John Muir on Beauty

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As we hiked this last summer away, mostly on the John Muir Trail, I thought it would be good of me to get to know this man we were following, over 100 years later, in the footsteps of.  So I began reading books, journals, and letters all penned by Muir, that spoke of the wild lands that we walked through.


John Muir eloquently marvels: 

Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest!  Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God.


-John Muir, Journal entry for June 23, 1869


And indeed, the scenes we took in all did show us thousands of glimpses of God.

The quote that hung with me with every step I took, though, was John Muir’s definitive description of God. Of all the adjectives we often use to describe God, Majestic…Powerful…Loving…he chose Beauty.

Beauty? Isn’t that a bit weak?

No synonym for God is so perfect as Beauty. Whether as seen carving the lines of the mountains with glaciers, or gathering matter into stars, or planning the movements of water, or gardening – still all is Beauty!


-John Muir

But as I spent each day, immersed in exquisite sunsets

Courtesy of www.coryjoneillphotography.com

or watching as our kids blossomed under the blue skies of the wilderness 

I thought about that singular word: Beauty.  Indeed everything I looked at was indeed full of beauty.  Moments with my kids were full of beauty.

Everything God touches, as it turns out, is beautiful.  Full of beauty.

The southerners have a lovely way of saying things.  They sugar coat their delivery while us northerners are much more blunt.  “She was being UGLY!” hardly sounds like the real truth: “If I never see her again, it won’t be long enough.”  

But God is BEAUTY.  The complete absence of UGLY.  

As I walked each day, more of His Beauty was uncovered.  I noticed the beauty in our kids, as they encountered their trail days.

Months later as we sat with a reporter relaying tales of our summer, our youngest finally had her turn to speak.   Her answer to the question of what was your favorite moment of the summer spoke of the natural way that children embrace life – with unbending positive optimism.  

“My favorite day, it’s very different then what everyone else has said, “ she said with a giggle, “was the first morning.   I was so happy because I knew it was the first day, the beginning – and I had the whole trip still left to do.”

While I needed self-talk to embrace day one and not feel overwhelmed by the thought of walking over 200 miles, step by step over an entire month, our daughter skipped around camp, singing.  A shift in thinking from my adult perspective of feeling overwhelmed to a childhood perspective of excitement over all the unknown possibilities that lies ahead could have meant that I spent the morning dancing and singing around camp.

Instead, the stream of fear that was implanted in me the day my body suddenly collapsed in seizures still ripples in the shadows.   Honesty hits me with raw reality: what lies ahead is 200 miles of opportunities for me or someone in my family to get hurt or die.  

She was excited by the unknown.  I was intimidated by it.  


Another moment: Beautiful. Beauty in my daughter.

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