Photo by Lisell Ashock
“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”
― John Muir
Happy Earth Day!
Where I live there are tons of Redwoods. They stand tall like soldiers commanding their territory. They are mighty, and I am completely drawn to them, taken in by their majesty and beauty. As I walk through preservations and national parks, I always find myself wondering what the trees could tell us if they were able to speak. I Imagine they would be some of the best historians and storytellers.
I’ve been to the Muir Woods National Monument, a Redwood forest named in honor of John Muir. It’s incredible and I would recommend this site to everyone. It should without a doubt be a bucket list item! It’s a sacred place and the size of the Redwood Trees is mystifying (as are the banana slugs!). There is so much peace and though there are usually people walking along the trails, taking pictures, there is a great feeling of peace and so much room for contemplation. There is even a Cathedral Grove which asks people to be silent and simply observe the beautiful sounds of nature. It truly is amazing how much you can hear. Life in the forest is abundant and as I walk through or sit and listen, there is a great feeling of interconnectedness.
As they day unfolds and Earth Day activities ensue, I have another song for you about an American hero who, along with Rachel Carson, made a significant impact in the way of wilderness preservation. John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, is known as the most influential conservationist and naturalist in America. Muir went on many adventures through the woods, observing the beauty of the natural world around him.
Jonathan Sprout, an award-winning children’s musician and historian, has produced 4 albums filled with songs inspired by American Heroes. Sprout’s American Heroes #3 album includes a song written in honor of John Muir. “Come Back Home” was written in the first person as though Muir himself were singing about the mountains, his dreams of exploring, climbing, and protecting them.
As I was talking with Sprout about the inspiration for this song, I found out that there was a period of time that Muir went blind. This was something I didn’t know and I can’t imagine based on all that Muir has written about with regard to his observations. Below Sprout shares some thoughts and facts about Muir which is followed by the audio clip of “Come Back Home.”
John Muir knew how to look for gifts in life, even in his darkest moments.
In his twenties, he was a nature lover and successful inventor who could probably have become wealthy if he’d wanted. At the age of 29, tragedy struck. Or did it? He was bent over a bench, working on one of his inventions when a file flew up into his face, punctured and eye, and blinded him in both eyes.
For four weeks, he lay in bed with his eyes bandaged, having no idea if he’d ever be able to see again. With plenty of time to think, he made a promise that if ever again he could see, he’d forget about his inventions and instead devote the rest of his life to “the inventions of nature.”
Later, surprisingly, he regained his sight.
“Six months after the accident, he left his house and went for a walk. A 1,000 mile walk! Eventually, he visited the California mountains where lumber companies were destroying the priceless redwood and giant sequoia trees. It was time for John Muir to keep that promise.
The way he stood up for those trees inspires me as much as the simple fact that he did. Instead of attacking the greedy lumber companies, pointing out what was wrong, he chose to write about how beautiful and inspiring these trees are. His optimistic, poetic, and uplifting magazine articles and books stirred others from far and wide to meet, sympathize with, and fall in love with these giant trees. New activists stood behind Muir, and their combined efforts (mostly with the Sierra Club which Muir co-founded in 1892) stopped the destruction of the trees.
The accident with John Muir’s eyes brought great gifts to the rest of us. John Muir’s optimistic view of nature’s beauties helped redefine the ways we now view nature.
Personally, John Muir’s life has greatly influenced mine. I now own and live in a low carbon footprint home with a well, septic system, and wood burning stove. The solar panels are coming soon. I’m told by the park rangers out there in California there are redwood trees growing in every state. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to grow them from seeds. But how cool would it be to have a redwood tree growing in my Pennsylvania backyard! Perhaps this year, I’ll try again. Anyone know where I can get some seeds?
More about Sprout
Singer-songwriter and recording artist, Jonathan Sprout has dedicated the past 21 years to creating meaningful and captivating music for children. Sprout began this journey in 1994 after reading the results of a nationwide poll detailing children’s top 10 heroes, which included cartoon characters such as Bart Simpson and Beavis & Butthead along with several professional athletes whose off-field antics were anything but heroic. This made Sprout question, “who are our real heroes and why are we not teaching our children about their importance?” That’s when Sprout’s idea to write and record songs for children about real heroes was born.
Since then, Jonathan Sprout has written over forty songs and has released four American Heroes albums about some of the most remarkable men and women in American history. His albums detail the amazing stories of legends ranging from Pocahontas to Neil Armstrong. With the help of author-lecturer Dr. Dennis Denenberg, a noted heroes specialist, Sprout “chose people who lived and breathed elements of good character and are good examples that children can understand and emulate.” His list of heroes includes politicians, athletes, scientists, feminists, civil rights leaders, and many other admirable individuals.