Each evening at Oracle 2022, our leaders gathering held in Potosi, Missouri, we gathered around “Grandfather Fire” to offer gifts of poetry, story, drumming, movement, and song. The following was offered by Illuman SoCal Convener Mark Infusino.
Prophet in Alaska
One hundred and fifty years ago this year, one of our great American prophets, John Muir, was sailing north to Alaska in a little steamer through what we call the Inland Passage when the waters’ beauty caught him up into the cosmic song.
Later he wrote:
“When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”
Later in the same trip through Alaska, John Muir encountered a huge valley, much like Yosemite Valley in California, with tall straight walls curved at the bottom, except that this valley was still half-filled with a glacier, with a river of melt flowing out of it big enough to allow the steamer to sail up into the valley. He used surveying methods to estimate that the glacier was a thousand feet high. Then he saw glacier scrape marks a thousand feet higher, then another thousand, and another and another. He realized that the glacier front had once towered a mile high, and he fell into deep time. Later he wrote:
“One learns that the world, though made, is yet being made; that this is still the morning of creation; that mountains long conceived are now being born, channels traced for coming rivers, basins hollowed for lakes; that moraine soil is being ground and outspread for coming plants,—coarse boulders and gravel for forests, finer soil for grasses and flowers,—while the finest part of the grist, seen hastening out to sea in the draining streams, is being stored away in darkness and builded particle on particle, cementing and crystallizing, to make the mountains and valleys and plains of other predestined landscapes, to be followed by still others in endless rhythm and beauty.”
Muir’s writings are almost always an inspired combination of adventure, intimacy with the more-than human world, and encounters with the transcendent in it.
*Note: Many out-of-copyright books from before 1922, like Muir’s Travels in Alaska, can be listened to, or read, online free of charge. For listening, Google, for instance, “librivox Travels in Alaska”. For print reading, Google “gutenberg Travels in Alaska”.