Beauty as Well as Bread - Naturalist Corner Summer 2016

Wanderlust, sometimes I feel it pulsing under my skin urging me to break away from modern life and go to the woods. I want to wander and discover what it really means to be human and a part of the earth. I recently happened upon a kindred spirit who, though long ago buried, inspires me, lifts me, and pushes me to pursue my passion when I feel least able. Scottish born naturalist, John Muir, grew up during a time of great change for our country. The Industrial Revolution had just met its peak, the Civil War raged, and civilized America carved its way into the wild country. Muir had an epiphany early in life when, after a factory accident blinded him, his sight miraculously returned. He decided then that he “was learning nothing in this trivial world of men. [He] must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.” In college he studied everything, but his classes were so varied that he never rose higher than a first-year student. When I consider his less than industrious beginnings, I feel a little less self-critical. Perhaps I really can change this world for the better, and I can start right here in Darke County by showing a child the intricacies of a flower through a magnifying glass or the transformation miracle of a Monarch chrysalis. I must simply go out and do it, casting off the trivialities of modern society as I search for a better way.

John Muir defied societal expectation and, at times, familial obligation to pursue his passion for the earth. He once told a visitor to his house, “This is a good place to be housed during stormy weather,…to write in, and to raise children in, but it is not my home. Up there [the Sierra Nevada] is my home.” He even defied the material world when he walked about the mountains, taking little more than tea and bread with him on his long journeys to commune with nature. When he did come down from the mountains to write, he agonized over the process. It was said that he considered each word twenty times before settling on it. Even the great John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club and father of the national parks, had little confidence in his own words. As I struggle to write this inspirational article about not letting life get in the way of passion for nature, I find my words lacking, yet I am still in the company of greatness. When I sit at my desk wondering if what I’m doing really matters, worrying about getting the next program planned, or stressing about scheduling, I remember to set it all aside for a while and step outside. John Muir understood this when he said, “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” With this I challenge you, get outside, refresh your spirit, and hike until you feel new again. As for me, I must leave you for now; “the mountains are calling, and I must go.”  

-- Hannah Linebaugh ~ naturalist