In a letter to his sister, naturalist John Muir observed “the mountains are calling and I must go…”.
Such an evocative quote beautifully captures the essence of immersing oneself in nature. The power of the phrase explains why it’s been replicated, a catch cry for today’s contemporary nature seeker.
As an abbreviated passage the quote doesn’t do justice to Muir, nor his deep-seated yearning to understand the incredible landscape which lay before him. As Muir crafted those immortal words, he stood in glacially cut valley that is today Yosemite National Park—a park he helped create.
As we mark 145 years since those wonderful words were woven, it’s timely to reflect on the context of this memorable quote.
Muir continued: “...and I will work on while I can, studying incessantly”. This reveals a passionate man, a man who foresaw an obligation, a resolution, drawing on a desire to be at one with the mountains. Muir was a master observer who enjoyed the time, the effort, the work required in appreciating nature.
As a detailed witness to nature’s intricacies, Muir produced copious volumes of material reflecting his desire to “study incessantly”. His extensive work portrays a spirit to interpret and to conserve outstanding landscapes for future generations. He was saviour of Yosemite, a forefather of American conservationists and founding father of the United States National Park Service.
Recently I rejoiced a call to the mountains, albeit the incredible mountain range on the other side of the world from Yosemite and the Brindabellas.
There is something quite surreal in standing witness to the dawning of a new day as the sun kisses the Himalayas. With planet Earth’s highest mountain towering an incredible 8848 metres, Mt Everest is imposing.
You can only stand in awe as you gaze upon this landscape, a mountain range that bears the scars of powerful tectonic forces. An evolving landscape, the Himalayas are relatively young in geological timeframes. Earthquakes are a fact of life in Nepal.
Returning to the Brindabellas I was once again reminded of the ancient landscape we call the Australian Alps. A mountain range millions of years older than the Himalayas. A mountain range that features the forces of nature creating a rolling horizon. Time has eroded once sharp pinnacles.
Mountains are magnificent. They evoke a powerful sense of being at one with nature. They are spiritual.
This summer, why not hear Muir’s call? Namadgi’s majestic mountains are calling. You must go.
- Brett McNamara is with ACT Parks & Conservation Service.