Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Forest and Me

There is a man A certain man And for the poor you may be sure That he'll do all he can Who is this one? Whose favorite son? Just by his action has the traction Magnates on the run Who likes to smoke? Enjoys a joke? And wouldn't get a bit Upset if he were really broke? With wealth and fame He's still the same I'll bet you five you're not alive If you don't know his name.

We have a lot of material to cover so bear with me. I know y'all are excited to see the pics from our Japan trip, but first I have an announcement from our local solar system regarding some things that have been happening here for the last couple hundred years. But first we need to backtrack a smidgen.

This part comes from Wikipedia. John Muir's Birthplace is a four-story stone house in Dunbar, East Lothian, Scotland. His parents were Daniel Muir and Ann Gilrye. He was the third of eight children: Margaret, Sarah, David, Daniel, Ann and Mary (twins), and the American-born Joanna. His earliest recollections were of taking short walks with his grandfather when he was three.[11] In his autobiography, he described his boyhood pursuits, which included fighting, either by re-enacting romantic battles from the Wars of Scottish Independence or just scrapping on the playground, and hunting for birds' nests (ostensibly to one-up his fellows as they compared notes on who knew where the most were located).[12]:25,37 Author Amy Marquis notes that he began his "love affair" with nature while young, and implies that it may have been in reaction to his strict religious upbringing. "His father believed that anything that distracted from Bible studies was frivolous and punishable." But the young Muir was a "restless spirit" and especially "prone to lashings."[13] As a young boy, Muir became fascinated with the East Lothian landscape, and was known to spend a lot of time wandering the local coastline and countryside. It was during this time that he became interested in natural history and the works of Scottish naturalist Alexander Wilson. The rest is a bit abridged, but you can do your own fact checking if you feel so inclined.

Anyway, at age 22 JM went to school in Wisconsin where he studied Botany. I'm not a historian so I'll just hit on what I think are the salient points so we can move on. JM didn't really care for the classroom very much. He preferred to be outside, where he could climb mountains and wade in streams and what not. He continued bumming around for a while, saw some stuff, lost his sight for a bit and eventually found himself in SF.

So by this point he was in his mid twenties, and let's be honest he was still kind of a dickhead. Don't get me wrong, he was into Robert Burns and Ralph Waldo Picklechips, but like most white folks back then he had some pretty questionable opinions. It wasn't until he visited Yosemite that he finally started to figure out what was really going on.

Back then the settlers were having a pretty good time of it. There was gold, timber, fields to graze in and just a ridiculous abundances of natural beauty. Let's not forget that before the 49ers showed up the Miwok people had been living in Alta California since before Jesus had thought of anything worth writing down. Francis Drake met some of them a couple hundred years before, and as far as we know that went over pretty well, but the folks that showed up after we definitely not very nice.

In the language of the Ahwahneechee Yosemite actually means yohhe'meti or Killers. Wikipedia says they were talking about the Nevada Pai-Ute but I'm going to go out on a limb and say they were dropping some shade on their new neighbors. At any rate, they're still around so you could just ask them if you really want to know.

So now that we've covered all that let's get into it for real. Our ancestors, yes you are included in this, believed that there were spirits inside every living thing. The Japanese know it, the Haitians know it, the Ghanaians know it, and deep deep down the Scots knew it too. So JM keeps going back to the Sierra Nevada and it blows his damn mind how feckin beautiful it is out here. He was the OG Spencer Harding and just decided he would walk from Oakland to Yosemite Valley. Why not, right? In 1911 he published a book called First Summer in the Sierra. I suggest you pick it up and read it, but check your privilege when you do because right off the bat he starts saying things that will make you think "this guy is a real dickhead". It gets better though.

So he does some more traveling, and learns a lot more about nature and at some point he starts meeting the nature spirits. They had been pretty quiet for a while (remember YT was cutting down the oldest trees in the world and launching flaming barrels off the waterfalls and other nutso shenanigans at this point) but I guess they figured this guy has potential so they start talking to him. He get's to know the Grand Bois, and the Bear spirit. He climbs the mountains at night and he knows it's his job, passed down from the Goddess Gaia herself, to put a stop to all the wypipo bullshit.

So in 1903 he meets up with Teddy Roosevelt in Coulterville (I assume at the bar, because let's face it there isn't much else to do in Coulterville) and he say "Sonny, let me show you some s*** that's going to blow yer feckin mind". And he does, and then they create the National Parks and the Sierra Club. Ansel Adams took some pictures. Everything was pretty chill, except it wasn't. People didn't listen. They have kept destroying the forests. They have kept taking native land. They have kept burning and drilling and eating themselves to death. Not a good scene. Now I know SF is supposed to me like a big Buddhist temple or whatever, but let me remind you that your drinking water still comes from Hetch Hetchy. We could argue all day about whether that was a good idea or not, but at the end of the day they built the dam and that's a fact. So my suggestion is maybe before you take your shower tonight stop a moment and say a prayer. It can be directed at whoever, but just take a minute. Mni Wicoini is a pretty good one. If you don't know what that's about I would just go ahead and Google it. That is all for now.

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