“And after ten years spent in the heart of it, rejoicing and wondering, bathing in its glorious floods of light, seeing the sunbursts of morning among the icy peaks, the noonday radiance on the trees and rocks and snow; the flush of alpenglow, and a thousand dashing waterfalls with their marvelous abundance of irised spray, it still seems to me above all others the Range of Light.”– John Muir, from My First Summer in the Sierra.
I’ve heard it said that we learn everything we need to know in life in kindergarten. I don’t know if that is entirely so, but there is some essential truth to it. I think in my case, my perception of what is beautiful in the natural world was definitely formed then. As a child, my parents took me camping in the Sierra Nevada Mountains every summer. I loved it there. It was the highlight of every summertime for me. As I grew older, I hiked more and more in those beautiful mountains, exploring it as much as I was physically able to.
And then I moved away, travelled, explored new regions. There were other mountains, other places to appreciate, other beautiful scenes. All of them were measured against my memories of those early experiences. A return back to the Sierras last week brought it all back in a rush. There is no place so wonderful for me. Truly it is a glimpse of paradise. Nothing else compares.
I was inspired as I reviewed the 270 photographs I took (in 4 days!) to search out an old book I had bought as a teen– the writings of John Muir. In his love for the Sierra Nevadas, he is a literary soul mate of mine. I want to share with you some of his writings, along with these photographs that I have taken of my beloved mountains.
“I gaze and sketch and bask, oftentimes settling down into dumb admiration without definite hope of ever learning much, yet with the longing, unresting effort that lies at the door of hope, humbly prostrate before the vast display of God’s power. . .
“How deeply with beauty is beauty overlaid! the ground covered with crystals, the crystals with mosses and lichens and low-spreading grasses and flowers, these with large plants leaf over leaf with ever-changing color and form, the broad palms of the first outspread over these, the azure dome over all like a bell-flower, and star above star.”
“These beautiful days must enrich all my life. They do not exist as mere pictures . . . but they saturate themselves into every part of the body and live always. . . .I have crossed the Range of Light, surely the brightest and best of all the Lord has built; and rejoicing in its glory, I gladly, gratefully, hopefully pray I may see it again.” John Muir