Reflections on John Muir, other outdoor influences

Published 10:00 pm Wednesday, January 6, 2016


I made a list of the most influential statements I heard in 2015. While some came from my five-year-old daughter, and some came from my Connect group teacher at church, and none came from a political candidate or Facebook, there were some that came from a man I have never met. As I narrowed the list to the top five, this man still had one that made it.

“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” Ok, I know I actually did not “hear” this quote in 2015, but it was the first time I “heard” it on video. Spoken by a man who lived in the late 1800s to the beginning of the last century, John Muir could teach me multitudes about “Life Outside Four Walls.”

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John Muir was a naturalist/conservationist who lived from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s. He played major roles in forming many national parks; he was a geologist, botanist, Sunday school teacher, and many things in between. His observations of nature are second to none. There are lessons to be learned from him.

While I thoroughly enjoy the outdoors, and equally as much enjoy video and photography of the outdoors, I have noticed it is easy to get caught up in getting the right shot, lighting, angles, etc., and miss out on the experience, and after all, that’s what it should be about, the experience.

I like the challenge of trying to capture a moment, or to tell a story with a camera, but looking at a picture, or watching a video clip on a computer screen will never compare to being there. The simpleness of Mr. Muir’s statements are what makes them so great. While I may be seeking the view from the top of a mountain overlook, or the waterfall at the end of a trail, the experience of what is seen, heard, and especially felt on the way there, or in addition to is far more than what I had in mind.

The unexpected, to the simpleness, or even the complexity of nature is something to behold. Mr. Muir described it in a spiritual sense, something I have experienced first hand. Experiencing nature, especially alone, is an opportunity to experience God through his creation. Getting alone in nature, and away from the mess that man has made in much of this world, is beneficial. Mr. Muir used words and phrases like “cathedral,” “glorious,” “worship,” and “wash your spirit clean,” to describe being in nature.

I believe the lessons John Muir learned and spoke of were not meant to be left in the woods, but apply to life as well. As he well put it, “I never saw a discontented tree.” Kind of sounds like the life lessons Jesus taught ages before, being content with what you have, something that eludes many folks.

I hope you will take the time to experience creation in 2016. Get away from the crowds, iPads and roads. It’s not that we don’t have the time; we all, rich or poor, have 24 hours in a day. It’s what we choose to do with that time.

I’ll leave you with this last Muir quote: “Keep close to nature’s heart … and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”