by Sam Juliano
I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure. -Eric Liddell, Chariots of Fire
Environmental philosopher and activist John Muir dedicated much of his life toward the preservation of the western forests, and today is referred to as the “Father of the National Parks.” From both a political and recreational sphere of interest this master of many pursuits has also been dubbed “one of the patron saints of twentieth century American environmental activity.” Such a rich and diverse life would no doubt yield some specific events that in and of themselves would yield the basis for promising books. John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall by Julie Danneberg and Jamie Hogan is the outgrowth of a very close brush Muir had with death during his acute immersion with nature during the time he spent at Yosemite Valley. Certainly this is not the kind of defining life event that is brought up when the author and naturalist’s name is broached as it would be in the life of Civil War politician Charles Sumner, who was nearly caned to death in the congressional chambers by a furious southerner, but ironically enough the Sumner incident was condemned by famed transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson who visited with Muir at Yosemite, and was deeply impressed with his oneness with nature that he tried to convinced him to travel east. Muir declined but twenty years later, he met Emerson in Concord, Massachusetts.
John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall employs the same kind of two prorogued narrative presentation as last year’s Winter Bees. Muir’s activity is chronicled in free-spirited prose, while on at the bottom of each right side panel the historical and biographical context enriches one’s understanding of Muir and his daily wilderness investigations. Muir was ravished by Yosemite’s expansive soulful sublimity, and the only surefire way to become immersed in the nature experience, to take it in by experiencing it and living in a simple solitary cabin with equipped with observational capacities. The central object of his fascination and appreciation was a springtime waterfall, where as described by Danneberg it “cascaded, crashed and careened over the side of the mountain.” In the hang-nest room at the sawmill he maintained journals, sketches and books, and saw the heavens and Yosemite Falls through window roofs. (more…)