By: Korrin L. Bishop
Sometimes it feels as though you blink, and summer is over. As the leaves begin to change color and fall to the forest floor, and the air takes on a blustery chill, saying goodbye to summer adventures can feel melancholic. However, with the change of seasons simply comes the opportunity to begin new journeys. If you’re needing a little inspiration to get ready for autumn adventures, John Muir offers compelling descriptions and insight on nature that might just do the trick.
Often referred to as “John of the Mountains” or the “Father of the National Parks,” John Muir was a writer, naturalist, and advocate for the conservation of wild spaces. In 1892, he founded the Sierra Club, which continues to work hard for environmental justice today. His quotes are abundant throughout outdoor communities, though not always completely accurate or properly attributed. The quotes listed here are thanks to the Sierra Club’s John Muir Exhibit, which has included work to ensure correct quotes and point out pervasive misquotes.
Use the powerful connection to nature prevalent in these John Muir quotes as encouragement to layer up and get back out into the mountains this autumn.
John Muir and autumn leaves
“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.”
Source: Our National Parks (1901), page 56
John Muir on the importance of beauty
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
Source: The Yosemite (1912), page 256
John Muir on just going
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
Source: John Muir quoted by Samuel Hall Young in Alaska Days with John Muir (1915), chapter 7
John Muir’s look at a new day
“Another glorious day, the air as delicious to the lungs as nectar to the tongue.”
Source: My First Summer in the Sierra , 1911, page 231
John Muir on short excursions into nature
“Fresh beauty opens one’s eyes wherever it is really seen, but the very abundance and completeness of the common beauty that besets our steps prevents its being absorbed and appreciated. It is a good thing, therefore, to make short excursions now and then to the bottom of the sea among dulse and coral, or up among the clouds on mountain-tops, or in balloons, or even to creep like worms into dark holes and caverns underground, not only to learn something of what is going on in those out-of-the-way places, but to see better what the sun sees on our return to common everyday beauty.”
John Muir on playing
“Surely all God’s people, however serious or savage, great or small, like to play. Whales and elephants, dancing, humming gnats, and invisibly small mischievous microbes – all are warm with divine radium and must have lots of fun in them.”
Source: The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, (1913), pages 186-187
John Muir on the life cycles of nature
“One is constantly reminded of the infinite lavishness and fertility of Nature—inexhaustible abundance amid what seems enormous waste. And yet when we look into any of her operations that lie within reach of our minds, we learn that no particle of her material is wasted or worn out. It is eternally flowing from use to use, beauty to yet higher beauty; and we soon cease to lament waste and death, and rather rejoice and exult in the imperishable, unspendable wealth of the universe, and faithfully watch and wait the reappearance of everything that melts and fades and dies about us, feeling sure that its next appearance will be better and more beautiful than the last.”
John Muir on the necessity of wilderness
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
Korrin L. Bishop is a freelance writer with a focus on the environment, outdoor recreation, and social justice. She has publications in Misadventures, Adventure Journal, and Sierra Magazine. Learn more about her work on her website.