Marion Foster Washburne
Tulare, Calif. Sept. 22--1913
My dear Mr. Muir:-
Your kind letter came just in the midst of confusion and almost intolerable heat. Fancy moving and trying to settle a home with the house you wok in sizzling at about 112! Now and then, at what seemed to be my last gasp I would take your beautiful book about the Yosemite -- which reached me safely, thank you -- out of doors and read as the damned might read of heaven! And of course I felt much like dropping every task and accepting your invitation just as cordially and simply as it was given.
But that would be to leave my young folks here pretty shabbily in the lurch--and besides, my brother-in-law, who, you know, is going in with me, has not yet joined us. The vacation is as much for his sake as for mine. There are some little matters of business we must both attend to--for we mean to make a long break with the world and must put things somewhat in order before leaving them-- and then we shall come north, not as your guests en route, but very gladly as your guests on your ranch for a little, until we can avail ourselves of your extensive information. Then if it entirely convenient for you to make that preliminary trip to the Yosemite you so generously suggest, we should be more than delighted to have you accompany us.
I could wish that we were just the kind of companions you would choose--but we have two drawbacks: First, we are ignorant to a degree just where you are wise; and second, I, at least, shall have to recover more thoroughly from the railroad accident that recently broke my knee and strained my back before I can climb or tramp even many miles behind you. I like your word "saunter" as you use it a good deal in your book--though I suspect your saunter may be faster than any gallop of mine! Still, I hang on to the hope inspired by the word that you may really like to go slow and look and dream as you go.
What we are really looking for is peace and perspective and the power to see things in the sum of their relationships. That is what moves and delights me in your books. I'm afraid I know too little of science to appreciate your work on that side; it is the poet and the Seer whom I recognize. I am a writer--my field, essays, and some novels, principally dealing with problems of education. Of course, I know Rousseau, Commenius, Pestalozzi, and Froeb[illegible], whom I have tried to follow in my training of my own children, drew their inspiration from Nature. Why should I be content to drink at second-hand, instead of going straight to the source? Somewhat late in [illegible]Ife, when I am about to become a grandmother, it strikes me as preposterous to attempt to train a child without knowing anything to speak of about the way Nature trains her children!
My brother is a lawyer, and an economic and social reformer. It strikes him, who has been a life-long experimenter with various colonization attempts to make life more sane, as equally preposterous to try to construct a social order without knowing how Nature orders her bee and ant colonies, her migrating flocks, her tree plantations.
Nobody, it seems to us both, gets down to the real beginnings of things-- looks at facts with eyes cleared of all preposessions
Or perhaps some scientists do---but almost no one attacks the human problems, turning bravely away from the God of Things as They Ought to Be to the only true God-- the God of Things as They Are.
We would like to be able to get the same view of human affairs as you get of your Sierras-- to see the beauty-making forces at work in human society as you see them at work in the hills-- to make the bread, simple generalizations you make, based upon the careful, minute observations. We think Nature herself can help us greatly in this-- and give us health at the same time, and renewed courage. But we think we should be greatly benefitted could we know you, not only through your books but in person as Nature's Interpreter.
Would you like to see one of my books, even though it is quite in another field? I am ordering "The House on the North Shore" to be sent you direct from the publishers.
We will let you know, as soon as we know ourselves, when we shall arrive.
With sincere appreciation,
1913 Sep 22
Original letter dimensions: 27.5 x 21.5 cm.
Washburne, Marion Foster, "Letter from Marion Foster Washburne to John Muir, 1913 Sep 22." (1913). John Muir Correspondence (PDFs). 4101.
Reel 21, Image 0802
Online finding aid for the microform version of the John Muir Correspondence http://www.oac.cdlib.org/findaid/ark:/13030/kt0w1031nc
Copyright status unknown
Some letters written to John Muir may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.). Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user.
Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library. Please contact this institution directly to obtain copies of the images or permission to publish or use them beyond educational purposes.
Environmentalist, naturalist, travel, conservation, national parks, John Muir, Yosemite, California, history, correspondence, letters