Friday, March 06, 2009


The word specimen doesn't adequately convey the feel of these gorgeous plates by photographer Stephen J. Joseph. Each is elegantly rearranged on the page, caught in its moment of life, and a powerful connective zap moves from Muir to us through these photos of the plants he encountered, described, and collected.

Judith Larner Lowry writing in Orion Magazine about a new collection of the photographs of John Muir's plant specimens: Nature's Beloved Son: Rediscovering John Muir's Botanical Legacy, by Bonnie J. Gisel with images by Stephen J. Joseph; Foreword by David Rains Wallace.

We weren’t church goers when I was a kid, but we knew enough to revere Jesus and John Muir.

Which is almost certainly my father’s fault.

My dad wore thick wool socks that he called his John Muir socks. He taught us early that the woods and the mountains and the rocky shore that limned the Puget Sound were where the action was; that anything else (this house? these four walls?) was artificial; a compromise.

My father’s love of books is why I love books; is why the acoustics of every room in my home are impacted by the soft muffling of pages arrayed against the wall. My father’s love of books gave me always a soft place to fall, a universe that welcomed me, a place where I could sort through the crazies and understand what was sane. I read Mark Twain and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jack London and big stacks of National Geographic just because they were there.

And John Muir.

When my father fell fast into a coma for reasons none of us understood while hiking through Utah’s red rock canyon country, my brothers and my sister and I took turns by his bedside, where we read John Muir to him through the tubes that snaked through every orifice, through the lids that danced from his dreams, through the edema that bloated his body beyond recall.

We read of mountain sides and rock slides and ravines. Of snowstorms and earthquakes and the cooling shade of conifer trees.

Scripture. Story. Salve.

Until he woke, we read.

1 comment:

I, Rodius said...

Should've read this before I went to the book store today. You make me want to read more. Thanks for that.

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