Friday, February 19, 2010

Mountain Anamnesis

I am still meandering through John Muir’s The Mountain’s of California. His description of the forests of the Sierra has been a little slow going, but out of the blue, in the midst of his description of the “Magnificent Silver Fir, or Red Fir,” I stumbled upon the following description of a campsite upon his waking in the morning. Muir’s prose transported me in my mind’s eye to a mountain environment, from which I have been away far too long, and served as one more reminder of Muir’s awareness of and ability to communicate the sublime. Muir writes:
In the morning everything is joyous and bright, the delicious purple of the dawn changes softly to daffodil yellow and white; while the sunbeams pouring through the passes between the peaks give a margin of gold to each of them. Then the spires of the firs in the hollows of the middle region catch the glow, and your camp grove is filled with light. The birds begin to stir, seeking sunny branches on the edge of the meadow for sun-baths after the cold night, and looking for their breakfasts, every one of them as fresh as a lily and as charmingly arrayed. Innumerable insects begin to dance, the deer withdraw from the open glades and ridge tops to their leafy hiding-places in the chaparral, the flowers open and straighten their petals as he dew vanishes, every pulse beats high, every life-cell rejoices, the very rocks seem to tingle with life, and God is felt brooding over everything great and small.

My heart began to race and my breath quickened as I read the above passage. By the time I finished I was nearly in awe. After several pages of documenting careful scientific observation which left me a little cold, Muir served up a description of a campsite in the morning that stirred my soul.

It has been a long time since I have been in the mountains and even longer since I have had the opportunity to spend a night in a tent, rising in the morning to experience sun, warmth, and signs of life returning. Reading Muir has reminded me of the Mountains’ beauty and ability to reawaken my spiritual sensibilities. It is time for anamnesis.

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