Not long ago I had a co-worker ask me “What is it with Tree-huggers and John Muir? I asked if she had ever read any of his work and after she replied no, I recommended this book to her as an introduction to his writings.
“And the winds, too, were singing in wild accord, playing on every tree and rock, surging against the huge brows and domes and outstanding battlements, deflected hither and thither and broken into a thousand cascading, roaring currents in the canyons, and low bass, drumming swirls in the hollows….This was the most sublime waterfall flood I ever saw…” (p.25)
With such excellent content (like the piece of Muir’s writing above) I don’t think it would be difficult to produce a decent publication, but I believe Chris Highland has done an excellent job of selecting and compiling 60 John Muir passages from 12 of his writings. Highland’s attention to every detail such as the little leaf graphics that reference the original source the excerpt was taken from, down to the font selection, helps to reinforce John Muir’s true admiration of our Natural World. The book, which is sized perfectly at 4-1/2″ X 7″ x 1/2″ is small, light, transportable and easily fits into any bag or pack. The outer faces of the front and back cover have a silky, almost waxy like coating, that certainly helps protect them from mild elements and resists tearing. The black and white photos throughout the book, look as though they could have been taken by Muir Himself, but they were taken by Chris Highland. Not only do they add some visual interest, but their subject matter very appropriately sets a visual tone that coincides perfectly with the writings. At the bottom of the page, following each Muir passage, Highland has included a quote from “other celebrated thinkers and spiritual texts”. As inspirational and appropriate as they may be for the Muir passages, I sometimes get the feeling they are included simply to fill up the bottom of the page. I believe Highlands true intent for including the quotes was to help substantiate Muir as an enlightened thinker and author but as interesting and inspirational as the quotes may be, I find them sort of distracting. That being said, they do help show that Muir’s love of nature is more than just emotional, it was HIS Religion.
This book, with it’s short one page passages, simple graphics and small size make it a very easy and relaxing read. As an introduction to Muir’s writing, I challenge anyone to read a few pages and try to resist the temptation to head out and experience Nature as a Temple.