John Muir


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The arrangement of the trees is such, and the way that the most marked specimens match and harmonize with each other, that a distinct impression of their having sorted from the common forest and rearranged is felt. In some of these tufted islets a central group is planted in the middle, and two smaller groups that evidently balance each other are planted at about equal distances on the ends. Or the whole appears as one handful, a marked tree leaning out from each side. These relations to harmony are so constant that I believe they are as much the result of design as are the beauty arrangements in the painting of flowers and the counting of their petals and their occurrence in whorls, or the arrangement of feathers on a bird. Their beauty is in every sense the beauty of youth, for though freshness or verdure and the remarkable [ ] and universality of the woods may be attributed to copious moisture from the warm, steamy, all-bathing, all-embracing ocean river from the sunny fountains of Japan, the very existence of the islands, their forms, finish and peculiar distribution are all immediately referable to the creative action of the ice during the period here just closed. The sky above this young fairyland is in every particular becoming to the landscapes it mantles; usually pale, ender blue, with pearl clouds hovering in calm, fleecy, filmy masses, combed out on the luminous edges, but never garish colored. Morning and evening in orange, purple and red, and at noon in summer the whole bland atmosphere palpitates with an intense, subdued passion of light, in which the tranquil sheets of water shimmer and spangle, and the evergreens of the islands dip their spires with inimitable grace and repose. I would like to sketch one of these Alaska summer days, however imperfect the sketch must be. It is a day without night, for it begins and ends at midnight, which is the low noon of the great round day. The sky is red and orange then, for clouds more or less distinct are almost always present. The day opens slowly, the centre of greatest light insensibly increasing and circling round the horizon’s rim; and when at length the sun appears it is without much of that stirring, impressive pomp, that flashing awakening energy so suggestive of the bible image of a strong man coming forward to run a race. The colored clouds with their dissolving edges seem to vanish as their color leaves them. Sinking into a hazy dimness { Sketch: no title}

Date Original



Original journal dimensions: 8.5 x 13.5 cm.

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Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

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John Muir, journals, drawings, writings, travel, journaling, naturalist