I’m currently in the throes of a historical inspiration kick. I’ve been digging into the journals and biographies of such pioneering badasses as Edmund Hillary, Bradford Washburn and Fred Beckey. The unifying theme is an enduring love for the natural world and a passion for exploring even the most difficult to reach parts of it. As notable as these aforementioned gentlemen in their strength, courage and spirit, I’ve found my new model for fully living every single moment spent outside in the words of John Muir in his autobiographical piece, Travels in Alaska. I could write all day about Muir’s ethos and exploits, but I’d rather let him tell it in his own words. Ladies and Gentlemen, the Intrepid John Muir:
On the Natural Cycle:
But out of all the cold darkness and glacial crushing and grinding comes this warm, abounding beauty and life to teach us that what we in our faithless ignorance and fear call destruction is creation finer and finer.
On Bad Weather:
It was raining hard when I awoke, but I made up my mind to disregard the weather, put on my dripping clothing, glad to know it was fresh and clean.
I tied my mountain shoes, tightened my belt, shouldered my ice-axe, and, thus free and ready for rough work, pushed on, regardless as possible of mere rain.
After my twelve-mile walk, I ate a cracker and planned the camp.
I set off early the morning of August 30 before any one else in camp had stirred, not waiting for breakfast, but only eating a piece of bread. I had intended getting a cup of coffee, but a wild storm was blowing and calling, and I could not wait.
Most people who travel look only at what they are directed to look at. Great is the power of the guidebook-maker, however ignorant.
I started off the morning of July 11 on my memorable sled-trip…feeling sure that I would learn something and at the same time get rid of a severe bronchial cough that followed an attack of the grippe and had troubled me for three months. I intended to camp on the glacier every night and did so, and my throat grew better every day until it was well, for no lowland microbe could stand such a trip.
I felt tired this morning and meant to rest today. But after breakfast at 8 A.M. I felt i must be up and doing, climbing, sketching new views up the great tributaries from the top of Quarry Mountain. Weariness vanished and I could have climbed, I think, five thousand feet. Anything seems easy after sled-dragging over hummocks and crevasses, and the constant nerve-strain in jumping crevasses.
My bed was two boulders, and as I lay wedged and bent upon their up-bulging sides, beguiling the hard, cold time in gazing into the starry sky and across the sparkling bay, magnificent upright bars of light in bright prismatic colors suddenly appeared…How long these glad, eager soldiers of light held on their way I cannot tell; for sense of time was charmed out of mind and the blessed night circled away in measureless rejoicing enthusiasm. In the early morning after so inspiring a night I launched my canoe feeling able for anything.
So abundant and novel are the objects of interest in a pure wilderness that unless you are pursuing special studies it matters little where you go, or how often to the same place. Wherever you chance to be always seems at the moment of all places the best; and you feel that there can be no happiness in this world or in any other for those who may not be happy there.
Armed with this latest infusion of inspiration, I aspire to seek the beauty in discomfort, the strength in hard work and the sublimity in everything the world has provided for our care and enjoyment.
I will also be continuing my search for inspiring people and stories. Please share your favorite people, books, quotes or thoughts in the comments below so that we may all benefit from those who have lived well before us, or inspire with their actions in the present.