I am in constant view of the grandest of all the falls. I sleep in the mill for the sake of hearing the murmuring hush of the water beneath me, and I have a small box-like home fastened beneath the gable of the mill, looking westward down the Valley, where I keep my notes, etc. People call it the hang-nest, because it seems unsupported, thus:

Fortunately, the only people that I dislike are afraid to enter it. The hole in the roof is to command a view of the glorious South Dome, five thousand feet high. There is a corresponding skylight on the other side of the roof which commands a full view of the upper Yosemite Falls, and the window in the end has a view sweeping down the Valley among the pines and cedars and silver firs. The window in the mill- roof to the right is above my head, and I have to look at the stars on calm nights.

Two evenings ago I climbed the mountain to the foot of the upper Yosemite Falls, carrying a piece of bread and a pair of blankets so that I could spend the night on the rock and enjoy the glorious waters, but I got drenched and had to go home, reaching the house at two o'clock in the morning. My wetting was received in a way that I scarcely care to tell. The adventure nearly cost all. I mean to go to-morrow night, but 1 will not venture behind the column again.

Here are the outlines of a grand old pine and gnarly mossy oak that stand a few steps from the mill. You liked the flowers. Well, I will get you a violet from the side of the mill-race,

as I go up to shut off the water. Good-night, with a brother's warmest love.


To Mrs. Ezra S. Carr

MIDNIGHT, [YOSEMITE, April 3, 1871

Oh, Mrs. Carr, that you could be here to mingle in this night-noon glory! I am in the upper Yosemite Falls and can hardly calm to write, but from my first baptism hours ago, you have been so present that I must try to fix you a written thought.

In the afternoon I came up the mountain here with a blanket and a piece of bread to spend the night in prayer among the spouts of this fall. But what can I say more than wish again that you might expose your soul to the rays of this heaven?

Silver from flie moon illumines this glorious creation which we term "falls," and has laid a magnificent double prismatic bow at its base. The tissue of the fall is delicately filmed on the outside like the substance of spent clouds, and the stars shine dimly through it. In the solid shafted body of the fall is a vast number of passing caves, black and deep, with close white convolving spray for sills and shooting comet sheaves above and down their sides, like lime crystals in a cave. And every atom of the magnificent being, from the thin silvery crest that does not dim the stars to the inner arrowy hardened shafts that strike onward like thunderbolts in sound and energy, all is life and spirit: every bolt and spray feels the hand of God. Oh, the music that is blessing me now! The sun of last week has given the grandest notes of all the yearly anthem.

I said that I was going to stop here until morning and pray a whole blessed night with the falls and the moon, but 1 am too wet and must go down. An hour or two ago I went out somehow on a little seam that extends along the wall behind the falls. I suppose I was in a trance, but I can positively say that I was in the body, for it is sorely battered and wetted. As I was gazing past the thin edge of the fall and away beneath the column to the brow of the rock, some heavy splashes of water struck me, driven hard against the wall. Suddenly I was darkened, down came a section of the outside tissue composed of spent comets. I crouched low, holding my breath, and anchored to some angular flakes of rock, took my baptism with moderately good faith.

When I dared to look up after the swaying column admitted light, I pounced behind a piece of ice and the wall which was wedging tight, and I no longer feared being washed off, and steady moonbeams slanting past the arching meteors gave me confidence to escape to this snug place where McChesney and I slept one night, where I have a fire to dry my socks. This rock shelf, extending behind the falls, is about five hundred feet above the base of the fall on the perpendicular rock face.

How little do we know of ourselves, of our profoundest attractions and repulsions, of our spiritual affinities! How interesting does man become considered in his relations to the spirit of this rock and water! How significant does every atom of our world become amid the influences of those beings unseen, spiritual, angelic mountaineers that so throng these pure mansions of crystal foam and purple granite.

I cannot refrain from speaking to this little bush at my side and to the spray drops that come to my paper and to the individual sands of the slopelet I am sitting upon. Ruskin says that the idea of foulness is essentially connected with what he calls dead unorganized matter. How cordially I disbelieve him to-night, and were he to dwell a while among the powers of these mountains he would forget all dictionary differences betwixt the clean and the unclean, and he would lose all memory and meaning of the diabolical sin-begotten term foulness.

Well, I must go down. I am disregarding all of the doctors' physiology in sitting here in this universal moisture. Farewell to you, and to all the beings about us. I shall have a glorious walk down the mountain in this thin white light, over the open brows grayed with Selaginella and through the thick black shadow caves in the live oaks, all stuck full of snowy lances of moonlight.


One of the most memorable experiences of John Muir was the coming of Ralph Waldo Emerson to Yosemite Valley, on May 5, 1871. Muir was thirty-three years old and Emerson sixty-eight, but the disparity of their years proved no obstacle to the immediate beginning of a warm friendship. The best account of their meeting is contained in a memorandum of after-dinner remarks made by Muir twenty- five years later when Harvard University conferred upon him an honorary M.A. degree.

I was fortunate [he said] in meeting some of the choicest of your Harvard men, and at once recognized them as the best of God's nobles. Emerson, Agassiz, Gray - these men influenced me more than any others. Yes, the most of my years were spent on the wild side of the continent, invisible, in the forests and mountains. These men were the first to find me and hail me as a brother. First of all, and greatest of all, came Emerson. I was then living in Yosemite Valley as a convenient and grand vestibule of the Sierra from which I could make excursions into the adjacent mountains. I had not much money and was then running a mill that I had built to saw fallen timber for cottages.

When he came into the Valley I heard the hotel people saying with solemn emphasis, "Emerson is here." I was excited as I had never been excited before, and my heart throbbed as if an angel direct from heaven had alighted on the Sierran rocks. But so great was my awe and reverence, I did not dare to go to him or speak to him. I hovered on the outside of the crowd of people that were pressing forward to be introduced to him and shaking hands with him. Then I heard that in three or four days he was going away, and in the course of sheer desperation I wrote him a note and carried it to his hotel telling him that El Capitan and Tissiack demanded him to stay longer.

The next day he inquired for the writer and was directed to the little sawmill. He came to the mill on horseback attended by Mr. Thayer [James Bradley Thayer, a member of Emerson's party, who, in 1884, published a little volume of reminiscences under the title of A Western Journey with Mr. Emerson.] and inquired for me. I stepped out and said, "I am Mr. Muir." "Then Mr. Muir must have brought his own letter," said Mr. Thayer, and Emerson said, "Why did you not make yourself known last evening? I should have been very glad to have seen you." Then he dismounted and came into the mill. I had a study attached to the gable of the mill, overhanging the stream, into which I invited him, but it was not easy of access, being reached only by a series of sloping planks roughened by slats like a hen ladder; but he bravely climbed up and I showed him my collection of plants and sketches drawn from the surrounding mountains which seemed to interest him greatly, and he asked many questions, pumping unconscionably.

He came again and again, and I saw him every day while he remained in the valley, and on leaving I was invited to accompany him as far as the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees. I said, "I'll go, Mr. Emerson, if you will promise to camp with me in the Grove. I'll build a glorious camp-fire, and the great brown boles of the giant Sequoias will be most impressively lighted up, and the night will be glorious." At this he became enthusiastic like a boy, his sweet perennial smile became still deeper and sweeter, and he said, "Yes, yes, we will camp out, camp out"; and so next day we left Yosemite and rode twenty-five miles through the Sierra forests, the noblest on the face of the earth, and he kept me talking all the time, but said little himself. The colossal silver firs, Douglas spruce, Libocedrus and sugar pine, the kings and priests of the conifers of the earth, filled him with awe and delight. When we stopped to eat luncheon he called on different members of the party to tell stories or recite poems, etc., and spoke, as he reclined on the carpet of pine needles, of his student days at Harvard. But when in the afternoon we came to the Wawona Tavern...

There the memorandum ends, but the continuation is found in his volume "Our National Parks" at the conclusion of the chapter on "The Forests of the Yosemite":

Early in the afternoon, when we reached Clark's Station, I was surprised to see the party dismount. And when I asked if we were not going up into the grove to camp they said: "No; it would never do to lie out in the night air. Mr. Emerson might take cold; and you know, Mr. Muir, that would be a dreadful thing." In vain I urged, that only in homes and hotels were colds caught, that nobody ever was known to take cold camping in these woods, that there was not a single cough or sneeze in all the Sierra. Then I pictured the big climate - hanging, inspiring fire I would make, praised the beauty and fragrance of Sequoia flame, told how the great trees would stand about us transfigured in purple light, while the stars looked down between the great domes; ending by urging them to come on and make an immortal Emerson night of it. But the house habit was not to be overcome, nor the strange dread of pure night air, though it is only cooled day air with a little dew in it. So the carpet dust and knowable reeks were preferred. And to think of this being a Boston choice. Sad commentary on culture and the glorious transcendentalism.

Accustomed to reach whatever place I started for, I was going up the mountain alone to camp, and wait the coming of the party next day. But since Emerson was so soon to vanish, I concluded to stop with him. He hardly spoke a word all evening, yet it was a great pleasure simply to be with him, warming in the light of his face as at a fire. In the morning we rode up the trail through a noble forest of pine and fir into the famous Mariposa Grove, and stayed an hour or two, mostly in ordinary tourist fashion, - looking at the biggest giants, measuring them with a tape line, riding through prostrate fire- bored trunks, etc., though Mr. Emerson was alone occasionally, sauntering about as if under a spell. As we walked through a fine group, he quoted, "There were giants in those days," recognizing the antiquity of the race. To commemorate his visit, Mr. Galen Clark, the guardian of the grove, selected the finest of the unnamed trees and requested him to give it a name. He named it Samoset, after the New England sachem, as the best that occurred to him.

The poor bit of measured time was soon spent, and while the saddles were being adjusted I again urged Emerson to stay. "You are yourself a Sequoia," I said. "Stop and get acquainted with your big brethren." But he was past his prime, and was now a child in the hands of his affectionate but sadly civilized friends, who seemed as full of old- fashioned conformity as of bold intellectual independence. It was the afternoon of the day and the afternoon of his life, and his course was now westward down all the mountains into the sunset. The party mounted and rode away in wondrous contentment, apparently, tracing the trail through ceanothus and dogwood bushes, around the bases of the big trees, up the slope of the sequoia basin, and over the divide. I followed to the edge of the grove. Emerson lingered in the rear of the train, and when he reached the top of the ridge, after all the rest of the party were over and out of sight, he turned his horse, took off his hat and waved me a last good-bye. I felt lonely, so sure had I been that Emerson of all men would be the quickest to see the mountains and sing them. Gazing awhile on the spot where he vanished, I sauntered back into the heart of the grove, made a bed of sequoia plumes and ferns by the side of the stream, gathered a store of firewood, and then walked about until sundown. The birds, robins, thrushes, warblers, etc., that had kept out of sight, came about me, now that all was quiet, and made cheer. After sundown I built a great fire, and as usual had it all to myself. And though lonesome for the first time in these forests, I quickly took heart again - the trees had not gone to Boston, nor the birds; and as I sat by the fire, Emerson was still with me in spirit, though I never again saw him in the flesh.

A few days later there occurred a little incident in Oakland which is worth telling, for it reveals through Emerson's appreciativeness the impression which Muir had made upon him. The Carrs, then living in a cottage in Oakland, heard one evening during a dense fog a commotion at their back door. Upon investigation they found Ralph Waldo Emerson standing there, with his cloak wrapped closely about him. He had lost his way in the fog and had come up to the back door in his confusion. Urged to come in, he declined, saying that he must at once follow his wife and daughter who had already gone across the ferry to San Francisco. "But I," he added, "could not go through Oakland without coming up here to thank you for that letter to John Muir."

Though now in the closing decade of his life and growing infirm, Emerson sent him an occasional package of books accompanied with words of good cheer, while Muir wrote him enthusiastic letters, and sent fragrant reminders of his Yosemite surroundings. One of his winter recreations was to climb an Incense Cedar, abloom amid the snows of January, gather some of the golden sprays of staminate blossoms, and mail them to his friends. The delicate attention of such an aromatic gift sent to Emerson drew from him the following letter.

Was it the "incense" quality of this cedar which, combined with some playful allusion in Muir's letter, made the flowers "significant" to the sage of Concord?

From Ralph Waldo Emerson

CONCORD, 5 February, 1872


Here lie your significant cedar flowers on my table, and in another letter; and I will procrastinate no longer. That singular disease of deferring, which kills all my designs, has left a pair of books brought home to send to you months and months ago, still covering their inches on my cabinet, and the letter and letters which should have accompanied, to utter my thanks and lively remembrance, are either unwritten or lost, so I will send this peccavi, as a sign of remorse.

I have been far from unthankful - I have everywhere testified to my friends, who should also be yours, my happiness in finding you - the right man in the right place - in your mountain tabernacle, and have expected when your guardian angel would pronounce that your probation and sequestration in the solitudes and snows had reached their term, and you were to bring your ripe fruits so rare and precious into waiting society.

I trust you have also had, ere this, your own signals from the upper powers. I know that !society in the lump, admired at a distance, shrinks and dissolves, when approached, into impracticable or uninteresting individuals, but always with a reserve of a few unspoiled good men, who really give it its halo in the distance. And there are drawbacks also to solitude, who is a sublime mistress, but an intolerable wife. So I pray you to bring to an early close your absolute contracts with any yet unvisited glaciers or volcanoes, roll up your drawings, herbariums and poems, and come to the Atlantic Coast. Here in Cambridge Dr. Gray is at home, and Agassiz will doubtless be, after a month or two, returned from Terra del Fuego - perhaps through San Francisco - or you can come with him. At all events, on your arrival, which I assume as certain, you must find your way to this village, and my house. And when you are tired of our dwarf surroundings, I will show you better people.

With kindest regards


I send two volumes of collected essays by book-post.

In an undated fragment of a letter to Mrs. Carr, Muir refers to this letter as follows:

He [Emerson] judges me and my loose drifting voyages as kindly as yourself. The compliments of you two are enough to spoil one, but I fancy that he, like you, considers that I am so mountain-tanned and storm-beaten I may bear it. I owe all of my best friends to you. A prophecy in this letter of Emerson's recalled one of yours sent me when growing at the bottom of a mossy maple hollow in the Canada woods, that I would one day be with you, Doctor, and Priest in Yosemite. Emerson prophesies in similar dialect that I will one day go to him and "better men" in New England, or something to that effect. I feel like objecting in popular slang that I "can't see it." I shall indeed go gladly to the "Atlantic Coast" as he prophesies, but only to see him and the Glacier ghosts of the North. Runkle wants to make a teacher of me, but I have been too long wild, too befogged to burn well in their patent, high-heated, educational furnaces.

Neither Emerson's nor Muir's anticipations were to be realized. "There remained many a forest to wander through," writes Muir, "many a mountain and glacier to cross, before I was to see his Wachusett and Monadnock, Boston and Concord. It was seventeen years after our parting on the Wawona ridge that I stood beside his grave under a pine tree on the hill above Sleepy Hollow. He had gone to higher Sierras, and, as I fancied, was again waving his hand in friendly recognition."

Notes of travel made by Sarah Jane Lippincott in 1871-72, under the pen-name of Grace Greenwood, afford a fleeting contemporary glimpse of John Muir as he appeared at this time to a discerning observer in Yosemite.

Among our visitors in the evening [she writes] was Mr. Muir, the young Scottish mountaineer, student, and enthusiast, who has taken sanctuary in the Yosemite, who stays by the variable Valley with marvelous constancy, who adores her alike in her fast, gay summer life and solemn autumn glories, in her winter cold and stillness, and in the passion of her spring floods and tempests. Not profoundest snows can chill his ardor, not earthquakes can shake his allegiance. Mr. Muir talks with a quiet, quaint humor, and a simple eloquence which are quite delightful, He has a clear blue eye, a firm, free step, and marvelous nerve and endurance. He has the serious air and unconventional ways of a man who has been much with Nature in her grand, solitary places. That tourist is fortunate who can have John Muir for a guide in and about the Valley.

Among the fortunate ones who had in June come to John Muir with a note of introduction from Mrs. Carr was Henry Edwards, by profession an actor, but by avocation an entomologist. "In our lower world Mr. Edwards, who brings you this note," said Mrs. Carr, "is accounted one of Nature's truest and most devoted disciples. You will take pleasure in introducing him to your heavenly bugs and butterflies, and the winged dragons that hover over those hot springs in 'the beyond.' I do not know how long he proposes to sojourn there, but make the most of the time, for he has the keys to the Kingdom."

Mr. Edwards, familiarly known as "Harry" Edwards among his San Francisco friends, was a rather remarkable man. A finished artist in his profession, he was at the same time the gatherer and possessor of what was then regarded as one of the finest private collections of butterflies and beetles in the world. It was to be expected that such an enthusiast would find a kindred spirit in John Muir, who was prevailed upon to collect some high Sierran butterflies for him, with interesting scientific results.

Your kind letter [he wrote to Muir on August 25, 1871], found me confined to my bed. To-day for the first time in nearly two weeks I was sitting for a little while in my butterfly room when our dear friend Mrs. Carr walked in and brought me your box of butterflies. The sight of them has done me good, and I hope in a day or two I will be quite restored. Do not again ever think that you cannot collect, or that what you do find will be valueless. In the small box which you sent me are four species new to my collection, and two [There is no further confirmation of this statement in records left by Edwards. But Mr. Frank E. Watson, of the American Museum of Natural History, which now owns the Edwards Collection, calls my attention to the fact that in 1881 the butterfly Thecta Muiri was named by Henry Edwards after John Muir. In Papilio, vol. i, p. 54 (1881), Edwards writes, "I have named this exquisite little species after my friend John Muir, so well known for his researches into the geology of the Sierra Nevada, who has frequently added rare and interesting species to my collection."] of these are new to science. I cannot, if I wrote for a week, tell you how interesting they are to me. All the specimens are rare, and are different from those found in the Valley. The two new species are the bright crimson copper one from Cathedral Peak, and one of the small bluish butterflies. There is a pair of greenish yellow ones, very rare and interesting. The species was described from a pair only which were taken by the Geological Survey at the head, waters of the Tuolumne River, and strange to say, no others have turned up until you found it now. . . . It is really very singular that the remove of a few miles from the Yosemite should produce species so very different from those of the Valley itself, and at the same time so characteristic in their forms. It is another of the beautiful fields for thought which your wonderful region opens up, and which render your lovely mountains so enchanting to a worshiper of Nature. I hope you will go on to find your truest and best enjoyment among such scenes, and that in the end your labors may meet the reward they deserve, not from your own self-gratification alone, but from the spontaneous recognition of kindred minds.

This Edwards letter is only one of many that might be quoted to show how profitably Muir was at this time studying the multiformity of his natural environment. In the absence of authoritative treatises on the plants, insects, and wild life of the region he had to send specimens to classifying specialists for identification, or appeal to his friends about San Francisco Bay, particularly J. B. McChesney, to secure the desired information for him. Most of them thought that he was adhering much too closely to his Sierran wildernesses, and even Mrs. Carr labored to dislodge him from his mountain solitudes and to bring him into what Emerson called "waiting society."

But so intense was his preoccupation with his tasks, so much were they a part of his deepest enjoyments, that her pleadings fell on deaf ears. If anything her remonstrances only served to kindle into flame the poetic fire of his soul. For there was nothing like the provocation of a little aspersion against the worthiness of the objects he was pursuing to bring him to the full stature of his ability as a writer - a vindicator of the objects of his devotion. A letter written under such stimulus is the following:

To Mrs. Ezra S. Carr

YOSEMITE, December 11th, [1871]


We are snowbound, and your letter of November 1st came two days ago. I sympathize with you for the loss of your brown Japanese, but I am glad to know that you found so much of pure human goodness in the life of your scholar. The whole world is enriched, beautified by a stratum - an atmosphere - of Godlike souls, and it is ignorance alone that banks human love into narrow gutter channels and stagnant pools, making it selfish and impure when it should be boundless as air and light, blending with all the world keeping sight of our impartial Father who is the fountain sun of all the love that is rayed down to earth.

But glaciers, dear friend - ice is only another form of terrestrial love. I am astonished to hear you speak so unbelievingly of God's glorious crystal glaciers. "They are only pests," and you think them wrong in temperature, and they lived in "horrible times" and you don't care to hear about them "only that they made instruments of Yosemite music." You speak heresy for once, and deserve a dip in Methodist Tophet, or Vesuvius at least.

I have just been sending ice to LeConte, and snow to McChesney and I have nothing left but hailstones for you, but I don't know how to send them - to speak them. You confuse me. You have taught me here and encouraged me to read the mountains. Now you will not listen; next summer you will be converted - you will be iced then.

I have been up Nevada to the top of Lyell and found a living glacier, but you don't want that; and I have been in Hetch Hetchy and the cañon above, and I was going to tell you the beauty there; but it is all ice-born beauty, and too cold for you; and I was going to tell about the making of the South Dome, but ice did that too; and about the hundred lakes that I found, but the ice made them, every one; and I had some groves to speak about - groves of surpassing loveliness in new pathless Yosemites, but they all grew upon glacial drift and I have nothing to send but what is frozen or freezable.

You like the music instruments that glaciers made, but no songs were so grand as those of the glaciers themselves, no falls so lofty as those which poured from brows, and chasmed mountains of pure dark ice. Glaciers made the mountains and ground corn for all the flowers, and the forests of silver fir, made smooth paths for human feet until the sacred Sierras have, become the most approachable of mountains. Glaciers came down from heaven, and they were angels with folded wings, white wings of snowy bloom. Locked hand in hand the little spirits did nobly; the primary mountain waves, unvital granite, were soon carved to beauty. They bared the lordly domes and fashioned the clustering spires; smoothed godlike mountain brows, and shaped lake cups for crystal waters; wove myriads of mazy caflons, and spread them out like lace. They remembered the loud songed rivers and every tinkling nil. The busy snowflakes saw all the coming flowers, and the grand predestined forests. They said," We will crack this rock for Cassiope where she may sway her tiny urns. Here we'll smooth a plat for green mosses, and round a bank for bryanthus bells." Thus labored the willing flake- souls linked in close congregations of ice, breaking rock food for the pines, as a bird crumbles bread for her young, spiced with dust of gannets and zircons and many a nameless gem; and when food was gathered for the forests and all their elected life, when every rock form was finished, every monument raised, the willing messengers, unwearied, unwasted, heard God's "well done" from heaven calling them back to their homes in the sky.

The following was added later on the same sheet:

January 8th, 1872


We are gloriously snowbound. One storm has filled half of last month, and it is snowing again. Would that you could behold its beauty! I half expected another glacial period, but I will not say anything about ice until you become wiser, though I send you a cascade jubilee which you will relish more than anybody else. I have tried to put it in form for publication, and if you can rasp off the rougher angles and wedge in a few slippery words between bad splices, perhaps it may be sufficiently civilized for "Overland" or "Atlantic." But I always felt a chill come over my fingers when a calm place in the storm allowed me to think of it. Also I have been sorry for one of our bears, and I think you will sympathize with me. At least I confide my dead friend to your keeping, and you may print what you like. Heavens! if you only had been here in the flood!


The same note of triumphant apology for his choice of the wilderness instead of the city is found in the following unique letter about the Sequoias. They were deepest in his affections, and under his playful prose-poetry it is not difficult to discover the Muir who in a few years was to arouse the whole nation to the importance of preserving for future generations these greatest and most ancient of all living thing. His love for them had in it something personal, and there are those who have overheard him talking to them as to human beings. The original of this letter, written with Sequoia sap, still shines purple after more than half a century. Although it lacks a definite date, internal evidence clearly refers it to his earliest years in Yosemite, perhaps 1870.

To Mrs. Ezra S. Carr

Nut Time


Do behold the King in his glory, King Sequoia! Behold! Behold! seems all I can say. Some time ago I left all for Sequoia and have been and am at his feet, fasting and praying for light, for is he not the greatest light in the woods, in the world? Where are such columns of sunshine, tangible, accessible, terrestrialized? Well may I fast, not from bread, but from business, book-making, duty-going, and other trifles, and great is my reward already for the manly, treely sacrifice. What giant truths since coming to Gigantea, what magnificent clusters of Sequoic becauses. From here I cannot recite you one, for you are down a thousand fathoms deep in dark political quagg, not a burr-length less. But I'm in the woods, woods, woods, and they are in me-ee-ee. The King tree and I have sworn eternal love - sworn it without swearing, and I've taken the sacrament with Douglas squirrel, drunk Sequoia wine, sçquoia blood, a4 with its rosy purple drops I V am writing this woody gospel letter.

I never before knew the virtue of Sequoia juice. Seen with sunbeams in it, its color is the most royal of all royal purples. No wonder the Indians instinctively drink it for they know not fwhat. I wish I were so drunk and Sequoical lo that I could preach the green brown woods to fall the juiceless world, descending from this divine wilderness like a John the Baptist, eating Douglas squirrels and wild honey or wild \anything, crying, Repent, for the Kingdom of ,Sequoia is at hand!

There is balm in these leafy Gileads - pungent burrs and living King-juice for all defrauded civilization; for sick grangers and politicians; no need of Salt rivers. Sick or successful, come suck Sequoia and be saved.

Douglas squirrel is so pervaded with rosin and burr juice his flesh can scarce be eaten even by mountaineers. No wonder he is so charged with magnetism! One of the little lions ran across my feet the other day as I lay resting under a fir, and the effect was a thrill like a battery shock. I would eat him no matter how rosiny for the lightning he holds. I wish I could eat wilder things. Think of the grouse with balsam-scented crop stored with spruce buds, the wild sheep full of glacier meadow grass and daisies azure, and the bear burly and brown as Sequoia, eating pine-burrs and wasps' stings and all; then think of the soft lightningless poultice-like pap reeking upon town tables. No wonder cheeks and legs become flabby and fungoid! I wish I were wilder, and so, bless Sequoia, I will be. There is at least a punky spark in my heart and it may blaze in this autumn gold, fanned by the King. Some of my grandfathers must have been born on a muirland for there is heather in me, and tinctures of bog juices, that send me to Cassiope, and oozing through all my veins impel me unhaltingly through endless glacier meadows, seemingly the deeper and danker the better.

See Sequoia aspiring in the upper skies, every summit modeled in fine cycloidal curves as if pressed into unseen moulds, every bole warm in the mellow amber sun. How truly godful in mien! I was talking the other day with a duchess [This may be a playful allusion to Therèse Yelverton who, still claiming her disputed marriage rights, was supposed to have become a Viscountess when her husband succeeded his father as fourth Viscount of Avonmore in October, 1870.] and was struck with the grand bow with which she bde me good-bye and thanked me for the glaciers I gave her, but this forenoon King Sequoia bowed to me down in the grove as I stood gazing, and the highbred gestures of the lady seemed rude by contrast.

There goes Squirrel Douglas, the master- spirit of the tree-top. It has just occurred to me how his belly is buffy brown and his back silver gray. Ever since the first Adam of his race saw trees and burrs, his belly has been rubbing upon buff bark, and his back has been combed with silver needles. Would that some of you, wise - terribly wise - social scientists, might discover some method of living as true to nature as the buff people of the woods, run- fling as free as the winds and waters among the burrs and filbert thickets of these leafy, mothery woods.

The sun is set and the star candles are being lighted to show me and Douglas squirrel to bed. Therefore, my Carr, good-night. You say,

When are you coming down?"

Ask the Lord - Lord Sequoia.


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