Where Did The Idea Come From?
When you stand within any national park, admiring its beauty and its environmental diversity, have you ever wondered where the idea came from to preserve wilderness areas?
Each park has its own unique story of origin, but where did the genesis of this spark first occur?
My First John Muir Book
I have long been interested in the writings of John Muir and find his philosophy something I can easily align with. Back in Christmas 1973, I received the coffee table book “The American Wilderness, in the words of John Muir”. To this day, this book remains readily available on my book shelf.
Through the “American Wilderness” book, my kinship with nature became more philosophical, and perhaps spiritual. I’ve always felt at home in nature, and continue to do so today. “Going to the woods is going home.” (John Muir).
Amazed In California
While stationed with the Navy in California in the mid-70’s, I was able to witness many of the wonders held within the Sierra Nevada mountains. (A few years later, it was the Colorado Rockies).
Wisconsin’s forests were nothing compared to what I saw in California. While they held my interest locally, the western national parks kept calling me at every opportunity.
John Muir - Boyhood In Wisconsin
Though John Muir is considered the “Father of the National Parks”, I was surprised to learn that – upon immigrating to the United States with his father and brothers — his boyhood years were spent in the woods and kettle lake of south-central Wisconsin.
Isn't it amazing that a small section of land provided the spark for the preservation of vast wilderness.
On an unseasonably warm February (2017) day, while scouting areas in central Wisconsin for later photography, I directed my path to Marquette County’s John Muir Memorial Park which encompasses his boyhood family farmland and Ennis Lake.
With the warm weather having melted the snow, on that day, brown was the dominant color of the surrounding hillsides. Only ice remained on the lake.
Standing on the shoreline, two John Muir sayings arose as the sandhill cranes signalled their flight overhead.
“On Sundays, after or before chores and sermons and Bible-lessons, we driffed about on the lake for hours, especially in lily time, getting finest lessons and sermons from the water and flowers, ducks, fishes and muskrats.”
“Here, without knowing it, we still were at school; every wild lesson a love lesson, not whipped but charmed into us. Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!” (An Autobiography of John Muir)
The Advantages of Listening
The next time you stand within the vast wilderness of your favorite national park, think of how floating on a small lake on a Sunday summer morning gave rise to the preservation of the wilderness and open space for the many future generations yet to arrive on planet earth.
One never knows what we might learn from a lily pad, a ripple in the water, or the birds in the tree. We only need to listen.