Letters to a Friend
Written to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr
Houghton Mifflin Company
Boston and New York
Copyright, 1915, by Wanda Muir Hanna
All Rights Reserved
When John Muir was a student in the University of Wisconsin he was a frequent caller at the house of Dr. Ezra S. Carr. The kindness shown him there, and especially the sympathy which Mrs. Carr, as a botanist and a lover of nature, felt in the young manes interests and aims, led to the formation of a lasting friendship. He regarded Mrs. Carr, indeed, as his “spiritual mother,” and his letters to her in later years are the outpourings of a sensitive spirit to one who he felt thoroughly understood and sympathized with him. These letters are therefore peculiarly revealing of their writer’s personality. Most of them were written from the Yosemite Valley, and they give a good notion of the life Muir led there, sheep-herding, guiding, and tending a sawmill at intervals to earn his daily bread, but devoting his real self to an ardent scientific study of glacial geology and a joyous and reverent communion with Nature.
Your last, written in the delicious quiet of a Sabbath in the country, has been received and read a good many times. I was interested with the description you draw of your sermon. You speak of such services like one who appreciated and relished them. But although the page of Nature is so replete with divine truth, it is silent concerning the fall of man and the wonders of Redeeming Love. Might she not have been made to speak as clearly and eloquently of these things as she now does of the character and attributes of God? It may be a bad symptom, but I will confess that I take more intense delight from reading the power and goodness of God from “the things which are made” than from the Bible. The two books, however, harmonize beautifully, and contain enough of divine truth for the study of all eternity. It is so much easier for us to employ our faculties upon these beautiful tangible forms than to exercise a simple, humble living faith such as you so well describe as enabling us to reach out joyfully into the future to expect what is promised as a thing of to-morrow.
I wish, Mrs. Carr, that I could see your mosses and ferns and lichens. I am sure that you must be happier than anybody else. You have so much less of winter than others; your parlor garden is verdant and in bloom all the year.
I took your hint and procured ten or twelve species of moss all in fruit, also a club-moss, a fern, and some liverworts and lichens. I have also a box of thyme. I would go a long way to see your herbarium, more especially your ferns and mosses. These two are by far the most interesting of all the natural orders to me. The shaded hills and glens of Canada are richly ornamented with these lovely plants. Aspidium spinulosum is common everywhere, so also is A. marginale. A. aculeatum, A. Lonchitis, and A. acrostichoides are also abundant in many places. I found specimens of most of the other aspidiums, but those I have mentioned are more common. Cystopteris bulbifera grows in every arbor-vitae shade in company with the beautiful and fragrant Linnaea borealis. Botrychium lunarioides is a common fern in many parts of Canada. Osmunda regalis is far less common here than in Wisconsin. I found it in only two localities. Six Claytoniana only in one place near the Niagara Falls. The delicate Adiantum trembles upon even hillside. Struthiopteris Germanica grows to a great height in open places in arbor-vitae and black ash swamps. Camptosorus rhizophyllus and Scolopendrium officinarum I found in but one place, amid the wet limestone rocks of Owen Sound. There are many species of sedge common here which I do not remember having seen in Wisconsin. Calypso borealis is a lovely plant found in a few places in dark hemlock woods. But this is an endless thing; I may as well stop here.
I have been very busy of late making practical machinery. I like my work exceedingly well, but would prefer inventions which would require some artistic as well as mechanical skill. I invented and put in operation a few days ago an attachment for a self-acting lathe, which has increased its capacity at least one third. We are now using it to turn broom-handles, and as these useful articles may now be made cheaper, and as cleanliness is one of the cardinal virtues, I congratulate myself in having done something like a true philanthropist for the real good of mankind in general. What say you? I have also invented a machine for making rake-teeth, and another for boring for them and driving them, and still another for making the bows, still another used in making the handles, still another for bending them, so that rakes may now be made nearly as fast again. Farmers will be able to produce grain at a lower rate, the poor get more bread to eat. Here is more philanthropy; is it not? I sometimes feel as though I was losing time here, but I am at least receiving my first lessons in practical mechanics, and as one of the firm here is a millwright, and as I am permitted to make as many machines as I please and to remodel those now in use, the school is a pretty good one.
I wish that Allie and Henry B. could come to see me every day, there are no children in our family here, and I miss them very much. They would like to see the machinery, and I could turn wooden balls and tops, rake-bows before being bent would make excellent canes, and if they should need crutches broom-handles and rake-handles would answer. I have not heard from Henry for a long time. I suppose that this evening finds you in your pleasant library amid books and plants and butterflies. Are you really successful in keeping happy, sportive “winged blossoms” in such weather as this?
One of the finest snowstorms is raging now; the roaring wind thick with snow rushes cruelly through the desolate trees. Our rapid stream that so short a time ago shone and twinkled in the hazy air bearing away the nuts and painted leaves of autumn is now making a doleful noise as it gropes its way doubtfully and sulkily amid heaps of snow and broken ice.
The weather here is unusually cold. How do matters stand at the University? Can it be that the Doctor is really going to become practical farmer? He will have time to compose excellent lectures while following the plow and harrow or when shearing his sheep.
I thank you for your long, good letter. Those who are in a lonely place and far from home know how to appreciate a friendly letter. Remember me to the Doctor and to all my friends and believe me
[Beginning of letter missing.]
I have not before sent these feelings and thoughts to anybody, but I know that I am speaking to one who by long and deep communion with Nature understands them, and can tell me what is true or false and unworthy in my experiences.
The ease with which you have read my mind from hints taken from letters to my child friends gives me confidence to write.
Thank you for the compliment of the great picture-frame. That is at least one invention that I should not have discovered, but the picture is but an insect, an animalcule. I have stood by a majestic pine, witnessing its high branches waving “in sign of worship” or in converse with the spirit of the storms of autumn, till I forgot my very existence, and thought myself unworthy to be made a leaf of such a tree.
What work do you use in the study of the Fungi? and where can I get a copy? I think of your description of these “little children of the vegetable kingdom” whenever I meet any of them. I am busy with the mosses and liverworts, but find difficulty in procuring a suitable lens. Here is a specimen of Climacium Americanum, a common moss here but seldom in fruit. I was sorry to hear of your loss at the University of so valuable a man from such a cause. I hope that the wheels of your institution are again in motion.
I have not yet, I am sorry to say, found “The Stone Mason of Saint Point,” though I have sought for it a great deal. By whom is it published?
Please remember me to my friends. I often wish myself near the Doctor with my difficulties in science. Tell Allie Mr. Muir does not forget him.
Your precious letter with its burden of cheer and good wishes has come to our hollow, and has done for me that work of sympathy and encouragement which I know you kindly wished it to do. It came at a time when much needed, for I am subject to lonesomeness at times. Accept, then, my heartfelt gratitude would that I could make better return!
I am sorry over the loss of Professor Stirling’s letter, for I waited and wearied for it a long time. I have been keeping up an irregular course of study since leaving Madison, but with no great success. I do not believe that study, especially of the Natural Sciences, is incompatible with ordinary attention to business; still I seem to be able to do but one thing at a time. Since undertaking a month or two ago to invent new machinery for our mill, my mind seems to so bury itself in the work that I am fit for but little else; and then a lifetime is so little a time that we die ere we get ready to live. I would like to go to college, but then I have to say to myself, “You will die ere you can do anything else.” I should like to invent useful machinery, but it comes, “You do not wish to spend your lifetime among machines and you will die ere you can do anything else.” I should like to study medicine that I might do my part in helping human misery, but again it comes, “You will die ere you are ready or able to do so.” How intensely I desire to be a Humboldt! but again the chilling answer is reiterated; but could we but live a million of years, then how delightful to spend in perfect contentment so many thousand years in quiet study in college, as many amid the grateful din of machines, as many among human pain, so many thousand in the sweet study of Nature among the dingles and dells of Scotland, and all the other less important parts of our world! Then perhaps might we, with at least a show of reason, “shuffle off this mortal coil” and look back upon our star with something of satisfaction; I should be ashamed—if shame might be in the other world—if any of the powers, virtues, essences, etc., should ask me for common knowledge concerning our world which I could not bestow. But away with this aged structure and we are back to our handful of hasty years half gone, all of course for the best did we but know all of the Creator’s plan concerning us. In our higher state of existence we shall have time and intellect for study. Eternity, with perhaps the whole unlimited creation of God as our field, should satisfy us, and make us patient and trustful, while we pray with the Psalmist, “Teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”
I was struck with your remarks about our real home of stillness and peace. How little does the outer and noisy world in general know of that “real home” and real inner life! Happy indeed they who have a friend to whom they can unmask the workings of their real life, sure of sympathy and forbearance!
I sent for the book which you recommend; I have just been reading a short sketch of the life of the mother of Lamartine.
You say about the humble life of our Saviour and about the trees gathering in the sunshine. These are beautiful things.
What you say respecting the littleness of the number who are called to “the pure and deep communion of the beautiful, all-loving Nature,” is particularly true of the hardworking, harddrinking, stolid Canadians. In vain is the glorious chart of God in Nature spread out for them. So many acres chopped is their motto, as they grub away amid the smoke of the magnificent forest trees, black as demons and material as the soil they move upon. I often think of the Doctor’s lecture upon the condition of the different races of men as controlled by physical agencies. Canada, though abounding in the elements of wealth, is too difficult to subdue to permit the first few generations to arrive at any great intellectual development. In my long rambles last summer I did not find a single person who knew anything of botany and but a few who knew the meaning of the word; and wherein lay the charm that could conduct a man who might as well be gathering mammon so many miles through these fastnesses to suffer hunger and exhaustion was with them never to be discovered. Do not these answer well to the person described by the poet in these lines?
“A primrose by the river’s brim,
A yellow primrose was to him,
And nothing more.”
I thank Dr. Carr for his kind remembrance of me, but still more for the good patience he had with so inept a scholar.
We remember in a peculiar way those who first gave us the story of Redeeming Love from the great book of Revelation, and I shall not forget the Doctor, who first laid before me the great book of Nature, and though I have taken so little from his hand he has at least shown me where those mines of priceless knowledge lie and how to reach them. O how frequently, Mrs. Carr, when lonely and wearied, have I wished that like some hungry worm I could creep into that delightful kernel of your house, your library, with its portraits of scientific men, and so bountiful a store of their sheaves amid the blossom and verdure of your little kingdom of plants, luxuriant and happy as though holding their leaves to the open sky of the most flower-loving zone in the world!
That “sweet day” did as you wished reach our hollow, and another is with us now. The sky has the haze of autumn, and excepting the aspen not a tree has motion. Upon our enclosing wall of verdure new tints appear, the gorgeous dyes of autumn are to be plainly seen, and the forest seems to have found out that again its leaf must fade. Our stream, too, has a less cheerful sound, and as it bears its foam-bells pensively away from the shallow rapids it seems to feel that summer is past.
You propose, Mrs. Carr, an exchange of thoughts, for which I thank you very sincerely. This will be a means of pleasure and improvement which I could not have hoped ever to have been possessed of, but then here is the difficulty; I feel I am altogether incapable of properly conducting a correspondence with one so much above me. We are, indeed, as you say, students in the same life school, but in very different classes. I am but an alpha novice in those sciences which you have studied and loved so long. If, however, you are willing in this to adopt the plan that our Saviour endeavored to beat into the stingy Israelites, viz., to “give, hoping for nothing again,” all will be well; and as long as your letters resemble this one before me, which you have just written, in genus, order, cohort, class, province, or kingdom, be assured that by way of reply you shall at least receive an honest “Thank you.”
Tell Allie that Mr. Muir thanks him for his pretty flowers and would like to see him, also that I have a story for him which I shall tell some other time.
Please remember me to my friends, and now, hoping to receive a letter from you at least semi-occasionally, I remain
You have, of course, heard of my calamity. The sunshine and the winds are working in all the gardens of God, but I—I am lost.
I am shut in darkness. My hard, toil-tempered muscles have disappeared, and I am feeble and tremulous as an ever-sick woman.
Please tell the Butlers that their precious sympathy has reached me. I have read your “Stone Mason” with a great deal of pleasure. I send it with this and will write my thoughts upon it when I can.
My friends here are kind beyond what I can tell and do much to shorten my immense blank days.
I send no apology for so doleful a note because I feel, Mrs. Carr, that you will appreciate my feelings.
Your precious letter of the 15th reached me last night. By accident it was nearly lost.
I cannot tell you, Mrs. Carr, how much I appreciate your sympathy and all of these kind thoughts of cheer and substantial consolation which you have stored for me in this letter.
I am much better than when I wrote you; can now sit up about all day and in a room partly lighted. Your Doctor says, “The aqueous humor may be restored.” How? By nature or by art?
The position of my wound will be seen in this figure.
The eye is pierced just where the cornea meets the sclerotic coating. I do not know the depth of the wound or its exact direction. Sight was completely gone from the injured eye for the first few days, and my physician said it would be ever gone, but I was surprised to find that on the fourth or fifth day I could see a little with it. Sight continued to increase for a few days, but for the last three weeks it has not perceptibly increased or diminished.
I called in a Dr. Parvin lately, said to be a very skillful oculist and of large experience both here and in Europe. He said that he thought the iris permanently injured; that the crystalline lens was not injured; that, of course, my two eyes would not work together; and that on the whole my chances of distinct vision were not good. But the bare possibility of anything like full sight is now my outstanding hope. When the wound was made about one third of a teaspoonful of fluid like the white of an egg flowed out upon my fingers, aqueous fluid, I suppose. The eye has not yet lost its natural appearance.
I can see sufficiently well with it to avoid the furniture, etc., in walking through a room. Can almost, in full light, recognize some of my friends but cannot distinguish one letter from another of common type. I would like to hear Dr. Carr’s opinion of my case.
When I received my blow I could not feel any pain or faintness because the tremendous thought glared full on me that my right eye was lost. I could gladly have died on the spot, because I did not feel that I could have heart to look at any flower again. But this is not so, for I wish to try some cloudy day to walk to the woods, where I am sure some of spring’s sweet fresh-born are waiting.
I believe with you that “nothing is without meaning and purpose that comes from a Father’s hand,” but during these dark weeks I could not feel this, and, as for courage and fortitude, scarce the shadows of these virtues were left me. The shock upon my nervous system made me weak in mind as a child. But enough of woe.
When I can walk to where fruited specimens of Climacium are, I will send you as many as you wish.
I must close. I thank you all again for your kindness. I cannot make sentences that will tell how much I feel indebted to you.
Please remember me to all my friends.
You will write soon. I can read my letters now. Please send them in care of Osgood & Smith.
[Beginning of letter missing.]
I have been groping among the flowers a good deal lately. Our trees are now in leaf, but the leaves, as Mrs. Browning would say, are “scarce long enough for waving.” The dear little conservative spring mosses have elevated their capsules on their smooth shining shafts, and stand side by side in full stature, and full fashion, every ornament and covering carefully numbered and painted and sculptured as were those of their Adams and Eves, every cowl properly plaited, and drawn far enough down, every hood with the proper dainty slant, their fashions never changing because ever best.
Tell Allie that I would be very glad to have him send me an Anemone nemorosa [?] and A. Nuttalliana. They do not grow here. I wish he and Henry could visit me on Saturdays as they used to do.
The poor eye is much better. I could read a letter with it. I believe that sight is increasing. I have nearly an eye and a half left.
I feel, if possible, more anxious to travel than ever.
I read a description of the Yosemite Valley last year and thought of it most every day since. You know my tastes better than any one else. I am, most gratefully,
I am sorry and surprised to hear of the cruel fate of your plants.
I have never seen so happy flowers in any other home. They lived with you so cheerfully and confidingly, and felt so sure of receiving from you sympathy and tenderness in all their sorrows.
How could they grow cold and colder and die without your knowing? They must have called you. Could any bedroom be so remote you could not hear? I am very sorry, Mrs. Carr, for you and them. Can your loss be repaired? Will not other flowers lose confidence in you and live like those of other people, sickly and mute, half in, half out of, the body?
No snow fell here Easter evening, but a few wet flakes are falling here and there to-day. Thank you for sending the prophecy of that loving naturalist of yours. It is indeed a pleasant one, but my faith concerning its complete fulfillment is weak. I do not know who your other doctor is, but I am sure that when in the Yosemite Valley and following the Pacific coast I would obtain a great deal of geology from Dr. Carr, and from yourself and that I should win the secret of many a weed’s plain heart.
I am overestimated by your friend. He places me in company far too honorable, but if we meet in the fields of the sunny South I shall certainly speak to him.
Tell him, Mrs. Carr, in your next how thankful I am for his sympathy. He is one who can sympathize in full. I feel sorry for his like misfortune and am indebted to him through you for so many good and noble thoughts.
A little messenger met me with your letter of April 8th when I was on my way to the woods for the first time. I read it upon a moss-clad fallen tree. You only of my friends congratulated me on my happiness in having avoided the misery and mud of March, but for the serious part of your letter, the kind of life which our plant friends have, and their relation to us, I do not know what to think of it. I must write of this some other time.
In this first walk I found Erigenia, which here is ever first, and sweet little violets, and Sanguinaria, and Isopyrum too, and Thalictrum anemonoides were almost ready to venture their faces to the sky. The red maple was in full flower glory; the leaves below and the mosses were bright with its fallen scarlet blossoms. And the elm too was in flower and the earliest willows. All this when your fields had scarce the memory of a flower left in them.
I will not try to tell you how much I enjoyed in this walk after four weeks in bed. You can feel it.
I have been looking over your letters and am sorry that so many of them are unanswered. My debt to you has been increasing very rapidly of late, and I don’t think it can ever be paid.
I am not well enough to work, and I cannot sit still; I have been reading and botanizing for some weeks, and I find that for such work I am very much disabled. I leave this city for home to-morrow accompanied by Merrill Moores, a little friend of mine eleven years of age. We will go to Decatur, Ill., thence northward through the wide prairies, botanizing a few weeks by the way. We hope to spend a few days in Madison, and I promise myself a great deal of pleasure.
I hope to go South towards the end of summer, and as this will be a journey that I know very little about, I hope to profit by your counsel before setting out.
I am very happy with the thought of so soon seeing my Madison friends, and Madison, and the plants of Madison, and yours.
I am thankful that this affliction has drawn me to the sweet fields rather than from them.
Give my love to Allie and Henry and all my friends.
My address for five or six weeks from this date will be Portage City, Wis.
I am now with the loved of home. I received your kind letter on my arrival in Portage four weeks ago. I have delayed writing that I might be able to state when I could be in Madison. I have never seen Arethusa nor Aspidium fragrans, but I know many a meadow where Calopogon finds home. With us it is now in the plenitude of glory. Camptosorus is not here, but I can easily procure you a specimen from the rocks of Owen Sound, Canada. It is there very abundant, so also is Scolopendrium. Have you a living specimen of this last fern? Please tell me particularly about the sending or bringing Calopogon or any other of our plants you wish for. I have no skill whatever in the matter.
I am enjoying myself exceedingly. The dear flowers of Wisconsin are incomparably more numerous than those of Canada or Indiana. With what fervid, unspeakable joy did I welcome those flowers that I have loved so long! Hundreds grow in the full light of our opening that I have not seen since leaving home. In company with my little friend I visited Muir’s Lake. We approached it by a ravine in the principal hills that belong to it. We emerged from the low leafy oaks, and it came in full view all unchanged, sparkling and clear, with its edging of rushes and lilies. And there, too, was the meadow, with its brook and willows, and all the well-known nooks of its winding border where many a moss and fern find home. I held these poor eyes to the dear scene and it reached me once more in its fullest glory.
We visited my millpond, a very Lilliputian affair upon a branch creek from springs in the meadow. After leaving the dam my stream flows underground a few yards. The opening of this dark way is extremely beautiful. I wish you could see it. It is hung with a slender meadow sedge whose flowing tapered leaves have just sufficient stiffness to make them arch with inimitable beauty as they reach down to welcome the water to the light. This, I think, is one of Nature’s finest pieces most delicately finished and composed of just this quiet flowing water, sedge, and summer light.
I wish you could see the ferns of this neighborhood. We have some of the finest assemblies imaginable. There is a little grassy lakelet about half a mile from here, shaded and sheltered by a dense growth of small oaks. Just where those oaks meet the marginal sedges of the lake is a circle of ferns, a perfect brotherhood of the three osmundas,—regalis, Claytoniana, and Cinnamomea. Of the three, Claytoniana is the most stately and luxuriant. I never saw such lordly, magnificent clumps before. Their average height is not less than 3 ½ or 4 feet. I measured several fronds that exceeded 5,—one, 5 feet 9 inches. Their palace home gave no evidence of having ever been trampled upon. I do wish you could meet them. This is my favorite fern. I’m sorry it does not grow in Scotland. Had Hugh Miller seen it there, he would not have called regalis the prince of Balich ferns. I think that I have seen specimens of the ostrich fern in some places of Canada which might rival my Osmunda in height, but not in beauty and sublimity.
I was anxious to see Illinois prairies on my way home; so we went to Decatur, or near the centre of the State, thence north by Rockford and Janesville. I botanized one week on the prairie about seven miles southwest of Pecatonica. I gathered the most beautiful bouquet there that I ever saw. I seldom make bouquets. I never saw but very few that I thought were at all beautiful. I was anxious to know the grasses and sedges of the Illinois prairies and also their comparative abundance; so I walked one hundred yards in a straight line, gathering at each step that grass or sedge nearest my foot, placing them one by one in my left hand as I walked along, without looking at them or entertaining the remotest idea of making a bouquet. At the end of this measured walk my handful, of course, consisted of one hundred plants arranged in Nature’s own way as regards kind, comparative numbers, and size. I looked at my grass bouquet by chance—was startled held it at arms length in sight of its own near and distant scenery and companion flowers—my discovery was complete and I was delighted beyond measure with the new and extreme beauty. Here it is:—
Of Koeleria cristata 55 “ Agrostis scabra 29 “ Panicum clandestinum 7 “ ” depauperatum 1 “ Stipa spartea 7 “ Poa alsodes 7 “ ” pratensis 1 “ Carex panicea 4 “ ” Novae-Angliae 1
The extremely fine and diffuse purple Agrostis contrasted most divinely with the taller, strict, taper-finished Koeleria. The long-awned single Stipa too and P. clandestinum, with their broad ovate leaves and purple muffy pistils, played an important part; so also did the cylindrical spikes of the sedges. All were just in place; every leaf had its proper taper and texture and exact measure of green. Only P. pratensis seemed out of place, and as might be expected it proved to be an intruder, belonging to a field or bouquet in Europe. Can it be that a single flower or weed or grass in all these prairies occupies a chance position? Can it be that the folding or curvature of a single leaf is wrong or undetermined in these gardens that God is keeping?
The most microscopic portions of plants are beautiful in themselves, and these are beautiful combined into individuals, and undoubtedly all are woven with equal care into one harmonious, beautiful whole.
I have the analysis of two other handfuls of prairie plants which I will show you another time.
We hope to be in Madison in about three weeks.
To me all plants are more precious than before. My poor eye is not better or worse. A cloud is over it, but in gazing over the widest landscapes I am not always sensible of its presence.
My love to Allie and Henry Butler and all my friends, please tell the Butlers when we are coming. Their invitation is prior to yours, but your houses are not widely separated. I mean to write again before leaving home. You will then have all my news and I will have only to listen.
We are safely in Indianapolis. I am not going to write a letter, I only want to thank you and the Doctor and all of the boys for the enjoyments of the pleasant botanical week we spent with you.
We saw, as the steam hurried us on, that the grand harvest of Compositae would be no failure this year. It is rapidly receiving its purple and gold in generous measure from the precious light of these days.
I could not but notice how well appearances in the vicinity of Chicago agreed with Lesquereux’s theory of the formation of prairies. We spent about five hours in Chicago. I did not find many flowers in her tumultuous streets; only a few grassy plants of wheat and two or three species of weeds,—amaranth, purslane, carpet-weed, etc.,—the weeds, I suppose, for man to walk upon, the wheat to feed him. I saw some new alga, but no mosses. I expected to see some of the latter on wet walls and in seams in the pavement, but I suppose that the manufacturers’ smoke and the terrible noise is too great for the hardiest of them.
I wish I knew where I was going. Doomed to be “carried of the spirit into the wilderness,” I suppose. I wish I could be more moderate in my desires, but I cannot, and so there is no rest. Is not your experience the same as this?
I feel myself deeply indebted to you all for your great and varied kindness, not any the less if from stupidity and sleepiness I forgot on leaving to express it.
I left Indianapolis last Monday and have reached this point by a long, weary, roundabout walk. I walked from Louisville a distance of 170 miles, and my feet are sore, but I am paid for all my toil a thousand times over. The sun has been among the treetops for more than an hour, and the dew is nearly all taken back, and the shade in these hill basins is creeping away into the unbroken strongholds of the grand old forests.
I have enjoyed the trees and scenery of Kentucky exceedingly. How shall I ever tell of the miles and miles of beauty that have been flowing into me in such measure? These lofty curving ranks of bobbing, swelling hills, these concealed valleys of fathomless verdure, and these lordly trees with the nursing sunlight glancing in their leaves upon the outlines of the magnificent masses of shade embosomed among their wide branches,—these are cut into my memory to go with me forever.
I often thought as I went along how dearly Mrs. Carr would appreciate all this. I have thought of many things I wished to ask you about when with you. I hope to see you all again some time when my tongue and memory are in better order. I have much to ask the Doctor about the geology of Kentucky.
I have seen many caves, Mammoth among the rest. I found two [ ] ferns at the last. My love to Allie and all.
I am in the woods on a hilltop with my back against a moss-clad log. I wish you could see my last evening’s bedroom.
My route will be through Kingston and Madisonville, Tenn., and through Blairsville and Gainesville, Georgia. Please write me at Gainesville. I am terribly hungry. I hardly dare to think of home and friends.
I was a few miles south of Louisville when I planned my journey. I spread out my map under a tree and made up my mind to go through Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia to Florida, thence to Cuba, thence to some part of South America, but it will be only a hasty walk. I am thankful, however, for so much.
I will be glad to receive any advice from you. I am very ignorant of all things pertaining to this journey.
I am just creeping about getting plants and strength after my fever. I wrote you a long time ago, but retained the letter, hoping to be able soon to tell you where you might write. Your letter arrived in Gainesville just a few minutes before I did. Somehow your letters always come when most needed. I felt and enjoyed what you said of souls and solitudes, also that “All of Nature being yet found in man.” I shall long for a letter from you. Will you please write me a long letter? Perhaps it will be safer to send it to New Orleans, La. I shall have to go there for a boat to South America. I do not yet know which point in South America I had better go to. What do you say? My means being limited, I cannot stay long anywhere. I would gladly do anything I could for Mr. Warren, but I fear my time will be too short to effect much.
I did not see Miss Brooks, because I found she was 130 miles from Savannah. I passed the Bostwich plantation and could not conveniently go back. I am very sorry about the mistake.
I have written little, but you will excuse me. I am wearied. My most cordial love to all.
I have had the pleasure of but one letter since leaving home from you. That I received at Gainesville, Georgia.
I have not received a letter from any source since leaving Florida, and of course I am very lonesome and hunger terribly for the communion of friends. I will remain here eight or nine months and hope to hear from all my friends.
Fate and flowers have carried me to California, and I have reveled and luxuriated amid its plants and mountains nearly four months. I am well again, I came to life in the cool winds and crystal waters of the mountains, and, were it not for a thought now and then of loneliness and isolation, the pleasure of my existence would be complete.
I have forgotten whether I wrote you from Cuba or not. I spent four happy weeks there in January and February.
I saw only a very little of the grandeur of Panama, for my health was still in wreck, and I did not venture to wait the arrival of another steamer. I had but half a day to collect specimens. The Isthmus train rushed on with camel speed through the gorgeous Eden of vines and palms, and I could only gaze from the car platform and weep and pray that the Lord would some day give me strength to see it better.
After a delightful sail among the scenery of the sea I arrived in San Francisco in April and struck out at once into the country. I followed the Diablo foothills along the San José Valley to Gilroy, thence over the Diablo Mountains to valley of San Joaquin by the Pacific pass, thence down the valley opposite the mouth of the Merced River, thence across the San Joaquin, and up into the Sierra Nevada to the mammoth trees of Mariposa and the glorious Yosemite, thence down the Merced to this place.
The goodness of the weather as I journeyed towards Pacheco was beyond all praise and description, fragrant end mellow and bright. The air was perfectly delicious, sweet enough for the breath of angels; every draught of it gave a separate and distinct piece of pleasure. I do not believe that Adam and Eve ever tasted better in their balmiest nook.
The last of the Coast Range foothills were in near view all the way to Gilroy. Their union with the valley is by curves and slopes of inimitable beauty, and they were robed with the greenest grass and richest light I ever beheld, and colored and shaded with millions of flowers of every hue, chiefly of purple and golden yellow; and hundreds of crystal rills joined songs with the larks, filling all the valley with music like a sea, making it an Eden from end to end.
The scenery, too, and all of Nature in the pass is fairly enchanting, strange and beautiful mountain ferns, low in the dark cañons and high upon the rocky, sunlit peaks, banks of blooming shrubs, and sprinklings and gatherings of [ ] flowers, precious and pure as ever enjoyed the sweets of a mountain home. And oh, what streams are there! beaming, glancing, each with music of its own, singing as they go in the shadow and light, onward upon their lovely changing pathways to the sea; and hills rise over hills, and mountains over mountains, heaving, waving, swelling, in most glorious, overpowering, unreadable majesty; and when at last, stricken with faint like a crushed insect, you hope to escape from all the terrible grandeur of these mountain powers, other fountains, other oceans break forth before you, for there, in clear view, over heaps and rows of foot hills is laid a grand, smooth outspread plain, watered by a river, and another range of peaky snow-capped mountains a hundred miles in the distance. That plain is the valley of the San Joaquin, and those mountains are the great Sierra Nevadas. The valley of the San Joaquin is the floweriest piece of world I ever walked, one vast level, even flower-bed, a sheet of flowers, a smooth sea ruffled a little by the tree fringing of the river and here and there of smaller cross streams from the mountains. Florida is indeed a land of flowers, but for every flower creature that dwells in its most delightsome places more than a hundred are living here. Here, here is Florida. Here they are not sprinkled apart with grass between, as in our prairies, but grasses are sprinkled in the flowers; not, as in Cuba, flowers piled upon flowers heaped and gathered into deep, glowing masses, but side by side, flower to flower, petal to petal, touching but not entwined, branches weaving past and past each other, but free and separate, one smooth garment, mosses next the ground, grasses above, petaled flowers between.
Before studying the flowers of this valley, and their sky and all of the furniture and sounds and adornments of their home, one can scarce believe that their vast assemblies are permanent, but rather that, actuated by some plant purpose, they had convened from every plain, and mountain, and meadow of their kingdom, and that the different coloring of patches, acres, and miles marked the bounds of the various tribe and family encampments. And now just stop and see what I gathered from a square yard opposite the Merced. I have no books and cannot give specific names:—
Orders Open flowers Species Compositae 132,125 2 yellow, 3305 heads Leguminosae 2620 2 purple and white Scrophulariaceae 169 1 purple Umbellaccae 620 1 yellow Geraniaceae 22 1 purple Rubiaceae 40 1 white 85 Natural order unknown 60 Plants unflowered Polemoniacae 407 2 purple Gramineae 29,830 3; stems about700; spikelets 10,700 Musci 10,000,000 2 purples, Dicranum, Tunar
Total of open flowers, 165,912 “ “ flowers in bud, 100,000 “ “ withered, 40,000 “ “ natural orders, 9-11 “ “ species, 16-17
The yellow of these Compositae is extremely deep and rich and bossy, as though the sun had filled their petals with a portion of his very self. It exceeds the purple of all the others in superficial quantity forty or fifty times their whole amount, but to an observer who first looks downward and then takes a more distant view, the yellow gradually fades and purple predominates because nearly all of the purple flowers are higher. In depth the purple stratum is about ten or twelve inches, the yellow seven or eight, and second purple of mosses one.
I’m sorry my page is done. I have not told anything. I thought of you, Mrs. Carr, when I was in the glorious Yosemite and of the prophecy of “the Priests,” that you would see it and worship there with your Doctor and Priest and I. It is by far the grandest of all of the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter. It must be the sanctum sanctorum of the Sierras, and I trust that you will all be led to it.
Remember me to the Doctor. I hope he has the pleasure of sowing in good and honest hearts the glorious truth of science to which he has devoted his life. Give my love to all your boys and my little Butler.
I was extremely glad to receive yet one more of your ever welcome letters. It found me two weeks ago. I rode over to Hopeton to seek for letters. I had to pass through a bed of Compositae two or three miles in diameter. They were in the glow of full prime, forming a lake of the purest Compositae gold I ever beheld. Some single plants had upwards of three thousand heads. Their petal-surface exceeded their leaf-surface thirty or forty times. Because of the constancy of the winds all these flowers faced in one direction (southeast), and I thought, as I gazed upon myriads of joyous plant beings clothed in rosy golden light, What would old Linnaeus or Mrs. Carr say to this?
I was sorry to think of the loss of your letters, but it is just what might be expected from the wretched mail arrangements of the South.
I am not surprised to hear of your leaving Madison and am anxious to know where your lot will be cast. If you go to South America soon, I shall hope to meet you, and if you should decide to seek the shores of the Pacific in California before the end of the year, I shall find you and be glad to make another visit to the Yosemite with your Doctor and Priest, according to the old plan. I know the way up the rocks to the falls, and I know too the abode of many a precious mountain fern. I gathered plenty for you, but you must see them at home. Not an angel could tell a tithe of these glories. If you make your home in California, I know from experience how keenly you will feel the absence of the special flowers you love. No others can fill their places; Heaven itself would not answer without Calypso and Linnaea.
I think that you will find in California just what you desire in climate and scenery, for both are so varied. March is the springtime of the plains, April the summer, and May the autumn. The other months are dry and wet winter, uniting with each other, and with the other seasons by splices and overlappings of very simple and very intricate kinds. I rode across the seasons in going to the Yosemite last spring. I started from the Joaquin in the last week of May. All the plain flowers, so lately fresh in the power of full beauty, were dead. Their parched leaves crisped and fell to powder beneath my feet, as though they had been “cast into the oven.” And they had not, like the plants of our West, weeks and months to grow old in, but they died ere they could fade, standing together holding out their branches erect and green as life. But they did not die too soon; they lived a whole life and stored away abundance of future life-principle in the seed.
After riding for two days in this autumn I found summer again in the higher foothills. Flower petals were spread confidingly open, the grasses waved their branches all bright and gay in the colors of healthy prime, and the winds and streams were cool. Forty or fifty miles further into the mountains, I came to spring. The leaves on the oak were small and drooping, and they still retained their first tintings of crimson and purple, and the wrinkles of their bud folds were distinct as if newly opened, and all along the rims of cool brooks and mild sloping places thousands of gentle mountain flowers were tasting life for the first time.
A few miles farther “onward and upward” I found the edge of winter. Scarce a grass could be seen. The last of the lilies and spring violets were left below; the winter scales were still shut upon the buds of the dwarf oaks and alders; the grand Nevada pines waved solemnly to cold, loud winds among rushing, changing stormclouds. Soon my horse was plunging in snow ten feet in depth, the sky became darker and more terrible, many-voiced mountain winds swept the pines, speaking the dread language of the cold north, snow began to fall, and in less than a week from the burning plains of the San Joaquin autumn was lost in the blinding snows of mountain winter.
Descending these higher mountains towards the Yosemite, the snow gradually disappeared from the pines and the sky, tender leaves unfolded less and less doubtfully, lilies and violets appeared again, and I once more found spring in the grand valley. Thus meet and blend the seasons of these mountains and plains, beautiful in their joinings as those of lake and land or of the bands of the rainbow. The room is full of talking men; I cannot write, and I only attempt to scrawl this note to thank you for all the good news and good thoughts and friendly wishes and remembrances you send.
My kindest wishes to the Doctor. I am sure you will be directed by Providence to the place where you will best serve the end of existence. My love to all your family.
Your two California notes from San Francisco and San Mateo reached me last evening, and I rejoice at the glad tidings they bring of your arrival in this magnificent land. I have thought of you hundreds of times in my seasons of deepest joy, amid the flower purple and gold of the plains, the fern fields in gorge and cañon, the sacred waters, tree columns, and the eternal unnameable sublimities of the mountains. Of all my friends you are the only one that understands my motives and enjoyments. Only a few weeks ago a true and liberal-minded friend sent me a large sheetful of terrible blue-steel orthodoxy, calling me from clouds and flowers to the practical walks of politics and philanthropy. Mrs. Carr, thought I, never lectured thus. I am glad, indeed, that you are here to read for yourself these glorious lessons of sky and plain and mountain, which no mortal power can ever speak. I thought when in the Yosemite Valley last spring that the Lord had written things there that you would be allowed to read some time.
I have not made a single friend in California, and you may be sure I strode home last evening from the post office feeling rich indeed. As soon as I hear of your finding a home, I shall begin a plan of visiting you. I have frequently seen favorable reports upon the silk-culture in California. The climate of Los Angeles is said to be as well tempered for the peculiar requirements of the business as any in the world. I think that you have brought your boys to the right field for planting. I doubt if in all the world man’s comforts and necessities can be more easily and abundantly supplied than in California. I have often wished the Doctor near me in my rambles among the rocks. Pure science is a most unmarketable commodity in California. Conspicuous, energetic, unmixed materialism rules supreme in all classes. Prof. Whitney, as you are aware, was accused of heresy while conducting the State survey, because in his reports he devoted some space to fossils and other equally dead and un-Californian objects instead of columns of discovered and measured mines.
I am engaged at present in the very important and patriarchal business of sheep. I am a gentle shepherd. The gray box in which I reside is distant about seven miles northwest from Hopeton, two miles north of Snellings. The Merced pours past me on the south from the Yosemite; smooth, domey hills and the tree fringe of the Tuolumne bound me on the north; the lordly Sierras join sky and plain on the east; and the far coast mountains on the west. My mutton family of eighteen hundred range over about ten square miles, and I have abundant opportunities for reading and botanizing. I shall be here for about two weeks, then I shall be engaged in shearing sheep between the Tuolumne and Stanislaus from the San Joaquin to the Sierra foothills for about two months. I will be in California until next November, when I mean to start for South America.
I received your Castleton letter and wrote you in November. I suppose you left Vermont before my letter had time to reach you. You must prepare for your Yosemite baptism in June.
Here is a sweet little flower that I have just found among the rocks of the brook that waters Twenty-Hill Hollow. Its anthers are curiously united in pairs and form stars upon its breast. The calyx seems to have been judged too plain and green to accompany the splendid corolla, and so is left behind among the leaves. I first met this plant among the Sierra Nevadas. There are five or six species. For beauty and simplicity they might be allowed to dwell within sight of Calypso. There are about twenty plants in flower in the gardens of my daily walks. The first was born in January. I give them more attention than I give the dirty mongrel creatures of my flock, that are about half made by God and half by man. I have not yet discovered the poetical part of a shepherd’s duties.
Spring will soon arrive to the plants of Madison, and surely they will miss you. In Yosemite you will find cassiopes and laurels and azaleas, and luxuriant mosses and ferns, but I know that even these can never take the place of the long-loved ones of your Vermont hills.
Forgive me this long writing. I know that you are in a fever of joy from the beauty pouring upon you; nevertheless you seem so near I can hardly stop.
My most cordial regards to the Doctor. Californians do not deserve such as he.
A lawyer by the name of Wigonton or Wigleton, a graduate of Madison, resides in Snellings. I suppose you know him.
I enclose at last the name of the big orange book. Either Paqot & Co. or Grégoire & Co. will import it for Mr. Carr at the price he named,—for less if intended for the library.
I thought you would have been to make at least one of your small businesslike calls to see me ere this, but I suppose the office and conventions and your farm leave you precious little time. Your days all go by in little beats and bits, while you move so fast you are nearly invisible.
Had a moment’s talk with the Doctor. Am glad he is looking so much like himself again. The summer is coming. Don’t know how it will be spent.
Did you hear the Butlers the other day? Glassy leaves tilted at all angles.
The thoughts of again meeting with you and with the mountains make me scarce able to hold my pen. If you can let me know by the first of June when you will leave Stockton, I will meet you in the very valley itself. When the grass of the plains is dead, most owners of sheep drive their flocks to the pastures green of the mountains, and as my soul is athirst for mountain things, I have engaged to take charge of a flock all summer between the head waters of the Tuolumne and Yosemite, within a few hours’ walk of the valley. For the next two weeks I will be at Hopeton. Some time in the first week of June, I will start from this place (Patrick Delaney’s ranch) for the mountains. By the middle of June or a little later we will have our flock settled in the new home, and, having made special arrangements for a two weeks’ ramble with you, I will then be ready and free. Any time, say between the 20th of June and the 15th of July, will suit me. I intended to enjoy another baptism in the sanctuaries of Yosemite, whether with companions of like passions or alone. Surely, then, my cup will be full when blessed with such company.
Last May I made the trip on horseback, going by Coulterville and returning by Mariposa. A passable carriage-road reached about twelve miles beyond Coulterville; the rest of the distance to the valley was crossed only by a narrow trail. On the Mariposa route a point is reached twelve or fourteen miles beyond Mariposa by carriages; the rest of the journey, about forty miles, must be made on horseback. Tourists are generally advised to go one way and return the other, that as much as possible may be seen, but I think that more is seen by going and returning by the same route, because all of the magnitudes of the mountains are so great that unless seen and submitted to a good long time they are not seen or felt at all.
I think that you had better take the Mariposa route, for the grandest grove of sequoias ever discovered is upon it, and it is much the best route in many respects. You can reach Mariposa direct from Stockton by stage. At Mariposa you can procure saddle-horses and all necessary supplies, provisions, cooking utensils, etc. Provisions can also be obtained at “Clark’s” and in the valley. Clark’s Hotel is midway between the valley and Mariposa. It would be far more pleasant to camp out to alight like birds in beautiful groves of your own choosing than to travel by rule and make forced marches to fixed points of common resort and common confusion.
You will require a light tent made of cotton sheeting, also a strong dress and strong pair of shoes for rock service. You will, of course, bring a good supply of paper for plants. I suppose, too, that you will all bring a supply of drawing-material, but I hardly think that drawing will be done. People admitted to heaven would most likely “wonder and adore” for at least two weeks before sketching its scenery, and I don’t think that you will sketch Yosemite any sooner.
Here is, I think, a fair estimate of the cost of the round trip from Stockton, allowing, say, ten days from time of departure from Mariposa till arrival at same point. Stage fare and way expenses to and from Mariposa, say $40.00; saddle horse, $20.00; provisions, cooking utensils, etc., $15.00; total, direct expense for one person, $75.00. Each additional day spent in the valley would cost about $3.00. If you and all the members of your company are good riders, and there are among you one or two men practical travelers, end you could purchase, or hire, horses at a reasonable rate in San José or Gilroy, you could cross the Coast Range via the Pacheco Pass or Livermore Valley, thence direct to the Yosemite across the Joaquin and up the Merced, passing through Hopeton and Snellings. This kind of a trip would be less costly, and you would enjoy it, but unless your company was all composed of the same kind of material it would not answer.
I hope the Doctor will come too. I want to see him and ask him a great many questions.
There is a kind of hotel in the valley, but it is incomparably better to choose your own camp among the rocks and waterfalls. The time of highest water in the valley varies very much in different seasons. Last year it was highest about the end of June. I think, perhaps, the falls would be seen to as good advantage towards the end of June as at another time, and at any rate there will be a thousand times more of grandeur than any person can absorb.
Here, then, in a word is the plan which I propose: That you take the stage at Stockton for Mariposa. At Mariposa you procure saddle-horses and one pack-animal for your tent, blankets, provisions, etc., (a guide will be furnished by the keeper of the livery-stable to take charge of the horses,) and that I meet you in the valley, which I can do without difficulty provided you send me word by the first of June what day you will set out from Stockton. Address to Hopeton.
When you arrive in the valley, please register your name at Mr. Hutchings’ hotel. I will do the same. If you should wish to reach me by letter after I have started with the sheep to the mountains, you may perhaps do so by addressing to Coulterville.
When you write, state whether you will visit the big trees on your way to the valley or whether you will do so on your return.
I bid you good-bye, thanking the Lord for the hope of seeing you and for his goodness to you in turning your face towards his most holy mansion of the mountains.
I forgot to state in my last concerning the Yosemite that I did not receive yours until many days after its arrival, as I was shearing sheep a considerable distance from here in the foothills, and the postmaster, knowing where I was, could not forward it; but I will remain here until the 1st of June, or possibly a few days later, and will receive any letters arriving for me at once either in Snelling or Hopeton.
The grove of sequoias is only six miles from the Yosemite trail, about midway between Mariposa and the valley. The trail leading through the groves leaves the Yosemite trail at Mr. Clark’s, where you can obtain all necessary directions, etc. It is not many years since this grove was discovered. The sequoias so often described and so well known throughout the world belong to the Calaveras grove. The Mariposa grove has a much larger number of trees than the Calaveras, and it is in all the majesty and grandeur of nature undisturbed.
You will likely make the journey from Mariposa to the valley in two days. No member of your company need be afraid of this mountain ride, as you will be provided with sure-footed horses accustomed to the journey and an experienced guide.
Most persons visiting the sequoia grove spend only a few hours in it and depart without seeing a single tree, for the chiefest glories of these mountain kings are wholly invisible to hasty or careless observers. I hope you may be able to spend a good long time in worship amid the glorious columns of this mountain temple. I fancy they are aware of your coming and are waiting. I fondly hope that nothing will occur to prevent your coming. I will endeavor to reach the valley a day or so before you. The night air of the mountains is very cold. You will require plenty of warm blankets.
I am sorry that the Doctor has been so suddenly smothered up in business. If he and the priest were in the company according to the prophecy our joy would be full.
I am in a perfect tingle with the memories of a year ago and with anticipation glowing bright with all that I love.
I received your letter containing “The Song of Nature” by Emerson and derived a great deal of pleasure from it.
I need not try to tell you how sorely I am pained by this bitter disappointment. Your Mariposa note of June 22 did not reach Black’s until July ad, and I did not receive it until the 6th.
I met a shepherd a few miles from here yesterday who told me that a letter from Yosemite for me was at Harding’s Mills. I have not yet received it. No dependence can be placed upon the motions of letters in the mountains, and I feared this result on my not receiving anything definite concerning your time of leaving Stockton before I left the plains. I wish now that I had not been entangled with sheep at all but that I had remained among post-offices and joined your party at Snellings.
Thus far all of my deepest, purest enjoyments have been taken in solitude, and the fate seems hard that has hindered me from sharing Yosemite with you.
We are camped this evening among a bundle of the Merced’s crystal arteries, which have just gone far enough from their silent fountain to be full of lakelets and lilies [?], and the bleating of our flock can neither confuse nor hush the thousand notes of their celestial song. The sun has set, and these glorious shafts of the spruce and pine shoot higher and higher as the darkness comes on. I must say good night while bonds of Nature’s sweetest influences are about me in these sacred mountain halls, and I know that every chord of your being has throbbed and tingled with the same mysterious powers when you were here. Farewell. I am glad to know that you have been allowed to bathe your existence in God’s glorious Sierra Nevadas and sorry that I could not meet you.
We are camped this afternoon upon the bank of the stream that falls into the valley opposite Hutchings’ hotel (Yosemite Falls). We are perhaps three miles from the valley.
This Yosemite stream is flowing rapidly here in a small flowery meadow, not meandering tilde a meadow stream but going straight on with ripples and rapids. It derives its waters from a basin corresponding in every respect with its own sublimity and loneliness.
July 17th. We are now camped in a splendid grove of spruce only one mile from the Yosemite wall. The stream that goes spraying past us in the rocks reaches the valley by that cañon between the Yosemite Falls and the North Dome. I left my companions in charge of the sheep for the last three days and have had a most heavenly piece of life among the domes and falls and rocks of the north side and upper end of the valley.
Yesterday I found the stream that flows through Crystal Lake past the South Dome and followed it three miles among cascades and rapids to the dome. Were you at the top or bottom of the upper Yosemite Falls? Were you at the top of the Nevada Falls? Were you in that Adiantum cave by the Vernal Falls? Have you had any view of the valley excepting from the Mariposa Trail? How long were you in Sequoia Grove? We will, perhaps, be here about two weeks; then we will go to the “big meadows” twelve miles towards the summit, where we will remain until we start for the plains some time near the end of September. The kind of meeting you have had with Yosemite answers well enough for most people, but it will not do for you. When will you return to the mountains?
I had a letter from Professor Butler a short time ago, saying that he would probably visit California this month in company with a man of war.
Remember me to the Doctor and to Allie and Ned. Please send me a letter by the middle of September to Snellings. I have no hope of hearing from you after we start for the Big Meadows.
My summer in the third heaven of the Sierras is past. I am again in the smooth open world of plains. I received three of your eight notes, which for mountain correspondence is about as might be expected. I learned by a San Francisco newspaper that Dr. Carr had accepted a professorship in the University, and Prof. Butler told me about a month ago that he had gone to Madison to fetch his cabinet, etc. Therefore I know that you are making a fixed home and that you will yet see the mountains and the Joaquin plains. We were camped within a mile or two of the Yosemite north wall for three weeks. I used to go to the North Dome or Yosemite Falls most every day to sketch and listen to the waters. One day I went down into the valley by the cañon opposite Hutchings and found Prof. Butler near the bridge between the Vernal and Nevada falls. He was in company with Gen. Alvord. He was in the valley only a few hours, his time being controlled by the General’s military clock, and I am pretty sure that he saw just about nothing.
I am glad that the world does not miss me and that all of my days with the Lord and his works are uncounted and unmeasured. I found the guide who was with you. He said that you wished me to gather some cones for you. I hope to see you soon in San Francisco and will fetch you specimens of those which grow higher than you have been. I am sorry that you were so short a time in the valley, but you will go again and remain a month or two. I would like to spend a winter there to see the storms. We spent most of the summer on the south fork of the Tuolumne near Castle and Cathedral peaks, and oh, how unspeakable the glories of these higher mountains. You have not yet caught a glimpse of the Sierra Nevadas. You must go to Mono by the Bloody Cañon pass. I will not try to write the grandeur I have seen all summer but I will copy you the notes of one day from my journal.
“Sept. 2nd. Amount of cloudiness.08. Sky red evening and morning, not usual crimson glow but separate clouds colored and anchored in dense massive mountain forms. One red, bluffy cap is placed upon Castle Peak and its companion to the south, but the smooth cone tower of the castle is seen peering out over the top. Tiger Peak has a cloud cap also of the grandest proportion and colors, and the extensive field of clustered towers and peaks and domes where is stored the treasures of snow be longing to the Merced and Tuolumne and Joaquin is embosomed in bossy clouds of white. The grand Sierra Cathedral is overshadowed like Sinai. Never before beheld such divine mingling of cloud and mountain. Had a delightful walk upon the north wall. Ascended by a deep narrow passage cut in the granite. Its borders are splendidly decorated with ferns and blooming shrubs. The most delicate of plantlets in the gush and ardor of full bloom in places called desolate and gloomy, where the dwarfed and crumpled pines are felled with hail and rocks and wintry snows; but as frail flowers of human kind are protected by the hand of God, blooming joyfully through a long beautiful life in places and times that are strewn with the wrecks of the powerful and the great, so in these far mountains, where are the treasures of snow and storms, live in safety and innocence these sweet, tender children of the plants. Had looked long and well for Cassiope, but in all my long excursions failed to find its dwelling-places and began to fear that we would never meet, but had presentiment of finding it today, and as I passed a rock-shelf after reaching the great gathered heaps of everlasting snow, something seemed to whisper ‘Cassiope, Cassiope.’ That name was ‘driver in upon me,’ as Calvinists say, and, looking around, behold the long-looked-for mountain child!”
Farewell! I do not care to write much because you seem so near. I hope that you will all be very happy in your new home and not feel too sorely the separation from the loved places and people of Wisconsin.
Remember me to the Doctor and to all of your boys.
I am most cordially,
Dear friends Mrs. And Dr. Carr:—
I thank you most heartily for the very kind invitation you send me. I could enjoy a blink of rest in your new home with a relish that only those can know who have suffered solitary banishment for so many years, but I must return to the mountains, to Yosemite. I am told that the winter storms there will not be easily borne, but I am bewitched, enchanted, and to-morrow I must start for the great temple to listen to the winter songs and sermons preached and sung only there.
The plains here are green already and the upper mountains have the pearly whiteness of their first snows.
Farewell. I will bring you some cones in the spring. I hope that you enjoy your labor in your new sphere.
My love to all your family, and I am
I am feasting in the Lord’s mountain house, and what pen may write my blessings? I am going to dwell here all winter magnificently “Snowbound"? Just think of the grandeur of the mountain winter in the Yosemite! Would that you could enjoy it also!
I read your word in pencil upon the bridge below the Nevada, and I thank you for it most devoutly. No one or all the Lord’s blessings can enable me to exist without a friend indeed.
There is no snow in the valley. The ground is covered with the brown and yellow leaves of the oak and maple, and their crisping and rustling makes one think of the groves of Madison. I have been wandering about among the falls and rapids, studying the grand instruments of slopes and curves and echoing caves upon which those divine harmonies are played. Only a thin flossy veil sways and bends over Yosemite now, and Pohono is a web of waving mist. New songs are sung, forming parts of the one grand anthem composed and written “in the beginning.”
Most of the flowers are dead. Only a few are blooming in summer nooks on the north side rocks. You remember that delightful fernery by the ladders. Well, I discovered a garden meeting of adiantum far more delicate and luxuriant than those of the ladders. They are in a cover or coverlet between the upper and lower Yosemite Falls. They are the most delicate and graceful plant creatures I ever beheld, waving themselves in lines of the most refined of heaven’s beauty to the music of the water. The motion of purple dulses in pools left by the tide on the sea-coast of Scotland was the only memory that was stirred by these spiritual ferns. You speak of dying and going to the woods; I am dead and gone to heaven.
An Indian comes to the valley once a month upon snowshoes. He brings the mail, and so I shall hope to hear from you. Address to Yosemite, via Big Oak Flat, care of Mr. Hutchings.
I wish you were here to-day, for our rocks are again decked with deep snow. Two days ago a big gray cloud collared Barometer Dome. The vast booming column of the upper falls was swayed like a shred of loose mist by broken pieces of storm that struck it suddenly, occasionally bending it backwards to the very top of the cliff, making it hang sometimes more than a minute like an inverted bow edged with comets. A cloud upon the dome and these ever varying rockings and bendings of the falls are sure storm signs, but yesterday morning’s sky was clear, and the sun poured the usual quantity of the balmiest spring sunshine into the blue ether of our valley gulf, but ere long ragged lumps of cloud began to appear all along the valley-rim, coming gradually into closer ranks, and rising higher like rock additions to the walls. From the top of these cloud-banks fleecy fingers arched out from both sides and met over the middle of the meadows, gradually thickening and blackening, until at night big, confident snowflakes began to fall. We thought that the last snow-harvest had been withered and reaped long ago by the glowing sun, for the bluebirds and robins sang spring, and so also did the bland, unsteady winds, and the brown meadow opposite the house was spotted here and there with blue violets. Carex spikes were shooting up through the dead leaves, and the cherry end briar rose were unfolding their leaves, and besides these spring wrote many a sweet mark and word that I cannot tell; but snow fell all the hours of to-day in cold winter earnest, and now at evening there rests upon rocks, trees, and weeds as full and ripe a harvest of snow flowers as I ever beheld in the stormiest, most opaque days of midwinter.
About twelve inches of snow fell in that last snowstorm. It disappeared as suddenly as it came, snatched away hastily almost before it had time to melt, as if a mistake had been made in allowing it to come here at all.
A week of spring days bright in every hour, without a stain or thought of the storm, came in glorious colors, giving still greater pledges of happy life to every living creature of the spring, but a loud, energetic snowstorm possessed every hour of yesterday. Every tree and broken weed bloomed yet once more; all summer distinctions were leveled off; all plants and the very rocks and streams were equally polypetalous.
This morning winter had everything in the valley. The snow drifted about in the frosty wind like meal, and the falls were muffled in thick sheets of frozen spray. Thus do winter and spring leap into the valley by turns, each remaining long enough to form a small season or climate of its own, or going and coming squarely in a single day. Whitney says that the bottom has fallen out of the rocks here (which I most devoutly disbelieve). Well, the bottom frequently falls out of these winter clouds and climates. It is seldom that any long transition slant exists between dark and bright days in this narrow world of rocks.
I know that you are enchanted with the April loveliness of your new home. You enjoy the most precious kind of sunshine, and by this time flower-patches cover the hills about Oakland like colored clouds. I would like to visit these broad outspread blotches of social flowers that are so characteristic of your hills, but far rather would I see and feel the flowers that are now at Fountain Lake and the lakes of Madison.
Mrs. Hutchings thought of sending you a bulb of the California lily by mail but found it too large. She wished to be remembered to you. Your Squirrel is very happy. She is a rare creature.
I hope to see you and the Doctor soon in the valley. I have a great deal to say to you which I will not try to write. Remember me most cordially to the Doctor and to Allie and all the boys. I am much obliged to you for those botanical notes, etc., and I am ever most
Here is a moss with a globular capsule and a squinted, cowl-shaped calyptra. Do you know it?
Our valley is just gushing, throbbing full of open, absorbable beauty, and I feel that I must tell you about it. I am lonely among my enjoyments; the valley is full of visitors, but I have no one to talk to.
The season that is with us now is about what corresponds to full-fledged spring in Wisconsin. The oaks are in full leaf and have shoots long enough to bend over and move in the wind. The good old bracken is waist-high already, and almost all the rock ferns have their outer most fronds unrolled. Spring is in full power and is steadily reaching higher like a shadow and will soon reach the topmost horizon of rocks. The buds of the poplar opened on the 19th of last month, those of the oaks on the 24th.
May 1st was a fine, hopeful, healthful, cool, bright day with plenty of the fragrance of new leaves and flowers and of the music of bugs and birds. From the 5th to 14th was extremely warm, the thermometer averaging about 85 degrees at noon in shade. Craggy banks of cumuli became common about Storm King and the Dome. Flowers came in troops. The upper snows melted very fast, raising the falls to their highest pitch of glory. The waters of the Yosemite Fall no longer float softly and downily like hanks of spent rockets but shoot at once to the bottom with tremendous energy. There is at least ten times the amount of water in the valley that there was when you were here.
In crossing the valley we had to sail in the boat. The river paid but little attention to its banks, flowing over the meadow in great river-like sheets. But last Sunday, 15th, was a dark day; the rich streams of heat and light were withheld; the thermometer fell suddenly to 35 degrees, and down among the verdant banks of new leaves, and groves of half-open ferns, and thick settlements of confident flowers, came heavy snow in big, blinding flakes, coming down with a steady gait and taking their places gracefully upon shrinking leaves and petals as if they were doing exactly right. The whole day was snowy and stormy like a piece of early winter. Snow fell also on the 16th. A good many of the ferns and delicate flowers are killed.
There are about fifty visitors in the valley at present. When are you and the Doctor coming? Mr. Hutchings has not yet returned from Washington, and so I will be here all summer. I have not heard from you since January.
I had a letter the other day from Prof. Butler. He has been glancing and twinkling about among the towns of all the States at a most unsubstantial velocity.
Did you see the gold of the Joaquin plains this spring? There is a later gold in October which you must see.
Remember me warmly to Dr. Carr and all the boys, and I remain always
Yosemite via Big Oak Flat.
I received your “apology” two days ago and ran my eyes hastily over it three or four lines at a time to find the place that would say you were coming, but you “fear” that you cannot come at all, and only “hope” that the Doctor may; but I shall continue to look for you nevertheless. The Chicago party you speak of were here and away again before your letter arrived. All sorts of human stuff is being poured into our valley this year, and the blank, fleshly apathy with which most of it comes in contact with the rock and water spirits of the place is most amazing. I do not wonder that the thought of such people being here, Mrs. Carr, makes you “mad,” but after all, Mrs. Carr, they are about harmless. They climb sprawlingly to their saddles like overgrown frogs pulling themselves up a stream-bank through the bent sedges, ride up the valley with about as much emotion as the horses they ride upon, and comfortable when they have “done it all,” and long for the safety and flatness of their proper homes.
In your first letter to the valley you complain of the desecrating influences of the fashionable hordes about to visit here, and say that you mean to come only once more and “into the beyond.” I am pretty sure that you are wrong in saying and feeling so, for the tide of visitors will float slowly about the bottom of the valley as a harmless scum, collecting in hotel and saloon eddies, leaving the rocks and falls eloquent as ever and instinct with imperishable beauty and greatness. And recollect that the top of the valley is more than half way to real heaven, and the Lord has many mansions away in the Sierra equal in power and glory to Yosemite, though not quite so open, and I venture to say that you will yet see the valley many times both in and out of the body.
I am glad you are going to the coast mountains to sleep on Diablo,—Angelo ere this. I am sure that you will be lifted above all the effects of your material work. There is a precious natural charm in sleeping under the open starry sky. You will have a very perfect view of the Joaquin Valley and the snowy, pearly wall of the Sierra Nevada. I lay for weeks last summer upon a bed of pine leaves at the edge of a [ ] gentian meadow in full view of Mt. Dana.
Mrs. Hutchings says that the lily bulbs were so far advanced in their growth when she dug some to send you that they could not be packed without being broken, but I am going to be here all summer, and I know where the grandest plantation of these lilies grow, and I will box up as many of them as you wish, together with as many other Yosemite things as you may ask for and send them out to you before the pack train makes its last trip. I know the Spiraea you speak of. It is abundant all around the top of the valley and on the rocks at Lake Tenaya and reaches almost to the very summit about Mt. Dana. There is also a purple one very abundant on the fringe meadows of Yosemite Creek, a mile or two back from the brink of the Falls. Of course it will be a source of keen pleasure to me to procure you anything you may desire. I should like to see that ground again. I saw some in Cuba but they did not exceed twenty-five or thirty feet in height.
I have thought of a walk in the wild gardens of Honolulu, and now that you speak of my going there it becomes very probable, as you seem to understand me better than I do myself. I have no square idea about the time I shall get myself away from here. I shall at least stay till you come. I fear that the agave will be in the spirit world ere that time. You say that I ought to have such a place as you saw in the gardens of that mile and a half of climate. Well, I think those lemon and orange groves would do, perhaps, to make a living, but for a garden I should not have anything less than a piece of pure nature. I was reading Thoreau’s “Maine Woods” a short time ago. As described by him, these woods are exactly like those of Canada West. How I long to meet Linnaea and Chiogenes hispidula once more! I would rather see these two children of the evergreen woods than all the twenty-seven species of palm that Agassiz met on the Amazons.
These summer days “go on” calmly and evenly. Scarce a mark of the frost and snow of the 15th is visible. The brackens are four or five feet high already. The earliest azaleas have opened, and the whole crop of bulbs is ready to burst. The river does not overflow its banks now, but it is exactly brim-full. The thermometer averages about 75 degrees at noon. We have sunshine every morning from a bright blue sky. Ranges of cumuli appear towards the summits with neat regularity every day about 11 o’clock, making a splendid background for the South Dome. In a few hours these clouds disappear and give up the sky to sunny evening.
Mr. Hutchings arrived here from Washington a week ago. There are sixty or seventy visitors here at present.
I have received only two letters from you this winter and spring, dated Jan. 22nd and May 7th.
I kissed your untamed one for you. She wishes that she knew the way to Oakland that she might come to you.
Remember me to the Doctor and all your boys and to your little Allies I remain ever
I am very, very blessed. The valley is full of people but they do not annoy me. I revolve in pathless places and in higher rocks than the world and his ribbony wife can reach. Had I not been blunted by hard work in the mill and crazed by Sabbath raids among the high places of this heaven, I would have written you long since. I have spent every Sabbath for the last two months in the spirit world, screaming among the peaks and outside meadows like a negro Methodist in revival time, and every intervening clump of week-days in trying to fix down and assimilate my shapeless harvests of revealed glory into the spirit and into the common earth of my existence; and I am rich, rich beyond measure, not in rectangular blocks of sifted knowledge or in thin sheets of beauty hung picture-like about “the walls of memory,” but in unselected atmospheres of terrestrial glory diffused evenly throughout my whole substance.
Your Brooksian letters I have read with a great deal of interest, they are so full of the spice and poetry of unmingled nature, and in many places they express my own present feelings very fully. Quoting from your Forest Glen, “without anxiety and without expectation all my days come and go mixed with such sweetness to every sense,” and again, “I don’t know anything of time and but little of space.” “My whole being seemed to open to the sun.” All this I do most comprehensively appreciate and am just beginning to know how fully congenial you are. Would that you could share my mountain enjoyments! In all my wanderings through Nature’s beauty, whether it be among the ferns at my cabin door or in the high meadows and peaks or amid the spray and music of waterfalls, you are the first to meet me and I often speak to you as verily present in the flesh.
Last Sabbath I was baptized in the irised foam of the Vernal and in the divine snow of Nevada, and you were there also and stood in real presence by the sheet of joyous rapids below the bridge.
I am glad to know that McClure and McChesney have told you of our night with upper Yosemite. Oh, what a world is there I passed! No, I had another night there two weeks ago, entering as far within the veil amid equal glory, together with Mr. Frank Shapleigh of Boston. Mr. Shapleigh is an artist and I like him. He has been here six weeks and has just left for home. I told him to see you and to show you his paintings. He is acquainted with Charles Sanderson and Mrs. Waterston. Mrs. Waterston left the valley before your letter reached me, but one morning about sunrise an old lady came to the mill and asked me if I was the man who was so fond of flowers, and we had a very earnest, unceremonious chat about the valley and about “the beyond.” She is made of better stuff than most of the people of that heathen town of Boston, and so also is Shapleigh.
Mrs. Yelverton is here and is going to stop a good while. Mrs. Waterston told her to find me, and we are pretty well acquainted now. She told me the other day she was going to write a Yosemite novel and that Squirrel and I were going into it. I was glad to find that she knew you. I have not seen Prof. Le Conte. Perhaps he is stopping at one of the other hotels.
Has Mrs. Rapley or Mr. Colby told you about our camping in the spruce woods on the south rim of the valley and of our walk at daybreak to the top of the Sentinel Dome to see the sun rise out of the crown peaks of beyond?
About a week ago at daybreak I started up the mountain near Glacier Point to see Pohono in its upper woods and to study the kind of life it lived up there. I had a glorious day and reached my cabin at daylight by walking all night. Oh, what a night among those moon shadows! It was seven o’clock A.M., when I reached the top of the Cathedral Rocks,—a most glorious twenty-two hours of life amid nameless peaks and meadows and the upper cataracts of Pohono.
Mr. Hutchings told me next morning that I had done two or three days’ climbing in one and that I was shortening my life, but I had a whole lifetime of enjoyment and I care but little for the arithmetical length of days. I can hardly realize that I have not yet seen you here.
I thank you for sending me so many friends, but I am waiting for you. I am going up the mountain soon to see your lily garden at the top of Indian Cañon.
“Let the Pacific islands lie.”
My love to Allie and all your boys and to the Doctor. Tell him that I have been tracing glaciers in all the principal cañons towards the summit.
I have just returned from a ten days’ ramble with Prof. Le Conte and his students in the beyond, and oh, we have had a most glorious season of terrestrial grace. I do wish I could ramble ten days of equal size in very heaven, that I could compare its scenery with that of Bloody Cañon and the Tuolumne meadows and Lake Tenaya and Mt. Dana. Our first camp after leaving the valley was at Eagle Point, overlooking the valley on the north side, from which a much better general view of the valley and the high crest of the Sierra beyond is obtained than from Inspiration Point. There we watched the long shadows of sunset upon the living map at our feet, and, in the later darkness half silvered by the moon, went far out of human cares and human civilization. Our next camp was at Lake Tenaya, one of the countless multitudes of starry gems that make this topmost mountain land to sparkle like a sky. After moonrise Le Conte and I walked to the lake-shore and climbed upon a big sofa-shaped rock that stood islet-like a little way out in the shallow water, and here we found another bounteous throne of earthly grace, and I doubt if John in Patmos saw grander visions than we. And you were remembered there and we cordially wished you with us. Our next sweet home was upon the velvet gentian meadows of the South Tuolumne. Here we feasted upon soda and burnt ashy cakes and stood an hour in a frigid rain with our limbs bent forward like Lombardy poplars in a gale, but ere sunset the black clouds departed, our shins were straightened at a glowing fire, we forgot the cold and all about half-raw mutton and alkaline cakes, the grossest of our earthly coils was shaken off, and ere the last slant sunbeams left the dripping meadow and spiry mountain peaks we were again in the third alpine heaven and saw and heard things equal in glory to the purest and best of Yosemite itself. Our next camp was beneath a big gray rock at the foot of Mt. Dana. Here we had another rainstorm, which drove us beneath our rock, where we lay in complicated confusion, our forty limbs woven into a knotty piece of tissue compact as felt.
Next day we worshiped upon high places on the brown cone of Dana and returned to our rock. Next day walked among the flowers and cascades of Bloody Cañon and camped at the lake. Rode next day to the volcanic cone nearest to the lake, and bade farewell to the party and climbed to the highest crater in the whole range south of the Mono Lake. Well, I shall not try to tell you anything, as it is unnecessary. Prof. Le Conte, whose company I enjoyed exceedingly, will tell you all. Ask him in particular to tell you about our camp-meeting on the Tenaya rock. I will send you a few choice mountain plant children by Mrs. Yelverton. If there is anything in particular that you want, let me know. Mrs. Yelverton will not leave the valley for some weeks, and you have time to write. I am
Yours of October and reached me a few days since. The Amazon and Andes have been in all my thoughts for many years, and I am sure that I shall meet them some day ere I die, or become settled and civilized and useful. I am obliged to you for all this information. I have studied many paths and plans for the interior of South America, but none so easy and sure ever appeared as this of your letter. I thought of landing at Guayaquil and crossing the mountains to the Amazon, floating to Para, subsisting on berries and quinine, but to steam along the palmy shores with company and comforts is perhaps more practical though not so pleasant. Hawthorne says that steam spiritualizes travel, but I think that it squarely degrades and materializes travel. However, flies and fevers have to be considered in this case. I am glad that Ned has gone. The woods of the Purús will be a grand place for the growth of men. It must be that I am going soon, for you have shown me the way. People say that my wanderings are very mazy and methodless, but they are all known to you in some way before I think of them. You are a prophet in the concerns of my little outside life, and pray, what says the spirit about my final escape from Yosemite? You saw me at these rock altars years ago, and I think I shall remain among them until you take me away. I reached this place last month by following the Merced out of the valley and through all its cañons to the plains above Snelling,—a most glorious walk.
I intended returning to the valley ere this, but Mr. Delaney, the man with whom I am stopping at present, would not allow me to leave before I had plowed his field, and so I will not be likely to see Yosemite again before January, when I shall have a grand journey over the snow.
Mrs. Yelverton told me before I started upon my river explorations that she would likely be in Oakland in two weeks, and so I made up a package for you of lily bulbs, cones, ferns, etc., but she wrote me a few days ago that she was still in the valley.
I find that a portion of my specimens collected in the last two years and left at this place and Hopeton are not very well cared for, and I have concluded to send them to you.
I will ship them in a few days by express, and I will be down myself perhaps in about a year. If there is anything in these specimens that the Doctor can make use of in his lectures, tell him to do so freely, of course.
The purple of these plains and of this whole round sky is very impressively glorious after a year in the deep rocks. People all throughout this section are beginning to hear of Dr. Carr. He accomplishes a wonderful amount of work.
My love to Allie and to the Doctor, and I am ever most
“The Spirit” has again led me into the wilderness, in opposition to all counter attractions, and I am once more in the glory of the Yosemite.
Your very cordial invitation to your home reached me as I was preparing to ascend and my whole being was possessed with visions of snowy forests of the pine and spruce, and of mountain spires beyond, pearly and half transparent, reaching into heavens blue not purer than themselves.
In company with another young fellow whom I persuaded to walk, I left the plains just as the first gold sheets were being outspread. My first plan was to follow the Tuolumne upward as I had followed the Merced downward, and, after reaching the Hetch Hetchy Valley, which has about the same altitude as Yosemite, and spending a week or so in sketching and examining its falls and rocks, to cross the high mountains past the west end of the Hoffman Range and go down into Yosemite by Indian Cañon, passing thus a glorious month with the mountains and all their snows and crystal brightness, and all the nameless glories of their magnificent winter; but my plan went agley. I lost a week’s sleep by the pain of a sore hand, and I became unconfident in my strength when measured against weeks of wading in snow up to my neck. Therefore I reluctantly concluded to push directly for the valley and Tamarac.
Our journey was just a week in length, including one day of rest in the Crane’s Flat Cabin. Some of our nights were cold, and we were hungry once or twice. We crossed the snow-line on the flank of Pilot Peak Ridge six or eight miles below Crane’s Flat. From Crane’s Flat to brim of the valley the snow was about five feet in depth, and as it was not frozen or compacted in any way we of course had a splendid season of wading.
I wish that you could have seen the edge of the snow-cloud which hovered, oh, so soothingly, down to the grand Pilot Peak brows, discharging its heaven-begotten snows with such unmistakable gentleness and moving perhaps with conscious love from pine to pine as if bestowing separate and independent blessings upon each. In a few hours we climbed under and into this glorious storm-cloud. What a harvest of crystal flowers and what wind songs were gathered from the spiry firs and the long fringy arms of the Lambert pine! We could not see far before us in the storm, which lasted until some time in the night, but as I was familiar with the general map of the mountain we had no difficulty in finding our way.
Crane’s Flat Cabin was buried, and we had to grope about for the door. After making a fire with some cedar rails, I went out to watch the coming-on of the darkness, which was most impressively sublime. Next morning was every way the purest creation I ever beheld. The little flat, spot-like in the massive spiring woods, was in splendid vesture of universal white, upon which the grand forest-edge was minutely repeated and covered with a close sheet of snow flowers.
Some mosses grow luxuriantly upon the dead generations of their own species. The common snow flowers belong to the sky and in storms are blown about like ripe petals in an orchard. They settle on the ground, the bottom of the atmospheric sea, like mud or leaves in a lake, and upon this soil, this field of broken sky flowers, grows a luxuriant carpet of crystal vegetation complete and ripe in a single night.
I never before knew that these mountain snow plants were so variable and abundant, forming such bushy clumps and thickets and palmy, ferny groves. Wading waist-deep, I had a fine opportunity for observing them, but they shrink from human breath, not the only flowers which do so, evidently not made for man, neither the flowers composing the snow which came drifting down to us broken and dead, nor the more beautiful crystals which vegetate upon them. A great many storms have come to these mountains since I passed them, and they can hardly be less than ten feet; at the altitude of Tamarac still more.
The weather here is balmy now, and the falls are glorious. Three weeks ago the thermometer at sunrise stood at 12 degrees.
I have repaired the mill and dam, and the stream is in no danger of drying up and is more dammed than ever.
To-day has been cloudy and rainy. Tissiack and Starr King are grandly dipped in white cloud.
I sent you my plants by express. I am sorry that my Yosemite specimens are not with the others.
I left a few notes with Mrs. Yelverton when I left the valley in the fall. I wish that you would ask her, if you should see her, where she left them, as Mrs. Hutchings does not know.
I shall be happy to join Stoddard in anything whatever. Mrs. H. had a letter from him lately, part of which she read to me. And now, Mrs. Carr, you must see the upper mountains and meadows back of Yosemite. You have seen nothing as yet, and I will guide you a whole summer if you wish. I am very happy here and cannot break for the Andes just yet.
Squirrel is at my knee. She says, “Tell Mrs. Carr to come here to-morrow and tell her to bring her little boy when she comes.” If you will come, she says that she will guide you to the falls and give you lots of flowers. Mrs. H. tells me to say that she has received a very kind letter from you, which she will answer. Sends thus her kindest regards. If she can find a chance, she will send bulbs of lily by mail.
I have been nearly blind since I crossed the snow.
Give my kindest regards to all your homeful and to my friends.
I am always
I was so stunned and dazed by your last that I have not been able to write anything. I was sure that you were coming, and you cannot come; and Mr. King, the artist, left me the other day and I am done with Hutchings, and I am lonely. Well it must be wait, for although there is no common human reason why I should not see you and civilization in Oakland, I cannot escape from the powers of the mountains. I shall tie some flour and a blanket behind my saddle and return to the Mono region and try to decide some questions that require undisturbed thought. There I will stalk about on the summit slates of Dana and Gibbs and Lyell, reading new chapters of glacial manuscript and more if I can. Then, perhaps, I will follow the Tuolumne down to the Hetch Hetchy Yosemite; then, perhaps, follow the Yosemite stream back to its smallest source in the mountains of the Lyell group and the Cathedral group and the Obelisk and Mt. Hoffman. This will, perhaps, be my work until the coming of the winter snows, when I will probably find a sheltered rock nook where I can make a nest of leaves and mosses and doze until spring.
I expect to be entirely alone in these mountain walks, and, notwithstanding the glorious portion of daily bread which my soul will receive in these fields where only the footprints of God are seen, the gloamin’ will be lonely, but I will cheerfully pay the price of friendship and all besides.
I suppose that you have seen Mr. King, who kindly carried some flies for Mr. Edwards. I thought you would easily see him or let him know that you had his specimens. I collected most of them upon Mt. Hoffman, but was so busy in assisting Reilly that I could not do much in butterflies. Hereafter I shall be entirely free.
The purples and yellows begin to come in the green of our groves, and the rocks have the autumn haze, and the water songs are at their lowest bushings; young birds are big as old ones; and is it true that these are Bryant’s Melancholy Days? I don’t know, I will not think, but I will go above these brooding days to the higher, brighter mountains.
I shall hope to hear from you soon. I will come down some of the valley cañons occasionally for letters.
I am sorry that you are so laden with University cares. I think that you and the Doctor do more than your share.
Do you know anything about this Liebig’s extract of meat? I would like to carry a year’s provisions in the form of condensed bread and meat, and I have been thinking perhaps all that I want is in the market.
I am sorry that King made you uneasy about me. He does not understand me as you do, and you must not heed him so much. He thinks that I am melancholy and above all that I require polishing. I feel sure that if you were here to see how happy I am and how ardently I am seeking a knowledge of the rocks, you could not call me away but would gladly let me go with only God and his written rocks to guide me. You would not think of calling me to make machines or a home, or of rubbing me against other minds, or of setting me up for measurement. No, dear friend, you would say: “Keep your mind untrammelled and pure. Go unfrictioned, unmeasured, and God give you the true meaning and interpretation of his mountains.”
You know that for the last three years I have been ploddingly making observations about this valley and the high mountain region to the east of it, drifting broodingly about and taking in every natural lesson that I was fitted to absorb. In particular the great valley has always kept a place in my mind. What tools did he use? How did he apply them and when? I considered the sky above it and all of its opening cañons, and studied the forces that came in by every door that I saw standing open, but I could get no light. Then I said: “You are at tempting what is not possible for you to accomplish. Yosemite is the end of a grand chapter; if you would learn to read it, go commence at the beginning.” Then I went above to the alphabet valleys of the summits, comparing cañon with cañon, with all their varieties of rock-structure and cleavage and the comparative size and slope of the glaciers and waters which they contained; also the grand congregations of rock-creations was present to me, and I studied their forms and sculpture. I soon had a key to every Yosemite rock and perpendicular and sloping wall. The grandeur of these forces and their glorious results overpower me and inhabit my whole being. Waking or sleeping, I have no rest. In dreams I read blurred sheets of glacial writing, or follow lines of cleavage, or struggle with the difficulties of some extraordinary rock-form. Now it is clear that woe is me if I do not drown this tendency towards nervous prostration by constant labor in working up the details of this whole question. I have been down from the upper rocks only three days and am hungry for exercise already.
Prof. Runkle, president of the Boston Institute of Technology, was here last week, and I preached my glacial theory to him for five days, taking him into the cañon of the valley and up among the grand glacier wombs and pathways of the summit. He was fully convinced of the truth of my readings and urged me to write out the glacial system of Yosemite and its tributaries for the Boston Academy of Science. I told him that I meant to write my thoughts for my own use and that I would send him the manuscript, and if he and his wise scientific brothers thought it of sufficient interest they might publish it.
He is going to send me some instruments, and I mean to go over all the glacier basins carefully, working until driven down by the snow. In winter I can make my drawings and maps and write out notes. So you see that for a year or two I will be very busy. I have settled with Hutchings and have no dealings with him now.
I think that next spring I will have to guide a month or two for pocket money, although I do not like the work. I suppose I might live for one or two seasons without work. I have five hundred dollars here, and I have been sending home money to my sisters and brothers,—perhaps about twelve or fifteen hundred dollars,—and a man in Canada owes me three or four hundred dollars more, which I suppose I could get if I was in need, but you know that the Scotch do not like to spend their last dollar. Some of my friends are badgering me to write for some of the magazines, and I am almost tempted to try it, only I am afraid that this would distract my mind from my work more than the distasteful and depressing labor of the mill or of guiding. What do you think about it?
Suppose I should give some of the journals my first thoughts about this glacier work as I go along and afterwards gather them and press them for the Boston wise; or will it be better to hold work and say it all at a breath? You see how practical I have become and how fully I have burdened you with my little affairs.
Perhaps you will ask, “What plan are you going to pursue in your work?” Well, here it is,—the only book I ever have invented. First I will describe each glacier with its tributaries separately, then describe the rocks and hills and mountains over which they have flowed or past which they have flowed, endeavoring to prove that all of the various forms which those rocks now have are the necessary result of the ice action in connection with their structure and cleavage, etc. Also the different kinds of cañons and lake-basins and meadows which they have made. Then, armed with this data, I will come down to the Yosemite, where all my ice has come, and prove that each dome and brow and wall and every grace and spire and brother is the necessary result of the delicately balanced blows of well-directed and combined glaciers against the parent rocks which contained them, only thinly carved and moulded in some instances by the subsequent action of water, etc.
Libby sent me Tyndall’s new book, and I have looked hastily over it. It is an Alpine mixture of very pleasant taste, and I wish I could enjoy reading and talking it with you. I expect Mrs. H. will accompany her husband to the East this winter, and there will not be one left with whom I can exchange a thought. Mrs. H. is going to leave me out all the books I want, and Runkle is going to send me Darwin. These, with my notes and maps, will fill my winter hours, if my eyes do not fail, and, now that you see my whole position, I think that you would not call me to the excitements and distracting novelties of civilization.
The bread question is very troublesome. I will eat anything you think will suit me. Send up either by express to Big Oak Flat or by any other chance, and I will remit the money required in any way you like.
My love to all and more thanks than I can write for your constant kindness.
Your latest letter is dated December 31st. I see that some of our letters are missing. I received the box and ate the berries and Liebig’s extract long ago and told you all about it, but Mrs. Yelverton’s book and magazine articles I have not yet seen. Perhaps they may come next mail. How did you send them? I sympathize with your face and your great sorrows, but you will bathe in the fountain of light, life, and love of our mountains and be healed. And here I wish to say that when you and Al and the Doctor come, I wish to be completely free. Therefore let me know that you will certainly come and when. I will gladly cut off a slice of my season’s time however thick the thicker the better and lay it aside for you. I am in the habit of asking so many to come, come, come to the mountain baptisms that there is danger of having others on my hands when you come, which must not be. I will mark off one or two or three months of bare, dutiless time for our blessed selves or the few good and loyal ones that you may choose. Therefore, at the expense even of breaking a dozen of civilization’s laws and fences, I want you to come. For the high Sierra the months of July, August, and September are best.
As for your Asiatic sayings, I would gladly creep into the Vale of Cashmere or any other grove upon our blessed star. I feel my poverty in general knowledge and will travel some day. You need not think that I feel Yosemite to be all in all, but more of this when you come.
I am going to send you with this a few facts and thoughts that I gathered concerning Twenty Hill Hollow, which I want to publish, if you think you can mend them and make them into a lawful article fit for outsiders. Plant gold is fading from California faster than did her placer gold, and I wanted to save the memory of that which is laid upon Twenty Hills.
Also I will send you some thoughts that I happened to get for poor persecuted, twice-damned Coyote. If you think anybody will believe them, have them published. Last mail I sent you some manuscript about bears and storms, which you will believe if no one else will. An account of my preliminary rambles among the glacier beds was published in the “Daily Tribune” of New York, Dec. 9th. Have you seen it? If you have, call old Mr. Stebbins’s attention to it. He will read with pleasure. Where is the old friend? I have not heard from him for a long time. Remember me to the Doctor and the boys and all my old friends.
Yours of Apr. 8th and 15th containing Ned’s canoe and colonization adventure came to-night. I feel that you are coming and I will not hear any words of preparatory consolation for the unsupposable case of your non-appearance. Come by way of Clark’s and spend a whole day or two in the sequoias, thence to Sentinel Dome and Glacier Point. From thence swoop to our meadows and groves direct by a trail now in course of construction which will be completed by the time the snow melts. This new trail will be best in scenery and safety of five which enter the valley. It leads from Glacier Point down the face of the mountain by an easy grade to a point back of Leidig’s Hotel and has over half a dozen inspiration points.
I hear that Mr. Peregoy intends building a hotel at Glacier Point. If he does, you should halt there for the night after leaving Clark’s. If not, then stop at the present “Peregoy’s,” five or six miles south of the valley at the Westfall Meadows-built since your visit. You might then easily ride from Clark’s to the valley in a day, but a day among the silver firs and another about the glories of the valley-rim and settings is a “sma’ request.”
The snow is deep this year, and the regular Mariposa Trail leading to Glacier Point, etc., will not be open before June. The Mariposa travel of May and perhaps a week or so of June will enter the valley from Clark’s by a sort of sneaking trail along the river cañon below the snow, but you must not come that way.
You may also enter the valley via Little Yosemite and Nevada and Vernal Falls by a trail constructed last season; also by Indian Falls on the north side of the valley by a trail now nearly completed. This last is a noble entrance but perhaps not equal to the first. Whatever way you come, we will travel all those up and down, and bear in mind that you must go among the summits in July or August. Bring no friends that will not go to these fountains beyond or are uncastoffable. Calm thinkers like your Doctor, who first led me with science, and Le Conte are the kinds of souls fit for the formation of human clouds adapted to this mountain sky. Nevertheless, I will rejoice beyond measure though you come as a comet tailed with a whole misty town.
Ned is a brave fellow. God bless him unspeakably and feed him with his own South American self.
I shall be most happy to know your Doggetts or anything that you call dear.
Good-night and love to all.
I have not seen any of my “Tribune” letters, though I have written five or six. Send copy if you can.
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Farewell. I ‘m glad you are to get your Ned again. The fever will soon cool out from his veins in the breath of California.
The valley is full of sun, but glorious Sierras are piled above the South Dome and Starr King. I mean the bossy cumuli that are daily upheaved at this season, making a cloud period yet grander than the rock-sculpturing, Yosemite-making, forest-planting glacial period. Yesterday we had our first midday shower. The pines waved gloriously at its approach, the woodpeckers beat about as if alarmed, but the hummingbird moths thought the cloud shadows belonged to evening and came down to eat among the mints. All the fire and rocks of Starr King were bathily dripped before.
[Beginning of letter missing.]
they will go on Monoward for Tahoe. I mean to set some stakes in a dozen glaciers and gather some arithmetic for clothing my thoughts.
I hope you will not allow old H. or his picture agent, Houseworth, to so gobble and bewool poor Agassiz that I will not see him.
Remember me always to the Doctor and the boys and to Mrs. Moore, and I am ever yours,
Later. Yours of Monday evening has just come. I am glad your boy is so soon to feel mother home and its blessings. I hope to meet Torrey, although I will push leeward as before, but may get back in time. I will enjoy Agassiz, and Tyndall even more. I’m sorry for poor Stoddard. Tell him to come.
I’ll see Mrs. H., perhaps, this evening and deliver your message.
Yours announcing the Joaquin and the Doggetts and more is here. I care not when you come, so that you come calm and timeful. I will try to compel myself down to you in August, but these years and ages among snows and rocks have made me far more unfit for the usages of civilization than you appreciate. My nerves’ strings shrink at the prospect, even at this distance. But if by diving to that slimy town sea-bottom I can touch Huxley and Tyndall and mount again with you to calm months in the Sierras, I will draw a long breath and splash into your fearful muds. I would rather have you in September and October than at any other time, but a few weeks of this white water would be very glorious. Merrill Moores, who was with me in Wisconsin and at your Madison home, will be here soon to spend a good big block of a while with me. Why can’t you let Allie join him?
For the last week our valley has been a lake and my shanty is in flood. But the walls about us are white this morning with snow, which has checked the free life of our torrents, and the meadows will soon be walkable again. The snow fell last night and this morning. The falls will sing loud and long this year, and the mountains are fat in thick snow that the sun will find hard to fry.
O Mrs. Carr, that you could be here to mingle in this night moon glory! I am in the Upper Yosemite Falls and can hardly calm to write, but, from my thick baptism an hour ago, you have been so present that I must try to fix you a written thought.
In the afternoon I came up the mountain here with a blanket and a piece of bread to spend the night in prayer among the spouts of the fall. But now what can I say more than wish again that you might expose your soul to the rays of this heaven?
Silver from the moon illumines this glorious creation which we term falls and has laid a magnificent double prismatic bow at its base. The tissue of the falls is delicately filmed on the outside like the substance of spent clouds, and the stars shine dimly through it. In the solid shafted body of the falls is a vast number of passing caves, black and deep, with close white convolving spray for sills and shooting comet shoots above and down their sides like lime crystals in a cave, and every atom of the magnificent being, from the thin silvery crest that does not dim the stars to the inner arrowy hardened shafts that strike onward like thunderbolts in sound and energy, all is life and spirit, every bolt and spray feels the hand of God. O the music that is blessing me now! The sun of last week has given the grandest notes of all the yearly anthem and they echo in every fibre of me.
I said that I was going to stop here until morning and pray a whole blessed night with the falls and the moon, but I am too wet and must go down. An hour or two ago I went out somehow on a little seam that extends along the wall behind the falls. I suppose I was in a trance, but I can positively say that I was in the body for it is sorely battered and wetted. As I was gazing past the thin edge of the fall and away through beneath the column to the brow of the rock, some heavy splashes of water struck me, driven hard against the wall. Suddenly I was darkened; down came a section of the outside tissue composed of spent comets. I crouched low, holding my breath, and, anchored to some angular flakes of rocks, took my baptism with moderately good faith. When I dared to look up after the swaying column admitted light, I pounced behind a piece of ice which was wedged tight in the wall, and I no longer feared being washed off, and steady moonbeams slanting past the arching meteors gave me confidence to escape to this snug place where McChesney and I slept one night, where I had a fire to dry my socks. This rock shelf extending behind the falls is about five hundred feet above the base of the fall on the perpendicular rock-face.
How little do we know of ourselves, of our profoundest attractions and repulsions, of our spiritual affinities! How interesting does man become, considered in his relations to the spirit of this rock and water! How significant does every atom of our world become amid the influences of those beings unseen, spiritual, angelic mountaineers that so throng these pure mansions of crystal foam and purple granite!
I cannot refrain from speaking to this little bush at my side and to the spray-drops that come to my paper and to the individual sands of the slope I am sitting upon. Ruskin says that the idea of foulness is essentially connected with what he calls dead unorganized matter. How cordially I disbelieve him to-night! and were he to dwell awhile among the powers of these mountains, he would forget all dictionary differences between the clean and the unclean and he would lose all memory and meaning of the diabolical, sin-begotten term, foulness.
Well, I must go down. I am disregarding all of the Doctor’s physiology in sitting here in this universal moisture.
Farewell to you and to all the beings about us! I shall have a glorious walk down the mountains in this thin white light, over the open brows grayed with Selaginella and through the thick black shadow caves in the live oaks all stuck full of snowy lances of moonlight.
Yours of Tuesday evening telling of our Doggetts and Ned and Merrill Moores has come, and so has the lamp and book. I have not yet tried the lamp, but it is splendid in shape and shines grand as gold. The Lyell is just what I wanted.
I think that your measure of the Doggetts is exactly right as good as civilized people can be. They have grown to the top of town culture and have sent out some shoots half gropingly into the spirit sky.
I am very glad to know that Ned is growing strong. Perhaps we may see South America together yet. I hope to see you come to your own of mountain fountains soon. Perhaps Mrs. Hutchings may go with us. You live so fully in my own life that I cannot realize that I have not yet seen you here; a year or two of waiting seems nothing.
Possibly I may be down on your coast this fall or next, for I want to see what relations the coast and coast mountains have to the Sierras. Also I want to go north and south along this range and then among the basins and ranges eastward. My subject is expanding at a most unfollowable pace. I could write something with data already harvested, but I am not satisfied.
I have just returned from Hetch Hetchy with Mrs. Moore. Of course we had a glory and a fun the two articles in about parallel columns of equal size. Meadows grassed and lilies head-high, spangled river-reaches and currentless pools, cascades countless and unpaintable in form and whiteness, groves that heaven all the valley. You were with us in all our joy and you will come again.
I am a little weary and half inclined to truantism from mobs however blessed, in some unfindable grove. I start in a few minutes for Cloud’s Rest with Mr. and Mrs. Moore. I like Mrs. Moore and Mr. first-rate.
My love to the Doctor and all the boys. I hope for Merrill daily.
Yours announcing Dr. Gray is received. I have great longing for Gray, whom I feel to be a great, progressive, unlimited man like Darwin and Huxley and Tyndall. I will be most glad to meet him. You are unweariable in your kindness to me, and you helm my fate more than all the world beside.
I am approaching a kind of fruiting-time in this mountain work and I want very much to see you. All say write, but I don’t know how or what, and besides I want to see North and South and the midland basins and the seacoast and all the lake-basins and the cañons, also the alps of every country and the continental glaciers of Greenland, before I write the book we have been speaking of; and all this will require a dozen years or twenty, and money. The question is what will I write now, etc. I have learned the alphabet of ice and mountain structure here, and I think I can read fast in other countries. I would let others write what I have read here, but that they make so damnable a hash of it and ruin so glorious a unit.
I miss the Moores because they were so cordial and kind to me. Mrs. Moore believes in ice and can preach it too. I wish you could bring Whitney and her together and tell me the fight. Mrs. M. made the most sensible visit to our mountains of all the comers I have known. Mr. Moore is a man who thinks, and he took to this mountain structure like a pointer to partridges.
I am glad your Ned is growing strong; then we will yet meet this summer in Yosemite places. Talk to Mrs. Moore about Hetch Hetchy, etc. She knows it all from Hog Ranch to highest sea-wave cascades, and higher, yet higher.
I ought not to fun away letter space in speaking to you. I am weary and impractical and fit for nothing serious until I am tuned and toned by a few weeks of calm.
Farewell. I will see you and we will plan work and ease and days of holy mountain rest. Remember me to Ned and all the boys and to the Doctor, who ought to come hither with you.
I want to see you. I want to speak about my studies, which are growing broader and broader and spreading away to all countries without any clear horizon anywhere.
I will go over all this Yosemite region this fall and write it up in some form or other. Will you be here to accompany me in my easier excursions?
I have a good horse for you and will get a tub and plenty of meal and tea, and you will keep house in very old style and you can bring whom you please.
I’ve had a very noble time with Gray, who, though brooded and breaded by Hutchings, gave most of his time to me. I was sorry that his time was so meanly measured and bounded. He is a most cordial lover of purity and truth, but the angular factiness of his pursuits has kept him at too cold a distance from the spirit world.
I know that Mrs. Moore has given you ice in abundance, though even Yosemite glaciers might melt in the warmth of her laughter and sunshine. She handles glacier periods like an Agassiz and has discovered a Hetch Hetchy period that is her own. Don’t you believe all she tells you about the walk and the dark and the dust of Indian Cañon.
I want to get Doggett’s address.
I will begin my long mountain excursion soon, for the snow is mostly gone from the high meadows.
I have been guiding a few parties and will take a few more if they are of the right kind, but I want my mind kept free and sensitive to all influences excepting human business.
I need a talk with you more than ever before. Mrs. Hutchings is always kind to me, and the clearness of her views on all spiritual things is very extraordinary. She appreciates your friendship very keenly, and I am glad to think you will soon know each other better. Her little Casie (Gertrude) is as pure a piece of sunbeam as ever was condensed to human form. Hoping that Ned will be able to come here to the mountain waters for perfect healing and that you will also find leisure for the satisfying of your thirst for beauty, I remain ever
My love to Doctor and all the boys.
Your letter telling me to catch my best glacier birds and come to you and the coast mountains only makes me the more anxious to see you, and if you cannot come up, I will have to come down, if only for a talk. My birds are flying everywhere, into all mountains and plains, of all climes and times, and some are ducks in the sea, and I scarce know what to do about it. I must see the coast ranges and the coast, but I was thinking that a month or so might answer for the present, and then, instead of spending the winter in town, I would hide in Yosemite and write; or I thought I would pack up some meal and dried plums to some deep wind-sheltered cañon back among the glaciers of the summits, and write there, and be ready to catch any whisper of ice and snow in these highest storms.
You anticipate all the bends and falls and rapids and cascades of my mountain life, and I know that you say truly about my companions being those who live with me in the same sky, whether in reach of hand or only of spiritual contact, which is the most real contact of all.
I am learning to live close to the lives of my friends without ever seeing them. No miles of any measurement can separate your soul from mine.
[Part of letter missing.]
the valley was vouchsafed a single drop.
After the splendid blessing, the afternoon was veiled in calm clouds, and one of intensely beautiful pattern and gorgeously irised was stationed over Eagle Rock at the sunset.
Farewell. I’ll see you with my common eyes, and touch you with these very writing fingers ere long.
Remember me cordially to Mrs. Moore and Mr. and all your family, and I am as ever
Yours of Aug. 23rd is received. Le Conte writes me that Agassiz will not come to the valley.
I just got down last evening from a fifteen-day ramble in the basins of Illilouette and Pohono, and start again in an hour for the summit glaciers to see some cañons and to examine the stakes I planted in the ice a month ago.
I would like to come down to see Agassiz, but now is my harvest of rocks and I cannot spare the time.
I shall work in the outer mountains incessantly until the coming of the snow [rest of letter missing].
Yosemite Valley, October 8th, 1872.
Here we are again, and here is your letter of Sept. 24th. I got down last evening, and boo! was I not weary after pushing through the rough upper half of the great Tuolumne Cañon? I have climbed more than twenty-four thousand feet in these ten days, three times to the top of the glacieret of Mt. Hoffman, and once to Mts. Lyell and McClure. I have bagged a quantity of Tuolumne rocks sufficient to build a dozen Yosemites; stripes of cascades longer than ever, lacy or smooth and white as pressed snow; a glacier basin with ten glassy lakes set all near together like eggs in a nest; then El Capitan and a couple of Tissiacks, cañons glorious with yellows and reds of mountain maple and aspen and honeysuckle and ash and new indescribable music immeasurable from strange waters and winds, and glaciers, too, flowing and grinding, alive as any on earth. Shall I pull you out some? Here is a clean, white-skinned glacier from the back of McClure with glassy emerald flesh and singing crystal blood all bright and pure as a sky, yet handling mud and stone like a navvy, building moraines like a plodding Irishman. Here is a cascade two hundred feet wide, half a mile long, glancing this way and that, filled with bounce and dance and joyous hurrah, yet earnest as tempest, and singing like angels loose on a frolic from heaven; and here are more cascades and more, broad and flat like clouds and fringed like flowing hair, with occasional falls erect as pines, and lakes like glowing eyes; and here are visions and dreams, and a splendid set of ghosts, too many for ink and narrow paper.
I have not heard anything concerning Le Conte’s glacier lecture, but he seems to have drawn all he knows of Sierra glaciers and new theories concerning them so directly from here that I cannot think that he will claim discovery, etc. If he does, I will not be made poorer.
Professor Kneeland, Secretary Boston Institute of Technology, gathered some letters I sent to Runkle and that “Tribune” letter, and hashed them into a compost called a paper for the Boston Historical Society, and gave me credit for all of the smaller sayings and doings and stole the broadest truth to himself. I have the proof-sheets of “The Paper” and will show them to you some time. But all of such meanness can work no permanent evil to any one except the dealer.
As for the living “glaciers of the Sierras,” here is what I have learned concerning them. You will have the first chance to steal, for I have just concluded my experiments on them for the season and have not yet cast them at any of the great professors, or presidents.
One of the yellow days of last October, when I was among the mountains of the “Merced Group,” following the footprints of the ancient glaciers that once flowed grandly from their ample fountains, reading what I could of their history as written in moraines and cañons and lakes and carved rocks, I came upon a small stream that was carrying mud I had not before seen. In a calm place where the stream widened I collected some of this mud and observed that it was entirely mineral in composition and fine as flour, like the mud from a fine-grit grindstone. Before I had time to reason I said, Glacier mud, mountain meal.
Then I observed that this muddy stream issued from a bank of fresh quarried stones and dirt that was sixty or seventy feet in height. This I at once took to be a moraine. In climbing to the top of it I was struck with the steepness of its slope and with its raw, unsettled, plantless, newborn appearance. The slightest touch started blocks of red and black slate, followed by a rattling train of smaller stones and sand and a cloud of the dry dust of mud, the whole moraine being as free from lichens and weather stains as if dug from the mountain that very day.
When I had scrambled to the top of the moraine, I saw what seemed a huge snow-bank four or five hundred yards in length by half a mile in width. Imbedded in its stained and furrowed surface were stones and dirt like that of which the moraine was built. Dirt-stained lines curved across the snow-bank from side to side, and when I observed that these curved lines coincided with the curved moraine and that the stones and dirt were most abundant near the bottom of the bank, I shouted, “A living glacier.” These bent dirt lines show that the ice is flowing in its different parts with unequal velocity, and these embedded stones are journeying down to be built into the moraine, and they gradually become more abundant as they approach the moraine because there the motion is slower.
On traversing my new-found glacier, I came to a crevass, down a wide and jagged portion of which I succeeded in making my way, and discovered that my so-called snow-bank was clear green ice, and, comparing the form of the basin which it occupied with similar adjacent basins that were empty, I was led to the opinion that this glacier was several hundred feet in depth.
Then I went to the “snow-banks” of Mts. Lyell and McClure and believed that they also were true glaciers and that a dozen other snow banks seen from the summit of Mt. Lyell crouching in shadow were glaciers, living as any in the world and busily engaged in completing that vast work of mountain-making, accomplished by their giant relatives now dead, which, united and continuous, covered all the range from summit to sea like a sky.
I’m going to take your painter boys with me into one of my best sanctums on your recommendation for holiness.
Emerson has sent me a profound little book styled “The Growth of the Mind,” by Reed. Do you know it? It is full of the fountain truth.
I’m glad your boys are safely back. Perhaps Ned and I may try that Andes field together.
I would write to Mrs. Moore but will wait until she is better. Tell her the cascades and mountains of upper Hetch Hetchy [ ].
I hope I may see you a few days soon. I had a pretty letter from old Dr. Torrey, and from Gray I have heard three or four times. I am ever
I cannot hear from you. There are some souls, perhaps, that are never tired, that ever go steadily glad, always tuneful and songful like mountain water. Not so, weary, hungry me. This second time I come from the rocks for fresh supplies of the two breads, but I find but one. I cannot hear from you. My last weeks were spent among the cañons of the Hoffman range and the Cathedral Peak group east of Lake Tenaya. All gloriously rich in the written truths which I am seeking. I will now go to the wide, ragged tributaries of Illilouette and to Pohono, after which I will mope about among the rim cañons and rock forms of the valley as the weather permits.
Perhaps I have not yet answered all of your last long pages. Here is a quotation from Tyndall concerning the nature and origin of his intense mountain enjoyments. He reaches far and near for a theory of his delight in the mountains, going among the accidents of his own boyhood and those of his remotest fathers, but surely this must be all wrong, and, instead of groping away backwards among the various grades of grandfathers, he should explore the most primary properties of man. Perhaps we owe “the pleasurable emotions which fine landscape makes in us” to a cause as radical as that which makes a magnet pulse to the two poles. I think that one of the properties of that compound which we call man is that when exposed to the rays of mountain beauty it glows with joy. I don’t know who of all my ancestry are to blame, but my attractions and repulsions are badly balanced to-night and I will not try to say any more, excepting farewell and love to you all.
[Beginning of letter missing.]
although I was myself fully satisfied concerning the real nature of these ice-masses. I found that my friends regarded my deductions and statements with distrust, therefore I determined to collect proofs of the common measured arithmetical kind.
On the 21st of Aug. last I planted five stakes in the glacier of Mt. McClure, which is situated east of Yosemite Valley, near the summit of the range. Four of these stakes were extended across the middle of the glacier. The first stake was planted about 25 yds. from the east bank of the glacier. The second 94 yards, the third 152, and the fourth 223 yards. The positions of these stakes were determined by sighting across from bank to bank past a plumbline made of a stone and a black horsehair.
On observing my stakes on the 6th of Oct., or in 46 days after being planted, I found that stake No. 1 had been carried down stream 11 inches; No. 2, 8 inches; No. 3, 34; No. 4, 47 inches. As stake No. 4 was near the middle of the glacier, perhaps it was not far from the point of maximum velocity, 47 inches in 46 days, or 1 inch per day. Stake No. 5 was planted about midway between the head of the glacier and stake No. [ ]. Its motion I found to be in 46 days 40 inches.
Thus these ice-masses are seen to possess the true glacial motion. Their surfaces are striped with bent dirt bands. Their surfaces are bulged and undulated by inequalities in the bottom of their basins, causing an upward and downward swedging corresponding to the horizontal swedging as indicated by the curved dirt bands.
The McClure Glacier is about half a mile in length and about the same in width at the broadest place. It is crevassed on the southeast corner. The crevass runs about southwest and northeast and is several hundred yards in length. Its width is nowhere more than one foot.
The Mt. Lyell Glacier, separated from that of McClure by a narrow crest, is about a mile in width by a mile in length.
I have planted stakes in the glacier of Red Mountains also but have not yet observed them.
[Beginning of letter missing.]
In going up any of the principal Yosemite streams, lakes in all stages of decay are found in great abundance, regularly becoming younger until we reach the almost countless gems of the summits with scarce an inch of carex upon their shallow, sandy borders and with their bottoms still bright with the polish of ice. Upon the Nevada and its branches there are not fewer than a hundred of these glacial lakes from a mile to a hundred yards in diameter with countless glistening pondlets not much larger than moons.
All of the grand fir forests about the valley are planted upon moraines, and from any of the mountain-tops the shape and extent of the neighboring moraines may always be surely determined by the firs growing upon them. Some pines will grow upon shallow sand and crumbling granite, but those luxuriant forests of the silver firs are always upon a generous bed of glacial drift. I discovered a moraine with smooth pebbles upon a shoulder of the South Dome, and upon every part of the Yosemite upper and lower walls.
I am surprised to find that water has had so little to do with mountain structure here. Whitney says that there is no proof that glaciers ever flowed in this valley, yet its walls have not been eroded to the depth of an inch since the ice left it, and glacial action is glaringly apparent many miles below the valley.
The bottom portion of the foregoing section, with perpendicular sides, is here about two feet in depth and was cut by the water. The Nevada here never was more than four or five feet deep, and all of the bank records of all the upper streams say the same thing of the absence of great floods.
The entire region above Yosemite and as far down as the bottoms of Yosemite has scarcely been touched by any other inundation than that of ice. Perhaps all of the past glacial inundation of every kind would not average an inch in depth for the whole region.
Yosemite and Hetch Hetchy are lake-basins filled with sand and the matter of moraines washed from the upper cañons. The Yosemite ice, in escaping from the Yosemite basin, was compelled to flow upward a considerable height on both sides of the bottom walls of the valley. The cañon below the valley is very crooked and very narrow, and the Yosemite glacier flowed across all of its crooks and high above its walls without paying any compliance to it, thus: [drawing here]. The light lines show the direction of the ice-current.
Your two last are received. The package of letters was picked up by a man in the valley. There was none for thee. I have Hetch Hetchy about ready. I did not intend that Tenaya ramble for publication, but you know what is better. I mean to write and send all kinds of game to you with hides and feathers on, for if I wait until all become one, it may be too long.
As for Le Conte’s Glaciers, they will not hurt mine, but hereafter I will say my thoughts to the public in any kind of words I chance to command, for I am sure that they will be better expressed in this way than in any second-hand hash, however able. Oftentimes when I am free in the wilds I discover some rare beauty in lake or cataract or mountain form and instantly seek to sketch it with my pencil, but the drawing is always enormously unlike the reality. So also in word sketches of the same beauties that are so living, so loving, so filled with warm God, there is the same infinite shortcoming. The few hard words make but a skeleton, fleshless, heartless, and when you read, the dead, bony words rattle in one’s teeth. Yet I will not the less endeavor to do my poor best, believing that even these dead bone-heaps called articles will occasionally contain hints to some living souls who know how to find them.
I have not received Dr. Stebbins’ letter. Give him and all my friends love from me. I sent Harry Edwards the butterflies I had lost. Did he get them? Farewell, dear, dear spiritual mother! Heaven repay your everlasting love.
Yours containing Dr. Stebbins’ was received to-day. Some of our letters come in by Mariposa, some by Coulterville, and some by Oak Flat, causing large delays.
I expect to be able to send this out next Sunday, and with it Hetch Hetchy, which is about ready and from this time you will receive about one article a month.
This letter of yours is a very delightful one. I shall look eagerly for the rural homes.
When I know Dr. Stebbins’ summer address I will write to him. He is a dear young soul, though an old man.
I am “not to write” therefore.
Farewell with love.
I will some time send you “Big Tuolumne Cañon,” Ascent of Mt. Ritter, Formation of Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Lake, Other Yosemite Valleys (one, two, three, four, or more), The Lake District, Transformation of Lakes to Meadows Wet, to Meadows Dry, to Sandy Flats Treeless, or to Sandy Flats Forested, The Glacial Period, Formation of Simple Cañons, of Compound Cañons, Description of each Glacier of Region, Origin of Sierra Forest, Distribution of Sierra Forests; a description of each of the Yosemite falls and of the basins from whence derived; Yosemite Shadows, as related to groves, meadows, and bends of the river; Avalanches, Earthquakes, Birds, Bear, etc., and “mony mair”
Indian Tom goes out of the valley tomorrow. With this I send you “Hetch Hetchy.”
Last year I wrote a description of Hetchy and sent it to Prof. Runkle. Not having heard of it since, I thought it lost in some wastebasket, but to-day I received a Boston letter stating that a Hetch from my pen appeared in the “Boston Transcript” of about March 12th, 1873, which may possibly be the article in question. If so, this present H. H. will be found to contain a page or two of the same, but this is about three times as large and all rewritten, etc. That Tuolumne song of five cantos “Nature loves the Number Five” may perhaps be better out. If you think it unfit for the public, keep it to thyself. I never can keep my pen perfectly sober when it gets into the bounce and hurrah of cascades, but it never has broken into rhyme before.
Love to all and “Fare ye well, my ain Jean.”
The kerchiefs have come from Bentons and a package of books from Doggetts.
The bearer of this is my friend Mr. Black, proprietor of Black’s Hotel, Yosemite. He will give you tidings of all our valley affairs.
I sent off a letter and article for you a week ago. I find this literary business very irksome, yet I will try to learn it.
The falls respond gloriously to the ripe sunshine of these days; so do the flowers.
I hope that you will be able to send me word when you will come, so that I may arrange accordingly. Mr. Black will give all particulars of trails, times, etc. If Moores have not gone ranching, send Mr. Black over to their house. It will do her good. I fondly hope she is growing better.
Love to all.
The robins have eaten too much breakfast this morning, and there is a grossness in their throats that will require a good deal of sunshine for its cure. The leaves of many of the plants are badly disarranged, showing that they have had a poor night’s sleep. The reason of all this trouble is a snowstorm that overloaded the flowers and benumbed the butterflies, upon which the birds have breakfasted too heartily.
The grand Upper Yosemite Fall is at this moment (7 A.M.) coming with all its glorious array of fleecy comets out of a cloud that is laid along the top of the cliff, and going into a cloud that is drawn along the face of the wall about half way up. These clouds are shot through and through with sunshine, forming, with the snowy waters and fresh-washed walls, one of the most openly glorious scenes I ever beheld. A lady on Black’s piazza is quietly looking at it, sitting with arms folded in her chair. A gentleman is pointing at it with his cane, while another gentleman is speaking loudly and businessly about his “baggage.” “Eyes have they but they see not.”
Looking up the valley, the cloud effects are yet more lavishly glorious. Tissiack is mantled with silvery burning mists, her gray rocks appearing dimly where thinly veiled. Over the top of Washington Column the clouds are descending in a continuous stream and rising again suddenly from the bottom like spray from a waterfall. O dear! I wish you were here. I may write this cloud glory forevermore but never be able to picture it for you.
Doctor and Priest in Yosemite. Emerson prophesies in similar dialect that I will one day go to him and “better men” in New England, or something to that effect. I feel like objecting in popular slang that I can’t see it. I shall indeed go gladly to the “Atlantic Coast,” as he prophesies, but only to see him and the Glacier Ghosts of the north. Runkle wants to make a teacher of me, but I have been too long wild, too befogged and befogged to burn well in their patent high-heated educational furnaces.
[A portion missing.]
I had a good letter from Le Conte. He evidently does n’t know what to think of the huge lumps of ice that I sent him. I don’t wonder at his cautious withholding of judgment. When my mountain mother first told me the tale, I could hardly dare to believe either, and kept saying “What?” like a child half awake. Farewell. My love to the Doctor and the boys. I hope the Doctor will run away from his enormous bundles of duty and rest a summer with the mountains. I have a great deal to ask him. I have begun to build my cabin. You will have a home in Yosemite.
My horse and bread, etc., are ready for upward. I returned three days ago from Mts. Lyell, McClure, and Hoffman. I spent three days on a glacier up there, planting stakes, etc. This time I go to the Merced group, one of whose mountains shelters a glacier. I will go over all the lakes and moraines, etc., there. Will be gone a week or two or so.
Hutchings wants to go with me to “help me,” but I will, etc., etc.
Ink cannot tell the glow that lights me at this moment in turning to the mountains. I feel strong to leap Yosemite walls at a bound. Hotels and human impurity will be far below. I will fuse in spirit skies.
Farewell, or come meet in ghost between Red Mountain and Black on the star-sparkled ice.
Love to all shine and to Moores and Stoddard.
I came down last night from the Lyell Glacier, weary with walking in the snow, but I forgot my weariness and the pain of my sun-blistered face in the news of your coming.
I would like you to bring me a pair or two of green spectacles to save my eyes, as I have some weeks of hard work and exposure among the glaciers this fall. They are sore with my last journey. All of the upper mountains are yet deeply snow-clad, and the view from the top of Lyell was infinitely glorious.
Thanking God for thee, I say a short farewell.
Kellogg has not yet appeared, nor any of the other friends you speak of.
I am again at the bottom meadow of Yosemite after a most intensely interesting bath among the outer mountains. I have been exploring the upper tributaries of the Cascade and Tamarac streams. And in particular all of the basin of the Yosemite Creek. The present basin of every stream which enters the valley on the north side was formerly filled with ice, which also flowed into the valley, although the ancient ice basins did not always correspond with the present water basins because glaciers can flow up hill. The whole of the north wall of the valley was covered with an unbroken flow of ice, with perhaps the single exception of the crest of Eagle Cliff, and though the book of glaciers gradually dims as we go lower on the range, yet I fully believe that future investigation will show that, in the earlier ages of Sierra Nevada ice, vast glaciers flowed to the foot of the range east of Yosemite and also north and south at an elevation of 9000 feet. The glacier basins are almost unchanged, and I believe that ice was the agent by which all of the present rocks receive their special forms. More of this some other day. Would that I could have you here or in any wild place where I can think and speak! Would you not be thoroughly iced? You would not find in me one unglacial thought. Come, and I will tell you how El Capitan and Tissiack were fashioned. I will most likely live at Black’s Hotel this winter in charge of the premises, and before next spring I will have an independent cabin built, with a special Carr corner where you and the Doctor can come and stay all summer; also I will have a tent so that we can camp and receive night blessings when we choose, and then I will have horses enough so that we can go to the upper temples also. I wish you could see Lake Tenaya. It is one of the most perfectly and richly spiritual places in the mountains, and I would like to preëmpt there. Somehow I should feel like leaving home in going to Hetch Hetchy. Besides, there is room there for many other claims, and it soon will fill with coarse homesteads, but as the winter is so severe at Lake Tenaya, very few will care to live there. Hetch Hetchy is about four thousand feet above sea, while Lake Tenaya is eight. I have been living in these mountains in so haunting, soaring, floating a way that it seems strange to cast any kind of an anchor. All is so equal in glory, so ocean-like, that to choose one place above another is like drawing dividing lines in the sky. I think I answered your last with respect to remaining here in the winter. I can do much of this ice work in the quiet, and the whole subject is purely physical, so that I can get but little from books. All depends upon the goodness of one’s eyes. No scientific book in the world can tell me how this Yosemite granite is put together or how it has been taken down. Patient observation and constant brooding above the rocks, lying upon them for years as the ice did, is the way to arrive at the truths which are graven so lavishly upon them.
Would that I knew what good prayers I could say or good deeds I could do, so that ravens would bring me bread and venison for the next two years! Then would I get some tough gray clothes the color of granite, so no one could see or find me [words missing] would I reproduce the ancient ice-rivers and [words missing] and dwell with them. I go again to my lessons tomorrow morning. Some snow fell, and bye-and-bye I must tell you about it.
If poor good Melancholia Cowper had been here yesterday morning, here is just what he would have sung:—
The rocks have been washed, just washed in a shower
Which winds in their faces conveyed.
The plentiful cloudless bemuffled their brows
Or lay on their beautiful heads.
But cold sighed the winds in the fir trees above
And down on the pine trees below,
For the rain that came laving and washing in love
Was followed, alas, by a snow.
Which, being unmetaphored and prosed into sense, means that yesterday morning a strong southeast wind, cooled among the highest snows of the Sierra, drove back the warm northwest winds from the hot San Joaquin plains and burning foothill woods, and piled up a jagged cloud addition to our valley walls. Soon those white clouds began to darken and to reach out long filmy edges which, uniting over the valley, made a close, dark ceiling. Then came rain, unsteady at first, now a heavy gush, then a sprinkling halt, as if the clouds so long out of practice had forgotten something, but after half an hour of experimental pouring and sprinkling there came an earnest, steady, well-controlled rain.
On the mountain the rain soon turned to snow and some half-melted flakes reached the bottom of the valley. This morning Starr King and Tissiack and all the upper valley are white.
[Beginning of letter missing.]
I had a grand ramble in the deep snow outside the valley and discovered one beautiful truth concerning snow-structure and three concerning the forms of forest trees.
These earthquakes have made me immensely rich. I had long been aware of the life and gentle tenderness of the rocks, and, instead of walking upon them as unfeeling surfaces, began to regard them as a transparent sky. Now they have spoken with audible voice and pulsed with common motion. This very instant, just as my pen reached “and” on the third line above, my cabin creaked with a sharp shock and the oil waved in my lamp.
We had several shocks last night. I would like to go somewhere on the west South American coast to study earthquakes. I think I could invent some experimental apparatus whereby their complicated phenomena could be separated and read, but I have some years of ice on hand. ‘T is most ennobling to find and feel that we are constructed with reference to these noble storms, so as to draw unspeakable enjoyment from them. Are we not rich when our six-foot column of substance sponges up heaven above and earth beneath into its pores? Aye, we have chambers in us the right shape for earthquakes. Churches and the schools lisp limpingly, painfully, of man’s capabilities, possibilities, and fussy developing nostrums of duties, but if the human flock, together with their Rev.’s and double L-D shepherds, would go wild themselves, they would discover without Euclid that the solid contents of a human soul is the whole world.
Our streams are fast obtaining their highest power; warm nights and days are making the high mountain snow into snow avalanches and snow-falls; violets, blue, white, and yellow, abound; butterflies [flit] through the meadows; and mirror shadows reveal new heavens and new earths everywhere.
Remember me to the Doctor and all the boys and to McChesney and the brotherhood.
All of my season’s mountain work is done. I have just come down from Mt. Whitney and the newly discovered mountain five miles northwest of Whitney, and now our journey is a simple saunter along the base of the range to Tahoe, where we will arrive about the end of the month or a few days earlier.
I have seen a good deal more of the high mountain region about the head of Kings and Kern rivers than I expected to do in so short and so late a time.
Two weeks ago I left the Doctor and Billie in the Kings River Yosemite, and set out for Mt. Tyndall and adjacent mountains and cañons. I ascended Tyndall and ran down into the Kern River Cañon and climbed some nameless mountains between Tyndall and Whitney, and thus gained a pretty good general idea of the region. After crossing the range by the Kearsarge Pass, I again left the Doctor and Bill and pushed southward along the range and northward and up Cottonwood Creek to Mt. Whitney, then over to the Kern Cañons again and up to the new “highest” peak, which I did not ascend, as there was no one to attend to my horse. Thus you see I have rambled this highest portion of the Sierra pretty thoroughly, though hastily. I spent a night without fire or food in a very icy wind-storm on one of the spires of the new highest peak by some called Fisherman’s Peak. That I am already quite recovered from the tremendous exposure proves that I cannot be killed in any such manner. On the day previous I climbed two mountains, making over 10,000 feet of altitude.
I saw no mountains in all this grand region that appeared at all inaccessible to a mountaineer. Give me a summer and a bunch of matches and a sack of meal, and I will climb every mountain in the region.
I have passed through the Lone Pine and noted the Yosemite and local subsidences accomplished by the earthquakes. The bunchy bush Compositae of Owen’s Valley are intensely glorious.
I got back from Whitney this P.M. How I shall sleep! My life rose wavelike with those lofty granite waves; now it may wearily float for a time along the smooth, flowery plain.
It seems that this new Fisherman’s Peak is causing some stir in the newspapers. If I feel writeful, I will send you a sketch of the region for the “Overland.”
Love to all my friends.
After Clark’s departure a week ago we climbed the divide between the south fork of the San Joaquin and Kings River. I scanned the vast landscape on which the ice had written wondrous things. After a short scientific feast I decided to attempt entering the valley of the west branch of the north fork, which we did, following the bottom of the valley for about 10 miles. Then we were compelled to ascend the west side of the cañon into the forest. About 6 miles farther down we made out to reënter the cañon, where there is a Yosemite valley, and by hard efforts succeeded in getting out on the opposite side and reaching the divide between the east fork and the middle fork. We then followed the top of the divide nearly to the confluence of the east fork with the trunk and crossed the main river yesterday, and are now in the pines again, over all the wildest and most impracticable portions of our journey. In descending the divide of the main Kings River we made a descent of near 7000 feet down, clear down with a vengeance, to the hot pineless foot-hills. We rose again, and it was a most grateful resurrection. Last night I watched the writing of the spirey pines on the sky gray with stars, and if you had been here I would have said, Look, etc.
Last night, when the Doctor and I were bedbuilding, discussing as usual the goodnesses and badnesses of boughy mountain beds, we were astounded by the appearance of two prospectors coming through the mountain rye. By them I send this note.
To-day we will reach some of the sequoias near Thomas’ Mill (vide map of Geological Survey), and in two or three more days will be in the cañon of the south fork of Kings River. If the weather appears tranquil when we reach the summit of the range, I may set out among the glaciers for a few days, but if otherwise I shall push hastily for the Owen’s River plains and thence up to Tahoe, etc. I am working hard and shall not feel easy until I am on the other side beyond the reach of early snowstorms. Not that I fear snowstorms for myself, but the poor animals would die or suffer.
The Doctor’s duster and fly-net are safe, and therefore he. Billy is in good spirits, apt to teach drawing in and out of season.
Remember me to the Doctor and the boys and Morris and Keith, etc.
My dear Friends Dr. and Mrs. Carr,—
I received the news of your terrible bereavement a few moments ago, and can only say that you have my heart sympathy and prayer that our Father may sustain and soothe you.
Dr. Kellogg and Billy Simms left me a week ago at Mono, going directly to Yosemite. I reached this queen of lakes, two days ago and rode down around the shore on the east side. Will continue on around up the west coast homeward through Lake and Hope valleys and over the Sierra to Yosemite by the Virginia Creek trail, or Sonora road if much snow should fall. Will reach Yosemite in about a week.
Somehow I had no hopes of meeting you here. I could not hear you or see you, yet you shared all of my highest pleasures, as I sauntered through the piney woods, pausing countless times to absorb the blue glimpses of the lake, all so heavenly clean, so terrestrial yet so openly spiritual. I wish, my dear, dear friends, that you could share this divine day with me here. The soul of Indian summer is brooding this blue water, and it enters one’s being as nothing else does. Tahoe is surely not one but many. As I curve around its heads and bays and look far out on its level sky fairly tinted and fading in pensive air, I am reminded of all the mountain lakes I ever knew, as if this were a kind of water heaven to which they all had come.
I expected to have been among the foot-hill drift long ago, but the mountains fairly seized me, and, ere I knew, I was up the Merced Cañon, where we were last year, past Shadow and Merced lakes and our soda springs, etc. I returned last night. Had a glorious storm and a thousand sacred beauties that seemed yet more and more divine. I camped four nights at Shadow Lake, at the old place in the pine thickets. I have ousel tales to tell. I was alone, and during the whole excursion, or period rather, was in a kind of calm, uncurable ecstasy. I am hopelessly and forever a mountaineer.
How glorious my studies seem, and how simple! I found out a noble truth concerning the Merced moraines that escaped me hitherto. Civilization and fever and all the morbidness that has been hooted at me has not dimmed my glacial eyes, and I care to live only to entice people to look at Nature’s loveliness. My own special self is nothing. My feet have recovered their cunning. I feel myself again. Tell Keith the colors are coming to the groves.
I leave Yosemite for over the mountains to Mono [?] and Lake Tahoe in a week, thence anywhere—Shastaward, etc. I think I may be at Brownsville, Yuba County, where I may get a letter from you. I promised to call on Emily Pelton there.
Here is icy Shasta fifteen miles away yet at the very door. It is all close wrapt in clean young snow down to the very base, one mass of white from the dense black forest girdle at an elevation of five or six thousand feet to the very summit. The extent of its individuality is perfectly wonderful.
When I first caught sight of it over the braided folds of the Sacramento valley, I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone, and weary, yet all my blood turned to wine and I have not been weary since. Stone was to have accompanied me, but has failed of course. The last storm was severe, and all the mountains shake their heads and say impossible, etc., but you know I will meet all its icy snows lovingly.
I set out in a few minutes for the edge of the timber-line. Then upwards, if unstormy, in the early morning. If the snow proves to be mealy and loose, it is barely possible that I may be unable to urge my way through so many upward miles, as there is no intermediate camping-ground. Yet I am feverless and strong now and can spend two days with their intermediate nights in one deliberate, unstrained effort.
I am the more eager to ascend to study the mechanical conditions of the fresh snow at so great an elevation; also to obtain clear views of the comparative quantities of lava inundation northward and southward; also general views of the channels of the ancient Shasta glaciers, etc.; many other lesser problems, besides the fountains of the rivers here and the living glaciers. I would like to remain a week or two and may have to return next year in summer.
I wrote a short letter a few days ago which was printed in the “Evening Bulletin,” which I suppose you have seen.
I wonder how you all are faring in your wilderness educational departmental institutional, etc. Write me a line here in care of Sisson. I think it will reach me on my return from icy Shasta.
Don’t forward any letters from the Oakland office. I want only mountains until my return to civilization.
Coming in for a sleep and rest, I was glad to receive your card. I seem to be more than married to icy Shasta.
One yellow, mellow morning six days ago, when Shasta snows were looming and blooming, I slept outside the bar-room door to gaze and was instantly drawn up over the meadows, over the forests, to the main Shasta glacier in one rushing cometic whizz, then, swooping to Shasta valley, whirled off around the base like a satellite of the grand icy sun. I have just completed my first revolution. Length of orbit, 100 miles; time, one Shasta day.
For two days and a half I had nothing in the way of food, yet suffered nothing and was finely nerved for the most delicate work of mountaineering both among crevasses and lava cliffs. Now I am sleeping and eating. I found some geological facts that are perfectly glorious, and botanical ones too.
I wish I could make the public be kind to Keith and his paint.
And so you contemplate vines and oranges among the warm California angels. I wish you would all go a-granging among oranges and bananas and all such blazing, red-hot fruits, for you are a species of Hindoo sun fruit yourself.
For me, I like better the huckleberries of cool glacial bogs and acid currants and benevolent, rosy, beaming apples and common Indian-summer pumpkins. I wish you could see the holy morning’s Alpen glow of Shasta.
Farewell. I’ll be down into gray Oakland some time.
I am glad you are so essentially independent of those commonplace plotters that have so marred your peace, eat oranges and hear the larks and wait on the sun.
The letter you sent here is also received. Emily’s I will get bye and bye. Love to color Keith.
I have just returned from a fourth Shasta excursion and find yours of the 17th. I wish you could have been with me on Shasta’s shoulder last evening in the sun glow. I was over on the head waters of the McCloud; and what a head! Think of a spring giving rise to a river! I fairly quiver with joyous exultation when I think of it. The infinity of Nature’s glory in rock, cloud, and water! As soon as I beheld the McCloud upon its lower course, I knew that there must be something extraordinary in its Alpine fountains, and I shouted, “O where, my glorious river, do you come from?” Think of a spring fifty yards wide at the mouth issuing from the base of a lava bluff with wild songs, not gloomily from a dark cavy mouth, but from a world of ferns and mosses, gold and green.
I broke my way through chaparral tangle in eager vigor utterly unweariable. The dark blue stream sang solemnly with a deep voice, pooling and bowlder-dashing and an a-a-aing in white flashing rapids, when suddenly I heard water notes I never had heard before. They came from that mysterious spring. And then the Elk forest and the Alpine glow and the sunset,—poor pen cannot tell it.
The sun this morning is at work with its blessings as if it had never blessed before. He never wearies of revealing himself on Shasta. But in a few hours I leave this altar and all its——
Well, to my Father I say “Thank you” and go willingly.
I go by stage and rail to Brownsville to see Emily and the rocks there and Yuba. Then, perhaps, a few days among auriferous drifts on the Tuolumne, and then to Oakland and that book, walking across the Coast Range on the way, either through one of the passes or over Mt. Diablo. I feel a sort of nervous fear of another period of town dark, but I don’t want to be silly about it. The sun glow will all fade out of me and I will be deathly as Shasta in the dark, but mornings will come, dawnings of some kind, and if not, I have lived more than a common eternity already.
Farewell, don’t overwork; that is not the work your Father wants. I wish you could come a-beeing in the Shasta honey lands. Love to the boys.
My dear Mrs. Mother Carr, here are some of the dearest and bonniest of our Father’s bairns,—the little ones that so few care to see. I never saw such enthusiasm in the care and breeding of mosses as Nature manifests among these northern Sierras.
I have studied a big fruitful week among the cañons and ridges of the Feather, and another along the Yuba River living and dead.
I have seen a dead river, a sight worth going around the world to see. The dead rivers and dead gravels wherein lie the gold form magnificent problems, and I feel wild and unmanageable with the intense interest they excite, but I will choke myself off and finish my glacial work and that little book of studies. I have been spending a few fine social days with Emily, but now work.
How gloriously it storms! The pines are in ecstasy, and I feel it and must go out to them. I must borrow a big coat and mingle in the storm and make some studies.
Farewell. Love to all. Emily and Mrs. Knox send love.
How are Ned and Keith? I wish Keith had been with us these Shasta and Feather River days. I have gained a thousandfold more than I hoped. Heaven send him light and the good blessing of wildness. How the rains [?] splash and roar! and how the pines wave and pray!
Here I am, safe in the arms of Daddy Swett, home again from icy Shasta and richer than ever in dead-river gravel and in snowstorms and snow. The upper end of the main Sacramento Valley is entirely covered with ancient river drift, and I wandered over many square miles of it. In every pebble I could hear the sound of running water. The whole deposit is a poem whose many books and chapters form the geological Vedas of our glorious State.
I discovered a new species of hail on the summit of Shasta and experienced one of the most beautiful and most violent snowstorms imaginable.
I would have been with you ere this to tell you about it and to give you some lilies and pine tassels that I brought for you and Mrs. McChesney and Ina Coolbrith, but alack! I am battered and scarred like a log that has come down the Tuolumne in flood-time, and I am also lame with frost-nipping. Nothing serious, however, and I will be well and better than before in a few days.
I was caught in a violent snowstorm and held up on the summit of the mountain all night in my shirt-sleeves. The intense cold and the want of food and sleep made the fire of life smoulder and burn low. Nevertheless, in company with another strong mountaineer I broke through six miles of frosty snow down into the timber and reached fire and food and sleep and am better than ever with all the valuable experiences. Altogether I have had a very instructive and delightful trip.
The bryanthus you wanted was snow-buried, and I was too lame to dig it out for you, but I will probably be back ere long.
I’ll be over in a few days or so.
I’m delighted, in coming out of the woods, to learn that the Doctor is elected to do the work he is so well fitted for.
I’ve had a glorious season of forest grace, notwithstanding the hundred cañons I’ve crossed, and the innumerable gorges, gulches, and avalanchal corrugations.
A day or two of resting and lingering in my dear old haunts, and then down-town work.
I’m sorry about Keith’s stocks. Though of scarce any real consequence, they yet serve to perturb and spoil his best moods and works.
It seems a whole round season since I saw you, but have I not seen the King Sequoia in forest glory?
Love to all.
We will all be glad to see you. We all heard of the outrage committed on Johnnie and hope it might not be so serious as made to appear in the press. Mr. Swett told me the other day that he met a friend down town who was acquainted with the Whites intimately, who gave it as his opinion that Mr. White was insane, had a brother in the asylum, and he was as jealous of a half-dozen other persons as of Johnnie.
If I knew Ned’s boarding-house, I would visit him, for I know he must feel terribly agitated. The last time I saw him, he was rejoicing over Johnnie’s steady manly development, like an old fond father over some reformed son.
As for the stranded sapless condition of political geology, I care only for the fruitless work expended upon it by friends. The glaciers are not affected thereby, neither am I nor Cassiope.
The first meeting I had with Mr. Moore was at the lecture the other night. He seemed immeasurably astonished to find me in so anti-sequestered a condition, but in the meanwhile he is more changed than I, for he seems semi-crazy on literature, as Mrs. M. is wholly, doubly so on paint.
I will show your letters to Mr. Swett when he comes in, who will doubtless be able to decipher the meaning of heads and tails of your bodyless sentences.
I’m sorry most of all for the destruction of the “Teachers,” thus cutting off the only adequate outlet for your own thought; but hang it! let them decapitate and hang, they cannot hang Cassiope.
John Swett told me how heavy a burden you were carrying of work and sickness. I hope ere this that the Doctor has recovered from his severe attack of rheumatism and that you have had sleep and rest.
Your description of the orange lands makes me more than ever eager to see them,—in particular the phenomenon of a real lover of Nature such as you mention, for one does feel so wholly alone in the midst of this metallic, money-clinking crowd. And so you are going to dwell down there, and how rosily you will write about it! Well, I hope you may realize it all. Independence in quiet life must be delightful indeed, after the battles and the burdens of these heavy years. In any case it is a fine thing for old people who have worked and fought through all kinds of strenuous experiences to have thoughts and schemes so fresh and young as yours. We all hope to see you soon.
I made only a short dash into the dear old Highlands above Yosemite, but all was so full of everything I love, every day seemed a measureless period. I never enjoyed the Tuolumne cataracts so much. Coming out of the sun land, the gray salt deserts of Utah, these wild ice waters sang themselves into my soul more enthusiastically than ever, and the forests’ breath was sweeter, and Cassiope fairer than in all my first fresh contacts. But I’m not going to tell here. I only write now to say that next Saturday I will sail to Los Angeles and spend a few weeks in getting some general views of the adjacent region, then work northward and begin a careful study of the redwoods. I will at least have time this season for the lower portion of the belt; that is, for all south of here. If you have any messages, you have time to write me. I sail at 10 A.M., or if not you may direct to Los Angeles.
I hope to see Congar, and also the spot you have selected for home. I wish you could be there in your grown fruitful groves, all rooted and grounded in the fine garden nook that I know you will make. It must be a great consolation in the midst of the fires you are compassed with to look forward to a tranquil seclusion in the South of which you are so fond.
John says he may not move to Berkeley, and if not I may be here this winter, though I still feel some tendency towards another winter in some mountain ice. It is long indeed since I had anything like a quiet talk with you. You have been going like an avalanche for many a year, and I sometimes fear you will not be able to settle into rest even in the orange groves.
I’m glad to know that the Doctor is so well. You must be pained by the shameful attacks made upon your tried friend La Grange. Farewell.
I’ve seen your sunny Pasadena and the patch called yours. Everything about here pleases me, and I felt sorely tempted to take Dr. Congar’s advice and invest in an orange-patch myself. I feel sure you will be happy here with the Doctor and Allie among so rich a luxuriance of sunny vegetation. How you will dig and dibble in that mellow loam! I cannot think of you standing erect for a single moment, unless it be in looking away out into the dreamy west. I made a fine shaggy little five days’ excursion back in the heart of the San Gabriel Mountains, and then a week of real pleasure with Congar, resurrecting the past about Madison. He has a fine little farm, fine little family, and fine cosy home.
I felt at home with Congar and at once took possession of his premises and all that in them is. We drove down through the settlements eastward and saw the best orange groves and vineyards, but the mountains I as usual met alone. Although so gray and silent and unpromising they are full of wild gardens and ferneries, and lilyries,—some specimens ten feet high with twenty lilies big enough for bonnets. The main results I will tell you some other time, should you ever have an hour’s leisure. I go north to-day, by rail to Newhall, thence by stage to Soledad, and on to Monterey, where I will take to the woods and feel my way in free study to San Francisco. May reach the city about the middle of next month.
Heard through your factor here that Miss Powell is worse and that you would not be down soon. I received your letter and postal, also the letters you thought I had lost, via one from Salt Lake for which I sent and one from Yosemite which Black forwarded.
With love to all I am ever
I have just been over at Alameda with poor dear old Gibbons. You have seen him, and I need give no particulars. “The only thing I ‘m afraid of, John,” he said, looking up with his old child face, “is that I shall never be able to climb the Oakland hills again.” But he is so healthy and so well cared for we will be strong and hope that he will.
He spoke for an hour with characteristic unselfishness on the injustice done Dr. Kellogg in failing to recognize his long-continued devotion to science, at the botanical love-feast held here the other night. He threatens to write up the whole discreditable affair, and is veer anxious to obtain from you a copy of that Gray letter to Kellogg which was not delivered.
I had a glorious ramble in the Santa Cruz woods and have found out one very interesting and picturesque fact concerning the growth of this sequoia. I mean to devote many a long week to its study. What the upshot may be, I cannot guess, but you know I am never sent away empty. I made an excursion to the summit of Mt. Hamilton in extraordinary style, accompanied by Allen, Norton, Brawley, and all the lady professors and their friends. A curious contrast to my ordinary still-hunting. Spent a week at San José enjoyed my visit with Allen very much. Lectured to the faculty on Methods of Study without undergoing any very great scare.
I believe I wrote you from Los Angeles about my Pasadena week. Have sent a couple of letters to the “Bulletin” from there, not yet published.
I have no inflexible plans as yet for the remaining months of the season, but Yosemite seems to place itself as a most persistent candidate for my winter. I shall soon be in flight to the Sierras or Oregon.
I seem to give up hope of ever seeing you calm again. Don’t grind too hard at those Sacramento mills. Remember me to the Doctor and Allie.
I’m sorry I did not see you when last in the city. I went over to Oakland, thence to Alameda to spend a week and finish an “article” with our good old Gibbons; but the house was full; then I went to Dr. Strentzel’s, where I remained a week, working a little, resting a good deal and eating many fine cherries. I enjoyed most the white bed in which first I rested after rocking so long in the rushes of the Stockton slough. They all were as kind as ever they could possibly be, and wanted me to stop longer, but I could not find a conscientious excuse for so doing and came away somewhat sore with obligations for stopping so long. Met Mr. and Mrs. Allen there.
Smith has gone this morning to Shasta, taking Helen, and I’m terribly lonesome and homesick and will not try to stand it. Will go to the woods tomorrow. How great are your trials! I wish I could help you. May the Doctor be speedily restored to health.
I did not send the pine book to you, because I was using it in rewriting a portion of the California forest article, which will appear in Scribner’s, May or June, and because, before it could have reached you, you were, according to your letter, to be in San Francisco and could then take it with you. It is entitled “Gordon’s Pinetum,” published by Henry G. Bohn, Henrietta St., Covent Garden; Simpkin, Marshall & Co., Stationers, Hall Court; 1875; second edition. It is an “exhaustive” work, very exhausting anyhow, and contains a fine big much of little.
The summit pine of our Sierra is P. albicaulis of Engelmann, and the P. flexilis Torrey, given in this work as a synonym, is a very different tree, growing sparsely on the eastern flank of the Sierra, from Bloody Cañon southward, but very abundant on all the higher basin ranges, and on the Wahsatch and Rocky Mountains.
The orange book is, it seems, another exhaustive work. There is something admirable in the scientific nerve and aplomb manifested in the titles of these swollen volumes. How a tree book can be exhaustive when every species is ever on the wing from one form to another with infinite variety, it is not easy to see.
I have n’t the least idea who Mr. Rexford is, but, if connected with the “Bulletin,” I can probably get the title of his citrus book through Mr. Williams. Will probably see him next Sunday.
The Sunday convention manager offered me a hundred dollars for two lectures on the Yosemite rocks in June. I have not yet agreed to do so, though I probably shall, as I am not going into Colorado this summer.
Excepting a day at San José with Allen, I have hardly been out of my room for weeks, pegging away with my quill and accomplishing little. My last efforts were on the preservation of the Sierra forests, and the wild and trampled conditions of our flora from a bee’s point of view.
I want to spend the greater portion of the season up the Coast, observing ice, and may possibly find my way home in the fall to see my mother.
I wonder if you will really go quietly away South when your office term expires, and rest in the afternoon of your life among your kin and orange leaves, or, unable to get full absolution from official woman’s rights’ unrest, you will fight and squirm till sundown. I’ve seen nothing of you all these fighting years.
I suppose nothing less than an Exhaustive miniature of all the leafy creatures of the globe will satisfy your Pasadena aspirations. You know how little real sympathy I can give in such play-garden schemes. Still, if so inappreciative and unavailable a man as I may be of use at all, let me know.
Good-bye. I am going home, going to my summer in the snow and ice and forests of the north coast. Will sail to-morrow at noon on the Dakota for Victoria and Olympia. Will then push inland and along land. May visit Alaska.
I hope you and the Doctor may not suffer yourselves to be drawn away into the stream of politics again. You will be far happier on your land.
I was at the valley. How beautiful it was! fresh and full of cool crystal streams and blooms. Was not scared in my lectures after the first one.
With kind regards to the Doctor and the boys. Farewell.
Muir, John (1838-1914). Letters to a friend; written to Mrs. Ezra S. Carr, 1866-1879. (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1915). 193 p., 21 cm. Library of Congress Call Number QH31.M9 A3. LCCN 15005890.
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