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Discovering John Muir

Updated on January 15, 2015

John Muir's Quote on a gravestone at Westwood, Los Angeles

John Muir's quote displaying on a gravestone in LA.
John Muir's quote displaying on a gravestone in LA.

The Mountains are Calling and I Must Go

I came to a gravestone of an un-famous person. At least I have no idea who the deceased was. But what fascinated me about the plot was what was hammered over the deceased person's name. There was a phrase “the mountains are calling and we must go,” and that was it. And I just kept staring at the phrase mesmerized how beautiful it was. What a beautiful quote, I thought, and I even asked my husband to come and take a look at it. It made my mind wondering. The grave stopped being a grave. I began to imagine high peaked mountains covered with white clouds. It was so fitting.

Westwood Village Memorial Cemetery, Los Angeles

My husband and I were visiting Los Angeles, and I took him one of my favorite places there: The Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery. If you don’t know where it is, it is located at 1218 Glendon Avenue in Westwood. The place is very tranquil and very beautiful. Amongst other famous names, you will find Marilyn Monroe’s burial site there. Time stops at Westwood for everyone. I always been the kind of person who walks around well-kept graveyards are reads the descriptions in the gravestones. If you ask me it is good to be faced with death and the hereafter now and then.

John Muir Carving

Carving of John Muir
Carving of John Muir

Who Coined That Phrase?

Later on we settled back home to Arizona from our quite fast paced LA trip. I do admit, when in Los Angeles, you either do as Californians do or you “ain’t” going to get anywhere. I am talking about driving on the freeways. Anyway, that is a whole different story and I will not even going to go there. So, the dust settled and all is well and I am at home. TV is on and I hear North Face commercial that was quite cool. Again, I heard the same phrase along other text “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to the body and soul. The mountains are calling and I must go.” For a second time, I was so stirred. Who coined that phrase? I jumped at my Mac and researched the words and came up with John Muir. John Muir! Well I knew a little about him since I had worked in two of our national parks, but I never read any of his literature. I knew that he was into saving the national parks. But was he that poetic? I needed to find out more about his writings. I then googled some of John Muir’s quotes and was turned on at once. “The sun shines not on us but in us.” But it is not his quotes that make up his story. You need to read the whole story from where the quotes come from. When you read his stories i.e. “Stickeen,” a story about a dog and John Muir adventuring in the glaciers of Alaska. He describes it with such an intensity and detail that I can imagine myself being there. His penmanship is remarkable. It is like a poetic scientist meets Billy Graham. The sentences dance and move about within the story and keep your interest and curiosity going. What an amazing writer and adventurer John Muir was.

My husband and I share the love of mountain biking

The mountains are calling and we must go
The mountains are calling and we must go

John Muir a gentle adventurer

What I gather from reading about John Muir, his favorite thing to do was to go for excursions in Yosemite Valley area with a biscuit in his pocket and taking notes. When he first landed his feet in Yosemite he wrote: “I’m dead and gone to heaven.” (a letter to Mrs. Carr 1869, December 6th) His books tell the stories of his wonderful discoveries, beliefs and feelings toward animals. We have much to learn from this gentle soul. He did not even want to kill a rattlesnake. He loved the squirrels, because they are so playful. He had a few confrontations with bears, but he seemed to have a common sense and an ability to deal with nature’s creations. He stated once:” I have looked into the eyes of so many wild animals...” John Muir’s writings are inspiring. He inspires me to continue to appreciate mountain biking and the nature around me. I have always loved the sport because I get to be outdoors. Nevertheless, running into John Muir at the Los Angeles Westwood cemetery has made me appreciate the adventure of the outdoors even more. I take my camera early in the morning on rides with me in case I see something or I know a spot to be photographed. The words of John Muir haunt me nowadays: “Mountains are calling and I must go!” Or at times as I ride my mountain bike in the early morning sunlight I can hear his words behind me: ”How glorious a greeting the sun gives the mountains!” I think the world would be a whole lot a better place with more John Muirs around. I sure am glad I ran into this humble man’s literature, I am richer person from learning about him. What a wealth of a heart and soul.

Granite Mountain, Prescott AZ

Photo by Karoliina Urso
Photo by Karoliina Urso

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© 2014 Karoliina Urso

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