Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan is published by William Morrow. It tells the story of my adventures with Atticus M. Finch, a little dog of some distinction. You can also find our column in the NorthCountry News.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sharing A Birthday with John Muir

I turn 47 today. It’s also John Muir’s birthday. I didn’t realize the two of us shared this day but I’m thrilled to now realize we do.
Muir was an amazing man. He was born in Scotland and came to this country with little. At the age of 29 he made his living working in a carriage shop in Indiana. A freak accident caused him to lose an eye.
Joseph Campbell made a life out of fleshing out the “Hero’s Journey.” Campbell believed that we are all capable of such journey’s whether they come from training for an running the Boston Marathon, writing a book, climbing 96 peaks in 90 days of winter or in the day-to-day life by surviving an accident, doing well in raising children as a single parent, overcoming loss or chasing after our goals.

Campbell believed there was two ways to get on the hero’s journey, one was by volunteering, the other by being picked for it whether you liked it or not. The only failure came in not saying yes to your adventure.

Little did John Muir know that losing his eye would set him off his ‘hero’s journey‘. He so loved nature that he feared if he lost his sight completely he would never see a beautiful flower again. He then quit his job and walked from Indiana down to the Gulf of Mexico to live closer with nature. He then traveled on from there and never really stopped. From the time he lost his eye he moved on with his life and led a most remarkable existence as a naturalist and lover of mountains. Muir eventually ended up in California and lived with the mountains where he helped found the Sierra Club.

Some of my favorite Muir quotes:
  • "I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."
  • "I have a low opinion of books: they are piles of stones set up to show coming travelers where other minds have been, or at best signal smokes to call attention....One day's exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books."
  • "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 care will drop off like autumn leaves."
  • "In God's wildness lies the hope of the world the great fresh unblighted, unredeemed wilderness. The galling harness of civilization drops off, and the wounds heal ere we are aware."

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