27th September

John Muir Returns to Dunbar, 1893

It is a long time since I was here. When I was a boy this was all the world I knew, and for a while it was enough. I thought then that fighting and the harrying of birds’ nests were the greatest occupations a boy could have but then we left for America and my horizons opened beyond my wildest imaginings. I took my homeland with me: my father’s harsh faith, which I fashioned anew in the cathedrals of Nature; and the works of Burns, who has never failed me as a companion on all my travels.

War is the most infernal of all the calamities of civilisation. I would not willingly participate in it and so during the Civil War I went to Canada. That was the first of my long walks and I have been walking ever since. I have walked to the Gulf of Mexico. I have walked the length and breadth of California. I have walked in Alaska and now I have come home to walk these old familiar places once more. You might say I went out for a walk in the dawn and never came back till sundown. There is so much to see before it gets dark.

I have walked both alone and with others. There is great joy in sharing the beauties of the world, but when you walk alone you walk with yourself, and this is the finest journey of discovery.

Our help lies in the mountains. Once, high in the mountains, I climbed to the top of a Douglas fir because a storm was building and I wanted to feel what a tree feels in a storm. I clung there while the tempest raged, and back and forth it swung me, not noticing I was a mere attachment to that intelligent plant. Back and forth went the tree, small journeys it had learned to make in its many years, small journeys of survival. For as long as it bent with the wind, the wind would not break it or cause it to fall. And so it is with me. My journeys have been over greater distances, but have I any more wisdom than a tree?

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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