HOME-MAKING–FALLING TO OUR KNEES TO KISS THE DUST. WILD OR DOMESTIC:

MORE DUST UP ON POETRY’S PHILSOPHERS OF SWEEPS AND SACRED SWEEPINGS, FROM RUMI, KABIR, HAFIZ, TO WENDELL BERRY TO WILLIAM CRONON, TO EMILY DICKINSON TO RITA DOVE TO JULIANNA BAGGOTT TO GINGER ANDREWS TO ELEANOR LERMAN, TO DOROTHY BARRESI AND JAN BEATTY, A SWEEP OF POETRY FROM STARDUST TO METEORS

and I don’t know about you but I can’t seem to get enough of housework . . . poems. I know! You can sweep, or you can write a poem about it. You can dust, or try to capture its essence, the quintessential experience of it, the magnitude of it all, the sparkle in artful words that sweep your mind and clean its hollows and make its dark spaces shine. You can clean the house or your mind: what do you say, Poetry Slow

Down, shall we put down our brooms and shake those mops and listen to those who put them down, in words, that is, slowed down to put down into language that shakes and makes a clean sweep of everything but the right word to shine in our minds, like some gleaming Truth and Beauty?

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My heart rouses to bring you news

My heart rouses to bring you news, that concerns you and concerns many men. It is difficult to get the news from despised poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.

That’s Dr. William Carlos Williams, a poet and OB-GYN, and this is Professor Barbara Mossberg, welcoming you to the Poetry Slow Down, on KRXA 540AM, at the San Francisco airport; in the past two weeks I’ve been criss-crossing the country from blizzards to draughts, snows to warm desert sun, talking about the role of poetry in civic life, the power

of poetry to shape our life as inevitably and powerfully as glaciers—maybe it doesn’t look like things are happening–, when someone writes or reads a poem, but

over time, poetry rocks and moves and carves our civic landscape. Our weekly hour show here on KRXA waves a flag for poetry’s necessity: how William Carlos Williams says, in his poem To Asphodel, That Greeny Flower, my heart rouses to bring you news . . .that men die miserably without, that poetry is a different kind of news we need. Our show places poetry in between the headline news, the late-breaking, fast-breaking, heart-breaking news. In arguing the role of poetry in our lives, we see this week the Haiti earthquake. People all over the world are organizing relief efforts, and one thing

that strikes me is how we see the role of The Poet in society, because a disaster focuses attention on a culture’s values. Who do we send to help save the day in a crisis? What expertise do we consider essential? Do we send poets as well as engineers, story tellers as well as bridge builders? What does poetry matter? How has it ever mattered to civilization in constant crisis? How has it mattered to each of us in our daily struggles, and to larger society, the destiny of countries? Do we need the poet as well as the engineer, the fire fighter, the surgeon? With the story of Haiti’s earthquake I have been thinking about Tracy Kidder’s Pulitzer Prize winning book on Dr. Paul Farmer’s work in Haiti, Mountains Beyond Mountains: Dr. Farmer has a medical

degree and Ph.D. in anthropology, both from Harvard, in order to be useful in what is considered the most hopeless nation, certainly the poorest and most beset, in the Western Hemisphere, and takes up what are considered the most hopeless of diseases, HIV/AIDS virus and TB, as one single person tries to take them on . . . with hope and determination. Is he Don Quixote? Is he innocent of reality? What makes him believe he can and should make a difference in such overwhelming conditions of hopelessness? He describes his transforming moment when he is visiting Haiti, when he commits to his life work, literally, to set up clinics and raise money and get international aid. He is riding on a truck on steep rough mountain roads when before him

he sees a truck overturned and a lady with a basket of mangos strewn all over the road lying dead. Describing this moment’s momentousness to him as a philanthropist, historian, scholar, doctor, administrator—he writes a poem to express the meaning of what he sees and feels: it is in poetry that he finds a transformative image that enables him to define what he wants to do and be. We’re going to talk about the poem and the role of poetry in his life as an emissary of hope, in the context of the news today coming from Haiti, and we’ll take flight from poems and thoughts you send to me every week—today we’ll share with you some poetry of our listener Chuck Tripi, and Elaine Bolduc, we’ll go on wild goose chases from their

poems and writings to hear news of this “great happening illimitably earth,” we’ll be talking about magnetic fields and electromagnetic fields, yep, the science behind the earthquakes and Einstein, and how poetry leads us to the science of the earth . . . and stories of indomitable human courage and perseverance to inspire us . . . . So, first, from our headline news this week of Haiti’s earthquake, Dr. Paul Farmer is on the ground, his organization Partners in Health calling for the medical community to come help. He has been appointed by President Clinton, who is the UN Special Envoy for Haiti, as the Deputy UN Special Envoy for

Haiti. “Paul’s selfless commitment to building health systems in the poor Haitian communities over the last

20 years has given millions of people hope for a brighter future for Haiti,” President Clinton said. “His credibility both among the people of Haiti and in the international community will be a tremendous asset to our efforts as we work with the government and people of Haiti to improve health care, strengthen education, and create economic opportunity.”

____________________

In his account of how he came to play this role, he was driving along National Highway 3, and on a dangerous curve saw an overturned tap-tap, baskets and mangos strewn everywhere, and a woman lying dead by the side of the road. He was silent, and then wrote a poem called The Mango Lady: here is the poem—and our program . . . I hope you enjoy, and thank you for listening, write me at bmossberg@csumb.edu, this is Professor Barbara Mossberg for the Poetry Slow Down…

© Barbara Mossberg 2012

RAVELINGS AND REVERY FOR THE GREATER GOOD, THE GREATER REALITY: FROM UC BERKELEY SCIENTISTS TO STEPHEN HAWKINGS, THE ROLE OF THE WORD AND SLOWING DOWN WITH POETRY IN EARTHLY HAPPINESS

A show which starts humbly in musings of humble arts, sweeping and ironing, and ends with a transcendent vision of transcendent arts of sweeping and ironing as nothing less than Truth and Beauty, and along the way picks up four newsy companions, news we need, news we heed: stories on Virgin Galactica’s space flight sale, book now; Stephen Hawking’s search for an assistant, apply now, help him communicate his visions on secrets and mysteries of the Universe; The Cardinal as offering musings for epic longing and the role of empathy and compassion, invoking what the Center for the Greater Good at UC Berkeley is finding about happiness—it’s all about kindness, compassion, and slowing down to notice . . . .

© Barbara Mossberg 2012

MAKE MINE MORNING

A FRESH START IN THE NO-COUNT NEW YEAR, featuring Henry David Thoreau’s Chanticleer and the Morning Risers, a cast of thousands of epic minds from every culture and clime: who doesn’t write about morning? Gerard Manley Hopkins, Edward Hirsch, Billy Collins, Robert Bly, Charles Tripi, Emily Dickinson, Rumi, Barbara Mossberg, Mary Oliver, Thomas Merton, Robert Browning, Tennyson, Gary Snyder, with notes of Joyce Cary, Emerson, John Muir, John Milton, Wallace Stevens, e. e. cummings (“. . . are awake and . . .”), Karl Marx, Bill Stafford, Blake, and thoughts of so many great morning poems, and still to come, Jane Hirshfield, “Waking the Morning Dreamless After Long Sleep,” Jane Kenyon, “This Morning,” and Ruth Stone’s “Living Alone at Eighty-Three,” all night you waited for morning. So this is a beginning.

From our show’s theme song, Simon and Garfunkle’s Fifty-Ninth Street Bridge Song, slowing down to make the morning last, to cowboy country, and Midwest/southwest ranch culture, east to west, north to south, Homeric days to top hits today, morning is something poets sing about. As we begin a New Year, the morning of the year, full of resolution or at least reflection on how we spend our days and hours, we think about the meaning of morning from the point of view of poetry. We’re slowing down to wake up, to arise and go now, today in our hectic and rushing and whirled lives, to wonder, What is it about morning that would make Paul Simon and Art Garfunkle feel groovy and want to make it last? What is it about morning that made a politician a few years back win minds and hearts by saying it’s morning again in America? And I find myself as a mother and professor earnestly urging earnest souls to find their way to morning for a new life. But why? What say our poets, each poem a fresh start for the human mind to record consciousness, being alive on this earth? Let’s listen to our poets and what they have to say about morning. Then you decide: when, how, where, what and why is morning in your life?

Isn’t it interesting, we have Wallace Stevens’ Sunday Morning, but not Sunday Noon, or Sunday Afternoon, or Sunday evening? We have Emily Dickinson telling us how the sun rose, you know this one, Poetry Slow Down, a ribbon at a time. We have Mary Oliver, poems titled Morning, but not—interesting—afternoon or evening. We have Gerard Manley Hopkins, of course,

catching this morning’s morning’s minion, and his—well, we’ll hear his great morning poems, but we’ll start with the troubadour of morning, the poet laureate of morning, the ambassador of morning, Henry David Thoreau. Close your eyes and listen to his rapturous take on Aurora.

Part One. Auroral Delight.

Last week we heard about aurora borealis sung by John Muir in his Alaska travels, thoughts lighting his way as he drew last breaths from pneumonia Christmas Eve almost 100 years ago. (Poetry Slow Down, December 25, 2011). Aurora is the rosy-fingered dawn we hear sung in The Iliad and The Odyssey, and auroral delight is the grounding of Henry David Thoreau’s bookWalden, the account of two years spent at Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, his philosophy of life, and it’s interesting, speaking of morning, that he begins the book with a cultural symbol of morning, of day break itself, the crowing rooster–Chanticleer. Thoreau in writing the book says HE is Chanticleer, the voice of morning, waking us up:

I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up.

So his book is self-consciously the voice not only of a waker-upper, but an upper, an anti-ode to dejection and despair, a bold breaking voice in the day of our lives.

It’s a curious mix of an outsider voice to his culture, steeped in classical traditions, a philosophy of how to live, to rise to the occasion of earthly consciousness. And what he says is, we’ve got to get up in the morning. Close your eyes now, and listen to his reasons . . . . a great way to makethis morning last.

Part Two. Morning As Gift, “revelation to the beloved.”

We’re talking about an approach to the New Year, the morning of the year, getting up for it, waking to it, and resolving to get up early! We’re finding in poetry reasons for resolutions of seeing the dawn, being able to verify Emily Dickinson’s early-bird reportage, “this is the news that nature told,” “I’ll tell you how the sun rose, a ribbon at a time.” It seems that if morning rises a ribbon at a time, ribbons are what decorate a dress, for a party, something festive, or one’s hair, or . . .a gift . . .  as if earth’s lightening up is a gift, morning as a present, wrapped in ribbons of sunlight, streaming . . .

Why get up in the morning?  A Q and A with Ralph Waldo Emerson (“In the morning a man walks with his whole body; in the evening, only with his legs”) and Gary Snyder’s “For All,” and several poems. I find myself writing about morning, and share with you two poems I wrote. I reassure anyone seeing my anguish at leaving earth when I love it so in “On Looking at the Sky on an October Morning”: “How good this life was to me—/. . . those tears,/What life deserves./. . . To do justice to consciousness on earth,/. . . breaking of the heart/And fierce resistance/ Are correct./ . . . Life deserves this refusal to exit, this awkward leaving/ Without Grace./No grace. It is the least we can do.”

I have several on this theme—I find myself wanting to share this experience of morning happiness, that is so private, so invisible, perhaps, because we may seem a hot mess, so to speak. And perhaps you can hear the way sound structurally connects the poem’s flow from “alarming” at the outset to “disarming” at the conclusion, and the interior rhymes connecting “Yes,” “no/Progress,” “Happiness,” “Largess,” as the “messiness” of morning light balances headache and all we assume that dulls our day: 

Just So You Know

Sometimes I feel so good it is alarming.
Yes the headache but I’m making green tea,
Morning has spilled sun all over this cottage, it is messy with light.
For some reason, for no good reason, I am feeling too good,
Improbably brimming.
It feels slightly dangerous to feel so well.
I had not planned to do anything special with this day,
I am in red lifeguard shorts and T-shirt,
Writing, and making no
Progress.

(It is going slow and not well.)

I get up to make more tea and it should not feel this good
To be alive, this powerful, to breathe, I am not Paul Bunyan enough
To feel this planetary heave within me, interior lakes where my boots fall—nor
Monet enough to paint the day with the colors of vibrating lilies in my core,
Nor William O. Douglas enough to do justice
To this spacey conviction of sky and tree—
The pine and leaves outside the window in the wind,
How it is, just now–how it is to be me;
And yet I stand Bunyan, my breath is Monet’s brush, I am of Douglas’ opinion:

Let the trees decide.
Maybe not feeling so well because there is the headache
And backache so maybe it is actually
Happiness.
This whatever it is. And I’m holding it like fresh cut flowers,
Handed me.
You have it give it to somebody, you have to make an occasion.
You have to think of someone to appreciate, some cause to celebrate,
So I’m here beholding and maybe feeling good or not
And wondering if I am up to this size of being,
A little intimidated at the
Largess
Of epic life, and I go back to my chair and write these lines,
Not epic, but some internal Iliad is about to happen, some myth breaking free
Of tragedy right in me, and I hear wings beating, my heart pounds, already more than mortal
When gods consort with us—a glimpse of pine against September sky is all it takes—
Disarming. Joy. In. Being.

© Barbara Mossberg 2011

Part Three. Is Stanley Kunitz’ “The Round” the Perfect Poet Morning Poem?

In which we continue our exploration of why to wake early, what’s in it for us, UP in the morning, for our minds and spirits, as we begin the day, and who knows, a new life–on that note, we think of our guy who lived to 101 and for whom morning is experienced with gratitude—I think there’s a connection. (Assignment, everyone: re-read “The Round.” We’ll do a show in the next weeks on the neuroscience of happiness from UC Berkeley’s Center for The Greater Good.) Kunitz’s attitude honors life and makes each day a beginning, a new year. We hear from Mary Oliver “Why I Wake Early,” and Edward Hirsch, Robert Bly (especially “The Hermit at Dawn,”), Billy Collins, Rumi, and our own Chuck Tripi, all of whom are converging thinking “in ways you’ve never thought before:

If the phone rings, think of it as carrying a message larger than anything you’ve ever heard, vaster than a hundred lines of Yeats. Think that someone may bring a bear to our door, maybe wounded and deranged; or think that a moose has risen out of the lake, and he’s carrying on his antlers a child of your own whom you’ve never seen. When someone knocks on the door, think that he’s about . . .”– well, I’m leaving you with this Rumi –like threshold morning poem, “The Taste of Morning” and Thomas Merton’s “A Morning Prayer.” And John Muir and Edward Hirsch. And Billy Collins tells us about the way he writes poetry, as a way to be in the day. Collins is “reader conscious”: “I have one reader in mind, someone who is in the room with me, and who I’m talking to, and I want to make sure I don’t talk too fast, or too glibly. Usually I try to create a hospitable tone at the beginning of a poem. Stepping from the title to the first lines is like stepping into a canoe. A lot of things can go wrong.” “I think my work has to do with a sense that we are attempting, all the time, to create a logical, rational path through the day. To the left and right there are an amazing set of distractions that we usually can’t afford to follow. But the poet is willing to stop anywhere.”

I like this image. We can imagine poetry as a way to step into the day’s canoe, carefully, slowly, balanced, moving forward, a meditative way, and there is the quiet but also the loon, perhaps . . . the quickness of the heron, all of a sudden . . . . Poetry is a kind of morning light that makes known to us what there is to see and feel, what can happen in our day, what is happening, now. And a way perhaps to bring on a state of mind of morning, of fresh start, of new year, a kind of dawn of it. It wakes us up, and is an up! So, what do you say, Poetry Slow Down, you evolved minds of listeners to poetry on this first day of the year, slowing it down, to give respite and renewal to your spirit, if we hear, on this day of day, from e.e. cummings, a poem I personally like to begin my days with, every day of the year, a poem calling for us to be awake, so that every day, and really every moment is a new day, a morning, a new life? “i thank You God for most this amazing”—cummings’ sonnet which is a prayer and invocation to each of our own mornings.

So we come upon a New Year, and make resolutions, for new beginnings, and our challenge, it seems to me, from our poets, is to realize a new beginning each day, a fresh start. The sun could say been there, done that, but it arrives for our senses every morning without fail, and I like to think that it is welcomed on behalf of humanity by our ambassadors the poets, who represent humanity, and say thank you, morning, aurora, and wax eloquently and discourse philosophically on morning, the fresh start which happens every day. And let’s sing out again for Jim Harrison’s “Rooster,” since we begin with Thoreau’s Chanticleer. I don’t include it on our show today but here it is, as I plan for our show around The Greater Good center at Berkeley, linking happiness with compassion and kindness. We want to hear Thoreau as Chanticleer, and before we kill the old red rooster, we can be heartened by day’s greeter in this poem:

Rooster

from Vol. 11 No. 4

to Pat Ryan

I have to kill the rooster tomorrow. He’s being an asshole,

having seriously wounded one of our two hens with his insistent banging.

You walk into the barn to feed the horses and pick up an egg

or two for breakfast and he jumps her proclaiming she’s mine she’s mine.

Her wing is torn and the primary feathers won’t grow back.

Chickens have largely been denatured, you know. He has no part

in those delicious fresh eggs. He crows on in a vacuum. He is

utterly pointless. He’s as dumb as a tapeworm and no one cares

if he lives or dies. There. I can kill him

with an easy mind. But I’m still not up to it. Maybe I can hire

a weasel or a barn rat to do the job, or throw him to Justine,

the dog, who would be glad to rend him except the neighbors

have chickens too, she’d get the habit and we would have a beloved shot

dog to bury. So he deserves to die, having no purpose. We’ll

have stewed barnyard chicken, closer to eating a gamebird than

that tasteless supermarket chicken born and bred in a caged

darkness. Everything we eat is dead except an occasional oyster

or clam. Should I hire the neighbor boy to kill him? Will the

hens stop laying out of grief. Isn’t his long wavering crow

magnificent? Isn’t the worthless rooster the poet’s bird brother?

No. He’s just a rooster and the world has no place for him.

Should I wait for a full wintry moon, take him to the top of the

hill after dropping three hits of mescaline and strangle him?

Should I set him free for a fox meal? They’re coming back now

after the mange nearly wiped them out. He’s like a leaking roof

with drops falling on my chest. He’s the Chinese torture in the barn.

He’s lust mad. His crow penetrates walls. His head bobs in lunar

jerks. The hens shudder but are bored with the pain of eggs.

What can I do with him? Nothing isn’t enough. In the morning

we will sit down together and talk it out. I will tell him he

doesn’t matter and he will wag his head, strut, perhaps crow.

But let us hear Thoreau, who after all, compared his identity and purpose as a poet to a rooster, awakening us: he ends his book, and his sojourn, with these words, there is more day to dawn, the sun is but a morning star. Our poet Thoreau has awakened us, with his thoughts on how to live more consciously, to make every day a morning. “To be awake is to be alive.” “We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aids, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.” We learn this way of expectation and thus are open to dawn as it unfolds infinitely, as e.e. cummings says, “everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes.”

On the note of Yes, I greet you on this New Year, as we make the morning last, and learn the poets’ reasons, the poets’ seasons, for slowing down and living it up. And speaking of morning gratitude, thank you for listening, thank you for joining me in this journey as we make poetry part of our living day, part of our civic life and consciousness.

© Barbara Mossberg 2011/The Poetry Slow Down, KRXA 540AM.

MAKE MINE E, JOHN MUIR’S CHRISTMAS CAROL STRATEGIES TO SAVE THE EARTH: THE POETRY OF BEHOLDING NIGHT AND DAY, HARKING, GLORY, AND JOY: a celebration of a poetry-loving man, Or, a geologist “rocks” around the tree

John Muir, of such currency in our culture that California’s quarter features him, died almost one hundred years ago today, Christmas Eve, at a hospital here in Los Angeles. On his death certificate, his occupation was listed as “Geologist.”

. . . the heavens draped in rich purple auroral clouds fringed and folded in most magnificent forms; but in this glory of light, so pure, so bright, so enthusiastic in motion . . . these glad, eager soldiers of light . . .sense of time was charmed out of mind and the blessed night circled away in measureless rejoicing enthusiasm—words on pages by John Muir’s hospital bedside the night he died December 24, 2013.

 

Muir was criticized for his Purple Prose, his “excessive” use of enthusiastic words. At least so he claimed. He complained that he was spending the morning at the command of a cruel editor “slaughtering glorious” to get his prose more in line with expected norms for reporting what Emily Dickinson called “nature’s news.” And I believed him, why would I not? (And haven’t been told all life, make it short, edit?).

 

But I found out differently—and the secret, I believe, to what makes John Muir a famous and beloved and important person in our lives today.

I was at the University of the Pacific’s international conference on John Muir. Distinguished scholars had flown in from around the world, including from the town of his birth in Scotland; his family was there (you can buy wine from the estate—he himself was as a brilliant manager and botanist of grapes, in Martinez, California–by the Hanna estate). I was actually keynoting the conference and led us off with a cheer from John Muir High School which I attended close to here, next to the arroyos where Muir walked, from visiting his mentor and friend Mrs. Jeanne Carr—now the site of the Norton Simon Museum, with a pond and sculpture garden and perhaps a tree he planted, and his writing eco-buddy John Burroughs, and his buddies hanging out with the

Throopites (The Throop Institute, later Caltech) at Charlie Vroman’s, still here. The cheer was a rousing JO JO JO HN MU MU MU IR, JOHNMUIR JOHNMUIR, JOOOHNNNN MUIR. Accompanied by claps, while rather startled people stared–well, it was 9 o’clock in the morning, it was a scholarly conference, I’ll give you that, and also, I did happen to be wearing a John Muir Mustangs knit hat, we were the mighty mighty mustangs. But I will argue that this cheer-ful opening actually was completely appropriate to John Muir’s M.O., hisapproach not only to writing poetry but to living and responding to what he saw. He favored leaping excitedly up and down, waving his arms, and when his

scientist colleagues folded their arms and looked at him, he was like, What, What, do you have a problem with enthusiasm, what is WRONG with you people. If we aren’t leaping and rejoicing, we are not being e-correct. When he was sixty, and had been ill, and wasn’t supposed to be straining himself, he tells his wife, there was the mountain, I got excited—see? Excited—and the next thing he knew I was on top. Or words to that effect. That is where enthusiasm will get us: on top of the mountain! So, there he is: and here is a story. He is on top of a mountain with Sargent, head of the U.S. National Forest, on Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, when “I couldn’t hold in, and began to jump about and sing and glory in it all. Then I happened to look around and catch sight of Sargent, standing there as cool as a rock, with a half-amused look on his face at me, but never saying a word. ‘Why don’t you let yourself out at a sight like that’ I asked. ‘I don’t wear my heart upon my sleeve,’ he retorted. ‘Who cares where you wear your little heart, man,’ I cried. ‘There you stand in the face of all Heaven come down to earth, like a critic of the universe, as if to say, ‘Come, Nature, bring on the best you have. I’m from BOSTON!'”

And in fact, Muir’s ecstatic journal entries which he scrawled scientist-observer-in-the-field fashion during his study rambles and recorded in his journal at the end of the day, and worked into editorials and letters and essays, are deliberately poetically enthusiastic and rich with joyous exclamation as a fruitcake with raisins. These writings ended up in many hands, including college presidents and scientists and ultimately U.S. presidents and Congress and media, newspaper editorials and ultimately the basis of laws that would preserve millions of acres of wilderness and ultimately the National Park Service.

The language that broke up our ideas about the wilderness that was defined—it still is as part of dictionary definitions of wild—as desert, wasteland, barren, ferocious, savage, the opposite of a holy night, of a shining universe, that we behold, and gaze and gaze and wonder, i.e., the purple prose, was deliberate. Muir may have complained that he had to edit his “gloriouses,” but the truth is in the manuscript collection at the Holt-Atherton collection at the University of Pacific papers of John Muir. There, I was shocked—but not surprised—to see that above the typescript of Muir’s opening words for The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, that he ADDS the words “glorious” to his opening sentences. He adds “glorious” as a chef adds the spice that makes the dish. He “plates” his statements, ensuring that nothing goes out to the reader without sufficient gloriousness.

Reality deserves MORE sense of its glory. He wanted to give “joy to the world,” to make us see our world with the amazement of the shepherd beholding a shining firmament, to be thrilled, and to be enthusiastic. I think of him today, and his dying surrounded by pages of a manuscript he took with him on the train, and then to the hospital, ever writing. On December 23 he was taken to California Hospital in Los Angeles, now California Hospital Medical Center. He had been working on it, at 76 years old, from 7 am to 10 pm.

When I think of these hours of writing, I remember what he told William Frederic Bade, who became his editor after he died: “Longest is the life that contains the largest amount of time-effacing enjoyment—of work that is a steady delight. Such a life may really comprise an eternity upon earth.” I think living as William Blake would say, “kissing the joy as it flies . . . in eternity’s sunrise.” Knowing that his work on it was the last thing he did, I want to read you the last pages. He has reflected on seeing “the heavens draped in rich purple auroral clouds fringed and folded in most magnificent forms; but in this glory of light, so pure, so bright, so enthusiastic in motion . . . these glad, eager soldiers of light . . .sense of time was charmed out of mind and the blessed night circled away in measureless rejoicing enthusiasm.”

“ . . . [A]fter last night’s wonderful display one’s expectations might well be extravagant [see those e’s] and I lay wide awake watching. . . .I ran out in auroral excitement. . . I lay down on the moraine in front of the cabin and gazed and watched. . . . But just as I was about to retire, I thought I had better take another look at the sky, to make sure that the glorious show was over. . . .  Then losing all thought of sleep, I ran back to my cabin, carried out blankets and lay down on the moraine  to keep watch until daybreak, that none of the sky wonders of the glorious night within reach of my eyes might be lost. . . . Excepting only the vast purple aurora mentioned above, said to have been visible over nearly all the continent, these two silver bows in supreme, serene, supernal beauty surpassed everything auroral I ever beheld.” The End. This night he is dying, alive to him is a night of glorious light; he is beholding our universe, in majesty and glory. I like to think that this is how John Muir changed consciousness from a terran being to sun beam.

 

You can read and hear more about John Muir’s “e” poetry at BarbaraMossberg.com, podcast and link to the Poetry Slow Down, for Think for Yourself Radio, KRXA 540AM.

And I want to leave us with a positive memory of his life—he has been credited by many people as the most effective advocate for nature and wilderness who has lived, and I think it was the poet in him—don’t you? And when Hetch Hetchy was lost, to become a resevoir in the national park, for the city by the bay, the public outcry nationally was the first awakening of the environmental movement; it resulted in the creation of the National Park System, which was formally  born in 1916 culminating the effort to go on from John Muir’s death, and heartbreak of 1913, and do justice to the trail of enthusiasm that he blazed, by the way he gazed, and gazed, and thought, and taught, the way he slowed down, and read and wrote poetry. “I sat a long time beneath the tallest fronds, and never enjoyed anything in the way of a bower of wild leaves more strangely impressive. Only spread a fern frond over a man’s head and worldly cares are cast out, and freedom and beauty and peace come in. The waving of a pine tree on the top of a mountain, –a magic wand in Nature’s hand, –every devout mountaineer knows its power; but the marvelous beauty value of what the Scotch call a breckan in a still dell, what poet has sung this? It would seem impossible that any one, however incrusted with care, could escape the Godful influence of these sacred fern forests.”

Muir answered his own question. He is the poet who has sung this, and today, in midst of carols of “joy to the world,” “O holy night,” “angels we have heard on high,” “wind through the olive trees,” “hark the herald,” “brightly shining night,” “rejoice,” and yes, even “rocking around the Christmas tree,” we think of him, and the way he connected a vision of gift of creation to the way we see, and care for, and love, enthusiastically, this world of ours.

For a podcast and link to Dr. Mossberg’s radio show on John Muir as a poet, see BarbaraMossberg.com, and The Poetry Slow Down (KRXA 540AM).

© Barbara Mossberg 2011

 

I am thinking of him today. I am retracing his journey as he died, from Martinez to Daggett. Yet I would not be thinking about Muir today if his life were known to us as a geologist. We wouldn’t be buying coffee with money that has his picture on it. I wouldn’t have graduated from John Muir High School. There would not be the John Muir Trail, or John Muir Redwoods, or the hospitals, ships, hotels, flowers, glaciers, or stars named for him. There would not be the national parks.

 

It is true that John Muir had great credibility as a geologist, long ago redeemed from the charge by Harvard-trained State Geologist Josiah D. Whitney that Muir’s theory of Yosemite Valley created by glaciers was to be dismissed as that of a “college drop-out sheepherder.” Professor “Joe,” Joseph LeConte of the new University at California at Berkeley, supported Muir’s theory. Eventually Muir’s geological studies were confirmed by the scientific community. Muir was fascinated by earth’s story, endlessly beholding evidence in its pebbles and stars and dust for the meaning of its creation.

 

He also was fascinated with what grows on earth. His discoveries are honored by fellow botanists.

 

But it is as writer he is known to us today, by writing that he achieved his influence, effectiveness, and fame in his lifetime as a man for whom the story of earth’s mountains and valleys and trees and flowers was cause for celebration.

 

It is not just as a writer, but as a writer of celebration that Muir’s life made earth-shaking (so to speak) impact on our life today. It is as a poet. John Muir’s purple prose, a poetry lit with epic, romantic, transcendental notes—both light and sound—is the cause of my thoughts of him today and what one man made of his life by loving our world. Muir’s was a life that passionately loved the tree, the stars, the lamb (but not the sheep), the morning light, the mountain–a mind awake to our world and lo and beholding it, harking heralds of its creation, a mind roused to glory, ears tuned to earth’s sweetly ringing o’er the plains and wind through the trees, eyes amazed by a shining presence. A conviction of holiness: in John Muir’s vision of the world, science—all we can see and study and know– is revelation.

 

As I was driving down from Monterey to Pasadena on December 23, the day he was sent to the hospital with pneumonia, I was hearing carols on the car radio, and each one was shining light into John Muir’s language. In his cadences we hear Homer and myth, Milton and Wordsworth and Shakespeare. But if we drill down in geological fashion we find a bedrock of words in the Bible. Psalms and lyric passages, hymns of praise and exaltation, joy, reverence, and rejoicing wired John Muir’s mind as boy memorizing the Bible by the time he was a teenager, and made his own response to being alive on earth one of wonder and awe, a continuous excitement, effusion, effervescence, enthrallment, enthusiasm, exhilaration, exultation, exclamation, exaltation. In this day of “e” this and “e” that, he is an “e” writer, if not also “ex”rated writer, but for eco- exuberance, energy, ecstasy, and I’m not ex-aggerating, it’s an ex-travagant , extra-vagant response to life, a belief in life as extra-ordinary.

 

E—a prefix that means, and this should not surprise us when we are thinking of a man like John Muir and his extravagant use of words—e words such as enthusiasm, energy, enthrall, come from a meaning of PUT INTO, or ON, and we certainly see John Muir putting INTO his experience of being conscious in our world his whole spirit of amazement and wonder of the original shepherds in the field long long ago. We think of the meanings of ex, meaning, OUT, UPWARD, COMPLETELY, and does this sound like our John Muir, who never wanted to be Inside, who always wanted to be OUTside, whose gaze was always looking Upward towards mountains and clouds and skies and trees and stars and rocks and whose soul embraced this External world completely, whole, which he said he could not see anything but: “When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.”

 

His words of excitement at all that is about us ring in me: “We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us. Our flesh-and-bone tabernacle seems transparent as glass to the beauty about us, as if truly an inseparable part of it, thrilling with the air and trees, streams and rocks, in the waves of the sun—a part of all nature, neither old nor young, sick nor well, but immortal. . . .How glorious a conversion, so compete and wholesome it is . . . .” He describes himself in “these love-monument mountains, glad to be a servant of servants in so holy a wilderness.”—This is June 6, 1868 (My First Summer in the Sierra). Our botanist geologist is keeping a journal as he is a shepherd, literally, tending a flock of sheep, in the Sierras, beholding “a glorious tree,” and as he lies under the stars, “The place seemed holy. . . . singing Nature’s old love song with solemn enthusiasm, while the stars peering through the leaf-roof seemed to join in the white water’s song. Precious night, precious day to abide in me forever. Thanks be to God for this immortal gift.” “Glowing sunbeams. . . make every nerve tingle” and tree “shine gloriously.” “A peaceful, joyful stream of beauty. Every morning . . . the happy plants and all our fellow animal creatures great and small, and even the rocks, seemed to be shouting, “Awake, awake, rejoice, rejoice, come love us and join in our song. Come! Come! . . . Everything kept in joyful rhythmic motion in the pulses of Nature’s big heart.”

 

So today I am hearing going sixty miles an hour, and in gas station stores, Muir’s own e way of rejoicing, of joy, which in his mind comes down to beholding, gazing with awe and reverence and wonder at this world, filled with gratitude, and convinced that what he sees, cause for glory, is heaven’s divine hand at work, creativity itself. John Muir as a memorizer of poetry slowed down to respect the wonder of it all, to write, even as in his mind, trying to get it right was slow as a glacier, in geologist-speak, a grinding process, a grind. Perhaps in his mind writing to capture earth’s exultingness had to be slow. I am thinking of Muir’s geo-poetic enthusiastic words which honor our earth.

 

A geologist, yes, but a geologist high on poetry:

“The sculpture of the landscape is as striking in its main lines as in its lavish richness of detail; a grand congregation of massive heights with the river shining between, each carved into smooth, graceful folds without leaving a single rocky angle exposed, as if the delicate fluting and ridging fashioned out of metamorphic states had been carefully sandpapered. The whole landscape showed design, like man’s noblest sculptures. How wonderful the power of its beauty! Gazing awe-stricken, I might have left everything for it. Glad, endless work would then be mine tracing the forces that have brought forth its features, its rocks and plants and animals and glorious weather. Beauty beyond thought everywhere, beneath, above, made and being made forever. I gazed and gazed and longed and admired until the dusty sheep and packs were far out of sight, made hurried notes and a sketch, though there was no need of either, for the colors and lines and expression of this divine landscape-countenance are so burned into mind and heart they surely can never grow dim.”—That is from John Muir’s journal of June 5, 1868, published in My First Summer in the Sierra.

 

John Muir was criticized for his Purple Prose, his “excessive” use of enthusiastic words. At least so he claimed. He complained that he was spending the morning at the command of a cruel editor “slaughtering glorious” to get his prose more in line with expected norms for reporting what Emily Dickinson called “nature’s news.” And I believed him, why would I not? (And haven’t been told all life, make it short, edit?).

 

But I found out differently—and the secret, I believe, to what makes John Muir a famous and beloved and important person in our lives today. I was at the University of the Pacific’s international conference on John Muir. Distinguished scholars had flown in from around the world, including from the town of his birth in Scotland; his family was there (you can buy wine from the estate—he himself was as a brilliant manager and botanist of grapes, in Martinez, California–by the Hanna estate). I was actually keynoting the conference and led us off with a cheer from John Muir High School which I attended close to here, next to the arroyos where Muir walked, from visiting his mentor and friend Mrs. Jeanne Carr—now the site of the Norton Simon Museum, with a pond and sculpture garden and perhaps a tree he planted, and his writing eco-buddy John Burroughs, and his buddies hanging out with the

Throopites (The Throop Institute, later Caltech) at Charlie Vroman’s, still here. The cheer was a rousing JO JO JO HN MU MU MU IR, JOHNMUIR JOHNMUIR, JOOOHNNNN MUIR. Accompanied by claps, while rather startled people stared–well, it was 9 o’clock in the morning, it was a scholarly conference, I’ll give you that, and also, I did happen to be wearing a John Muir Mustangs knit hat, we were the mighty mighty mustangs. But I will argue that this cheer-ful opening actually was completely appropriate to John Muir’s M.O., hisapproach not only to writing poetry but to living and responding to what he saw. He favored leaping excitedly up and down, waving his arms, and when his

scientist colleagues folded their arms and looked at him, he was like, What, What, do you have a problem with enthusiasm, what is WRONG with you people. If we aren’t leaping and rejoicing, we are not being e-correct. When he was sixty, and had been ill, and wasn’t supposed to be straining himself, he tells his wife, there was the mountain, I got excited—see? Excited—and the next thing he knew I was on top. Or words to that effect. That is where enthusiasm will get us: on top of the mountain! So, there he is: and here is a story. He is on top of a mountain with Sargent, head of the U.S. National Forest, on Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina, when “I couldn’t hold in, and began to jump about and sing and glory in it all. Then I happened to look around and catch sight of Sargent, standing there as cool as a rock, with a half-amused look on his face at me, but never saying a word. ‘Why don’t you let yourself out at a sight like that’ I asked. ‘I don’t wear my heart upon my sleeve,’ he retorted. ‘Who cares where you wear your little heart, man,’ I cried. ‘There you stand in the face of all Heaven come down to earth, like a critic of the universe, as if to say, ‘Come, Nature, bring on the best you have. I’m from BOSTON!'”

 

And in fact, Muir’s ecstatic journal entries which he scrawled scientist-observer-in-the-field fashion during his study rambles and recorded in his journal at the end of the day, and worked into editorials and letters and essays, are deliberately poetically enthusiastic and rich with joyous exclamation as a fruitcake with raisins. These writings ended up in many hands, including college presidents and scientists and ultimately U.S. presidents and Congress and media, newspaper editorials and ultimately the basis of laws that would preserve millions of acres of wilderness and ultimately the National Park Service.

 

The language that broke up our ideas about the wilderness that was defined—it still is as part of dictionary definitions of wild—as desert, wasteland, barren, ferocious, savage, the opposite of a holy night, of a shining universe, that we behold, and gaze and gaze and wonder, i.e., the purple prose, was deliberate. Muir may have complained that he had to edit his “gloriouses,” but the truth is in the manuscript collection at the Holt-Atherton collection at the University of Pacific papers of John Muir. There, I was shocked—but not surprised—to see that above the typescript of Muir’s opening words for The Story of My Boyhood and Youth, that he ADDS the words “glorious” to his opening sentences. He adds “glorious” as a chef adds the spice that makes the dish. He “plates” his statements, ensuring that nothing goes out to the reader without sufficient gloriousness.

 

Reality deserves MORE sense of its glory. He wanted to give “joy to the world,” to make us see our world with the amazement of the shepherd beholding a shining firmament, to be thrilled, and to be enthusiastic. I think of him today, and his dying surrounded by pages of a manuscript he took with him on the train, and then to the hospital, ever writing. On December 23 he was taken to California Hospital in Los Angeles, now California Hospital Medical Center. He had been working on it, at 76 years old, from 7 am to 10 pm.

When I think of these hours of writing, I remember what he told William Frederic Bade, who became his editor after he died: “Longest is the life that contains the largest amount of time-effacing enjoyment—of work that is a steady delight. Such a life may really comprise an eternity upon earth.” I think living as William Blake would say, “kissing the joy as it flies . . . in eternity’s sunrise.” Knowing that his work on it was the last thing he did, I want to read you the last pages. He has reflected on seeing “the heavens draped in rich purple auroral clouds fringed and folded in most magnificent forms; but in this glory of light, so pure, so bright, so enthusiastic in motion . . . these glad, eager soldiers of light . . .sense of time was charmed out of mind and the blessed night circled away in measureless rejoicing enthusiasm.”

“ . . . [A]fter last night’s wonderful display one’s expectations might well be extravagant [see those e’s] and I lay wide awake watching. . . .I ran out in auroral excitement. . . I lay down on the moraine in front of the cabin and gazed and watched. . . . But just as I was about to retire, I thought I had better take another look at the sky, to make sure that the glorious show was over. . . .  Then losing all thought of sleep, I ran back to my cabin, carried out blankets and lay down on the moraine  to keep watch until daybreak, that none of the sky wonders of the glorious night within reach of my eyes might be lost. . . . Excepting only the vast purple aurora mentioned above, said to have been visible over nearly all the continent, these two silver bows in supreme, serene, supernal beauty surpassed everything auroral I ever beheld.” The End. This night he is dying, alive to him is a night of glorious light; he is beholding our universe, in majesty and glory. I like to think that this is how John Muir changed consciousness from a terran being to sun beam.

 

You can read and hear more about John Muir’s “e” poetry at BarbaraMossberg.com, podcast and link to the Poetry Slow Down, for Think for Yourself Radio, KRXA 540AM.

 

 

 

And I want to leave us with a positive memory of his life—he has been credited by many people as the most effective advocate for nature and wilderness who has lived, and I think it was the poet in him—don’t you? And when Hetch Hetchy was lost, to become a resevoir in the national park, for the city by the bay, the public outcry nationally was the first awakening of the environmental movement; it resulted in the creation of the National Park System, which was formally  born in 1916 culminating the effort to go on from John Muir’s death, and heartbreak of 1913, and do justice to the trail of enthusiasm that he blazed, by the way he gazed, and gazed, and thought, and taught, the way he slowed down, and read and wrote poetry. I sat a long time beneath the tallest fronds, and never enjoyed anything in the way of a bower of wild leaves more strangely impressive. Only spread a fern frond over a man’s head and worldly cares are cast out, and freedom and beauty and peace come in. The waving of a pine tree on the top of a mountain, –a magic wand in Nature’s hand, –every devout mountaineer knows its power; but the marvelous beauty value of what the Scotch call a breckan in a still dell, what poet has sung this? It would seem impossible that any one, however incrusted with care, could escape the Godful influence of these sacred fern forests.

 

By Dan Aiello 
California Progress Report

If qualified, a local ballot measure in San Francisco calling for the restoration of the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park could play a decisive role in next year’s U.S. Senate race where the Democrat incumbent, Dianne Feinstein, already faces troubling poll numbers, a campaign finance debacle and a potential Republican opponent with a venerable California pedigree.

The expected 2012 ballot measure will ask San Francisco’s environment-leaning, progressive voters to right what has been called the greatest environmental wrong in the nation’s history by returning the Hetch Hetchy Valley to the National Park Service for the 8 mile long valley’s eventual restoration.

Feinstein has long opposed the proposition of restoring the valley famed naturalist John Muir himself fought to save. Muir described Hetch Hetchy as “one of nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples,” and even today visitors instantly recognize the Hetch Hetchy as Yosemite Valley’s twin.

 

While the hope Hetch Hetchy could be restored was once considered a pipe dream,  public education over the last decade that Hetch Hetchy is not the source of the city’s water but simply a holding place for it, has swayed many to the cause, including celebrities and even some conservatives with their own ideas on where storage dams should be built.

The valley’s restoration measure has a strong likelihood of garnering support from a majority of environmentally-minded San Francisco voters who may be disenfranchised with Feinstein’s decades-long role in preserving the valley as the city’s water receptacle, including personally removing from the Interior Department’s budget $7 million dollars earmarked by congress for a feasibility study to restore the valley. Her political opposition to the environmental cause could be seen as supporting corporations and special interests, potentially drawing away progressive campaign dollars and voter support from the Senator at a time when she is at her political weakest.

For the first time since being elected to the Senate in 1992, a plurality – 44 percent – of 
Field Poll respondents were “not inclined” to vote for Feinstein while 41 percent would, according to Joe Garofoli at the San Francisco Chronicle. The margin of error for the survey is plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

In September Feinstein’s campaign treasurer, Kinde Durkee, was arrested for the alleged embezzlement of nearly $700,000 in campaign funds from a state candidate. Feinstein reported last week that her campaign was “wiped out,” reporting nearly $5 million dollars in “unauthorized withdrawals.”

State Republicans are still unsure who they will choose to challenge Feinstein, but one Republican considering a run has a distinguished pedigree, Michael Reagan, son of California’s former governor and the nation’s 40th president. Reagan confirmed with The Chronicle his interest, but did not elaborate.

According to the Public Policy Institute’s statistics on California voters, San Francisco Bay Area residents account for 27 percent of the state’s Democrats and 27 percent of the state’s Independent voters, giving the local issue the potential of influencing the outcome of the state’s senate race.

“The California Department of Water Resources report confirms that dismantling O’Shaugnessy Dam and draining the Hetch Hetchy reservoir are unwarranted and the cost is indefensible, particularly given the tremendous infrastructure needs facing our State,” Feinstein’s stated when the state’s Department of Resources issued a report saying the cost of restoring the Valley, increasing water storage elsewhere and building a water filtration system (San Francisco is currently exempted from this requirement because the Hetch Hetchy is considered a pristine reservoir) would exceed $10 billion dollars. “I hope this report lays to rest any further consideration at the State and Federal level of dismantling Hetch Hetchy —a truly remarkable system which provides exceptionally high-quality, reliable water to 2.4 million residents in the San Francisco Bay area,” Feinstein said.

Mike Marshall, Executive Director of the Restore Hetch Hetchy non-profit organization, disputes the cost and offers his own cost estimates, including $75 million to control the draw down of the valley to ensure native species, not invasive non-native species repopulate the habitat, $250-300 million to “re-plumb” the city’s pipes to the Don Pedro reservoir and up to a billion dollars to build a filtration system for the city’s water, “Which will be required in 25 years anyway,” claims Marshall, due to climate change and the increasing turbidity of the water.

Marshall points to reports showing high rates of Giardia and Cryptosporidium in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, all of which get the unfiltered water from the Hetch Hetchy as proof the city has long needed water filtration.

The RHH’s $1.5 billion dollar estimate is significantly lower than the DWR report, and Marshall says they don’t know why. “The DWR report has footnotes saying the report was based on figures provided by the San Francisco PUC,” but the PUC failed to back up their figures with documentation requested five years ago. “We sent a letter to [the PUC commissioners] last week requesting a meeting on the issue” but we haven’t heard from them yet.

California Progress Report is awaiting a response from the PUC on the questions raised by Marshall.

Criticized for their support of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, the Environmental Defense Fund is maintaining its public support for the Hetch Hetchy’s restoration, but it has stopped investing resources in the issue.  “We support restoration, we just stopped investing our resources in it,” said Jennifer Witherspoon, Media Director for EDF.   Witherspoon told CPR she has worked toward the restoration of the Hetch Hetchy for two decades, even securing actor Harrison Ford’s participation in a video supporting the cause.

Some insiders allege the EDF decision to stop working on the Hetch Hetchy restoration reflects the organization’s need for Feinstein’s support on other issues, but Witherspoon disputes that and contends her organization has been an environmental watchdog over the BDCP, not an unconditional supporter of the plan.

While Hetch Hetchy lacks a half dome, it features many striking waterfalls and once a meandering Tuolomne River, the actual water source for San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties. The Hetch Hetchy simply became a reservoir when the O’Shaugnessy dam was completed in 1923.

Hetch Hetchy is a Miwok term for grassy meadow.

 

The Hetch Hetchy’s destruction ended a national political fight that started the country’s environmental movement while sending Muir to an early grave, heartbroken by the destruction of the uniquely Californian habitat. More than 200 newspapers across the country called for the valley to be saved, going just on John Muir’s description and sketches of the valley, but after President Woodrow Wilson appointed a San Franciscan to head the Department of the Interior the debate was over and San Francisco was granted the right to dam the Hetch Hetchy.

Marshall sees the restoration of the Hetch Hetchy leading the environmental movement from conservation to restoration, much as the Hetch Hetchy battle began the environmental cause in the nation a century ago. “There’s very little attention paid to the fact that deforestation is a part of the climate change. We have to reduce carbon and gas emissions but we also have to improve the earth’s ability to absorb those emissions,” Marshall told CPR. “We need to restore the environment and begin to rebuild some of the natural places that were destroyed. The Hetch Hetchy can be a blueprint for how our nation can begin to restore what we’ve destroyed.”

According to Marshall, his organization, which currently operates on a $300,000 annual budget, has completed its polling and is currently in the process of drafting the initiative with the assistance of Olson, Hagel and Fishburn, LLP. The initiative will be submitted to the San Francisco City Attorney sometime in the third week of December in order to qualify for the November, 2012 ballot. Proponents will then have 180 days to collect the 7,500 signatures necessary to qualify the initiative for the ballot.

(This is the first in a series of articles covering the possible 2012 San Francisco ballot measure to return the Hetch Hetchy Valley(hetchhetchy.org) to the National Park Service for its eventual restoration.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dan Aiello is the Sacramento reporter for the California Progress Report.

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Editorial December 4, 1913

HETCH HETCHY

Does President Wilson know that the enterprising lobbyists for the seizing of the Hetch Hetchy valley in the interest of the power companies of San Francisco call their bill an “Administration measure”? The leading newspapers from Maine to California have expressed the strong public sentiment that exists against the spoilation of this national park. Will President Wilson let his name be used as favoring a local and very selfish interest against the best opinion of the country?

The lobby has had its effect with the Interior Department. Bureaucratic influences are at work in Washington to make it appear that the Administration stands back of the selfish measure. President Wilson can put a stop to this business by a word seasonably spoken.

 

Editorial December 9, 1913

Any city that would surrender a city park for commercial purposes would be set down as going backward. So far as we are aware, such a case is unknown. Any State Legislature that would surrender a State park would set a dangerous and deplorable example. When the Congress of the United States approves the municipal sandbagging of a national park in order to give some clamorous city a few dollars, against the protests of the press and the people, it is time for real conservationists to ask, What next?

The Senate passed the Hetch Hetchy bill by a vote of 42 to 25. The bill converts a beautiful national park into a water tank for the City of San Francisco. The San Francisco advocates of the spoilation handsomely maintained at Washington, month after month, quite openly, a very competent and plausible lobbyist, and save for a few hearings and protects he occupied the Washington field most comfortably alone and unopposed. For this first invasion of the cherished national parks the people of the country at large are themselves to blame. The battle was lost by supine indifference, weakness, and lack of funds. All conservation causes in this country are wretchedly supported financially, and this one seems not to have been supported at all.

Ever since the business of nation-making began, it has been the unwritten law of conquest that people who are too lazy, too indolent, or too parsimonious to defend their heritages will lose them to the hosts that know how to fight and to finance campaigns. The American people have been whipped in the Hetch Hetchy fight. They had the press and enlightened public opinion and all men of public spirit on their side. The lobbyist was too much for them, although at the end the bill was rapidly losing support. If the people had set up a lobby they might have won.

 

Note: President Woodrow Wilson signed the Raker Bill into law on December 19, 1913.

 

 

The New york Times Editorials

 

When Woodrow Wilson signed the Raker Act at the end of 1913, giving San Francisco the final go-ahead to begin building in Hetch Hetchy, Muir sought a silver lining in “this dark damn-dam-damnation” with the thought that “the conscience of the whole country has been aroused from sleep” by the controversy.2 He was referring to the surge of public sentiment that had become a notable presence on the nation’s editorial pages and in the mailboxes of policymakers over the course of the debate. It was a level of popular interest unprecedented in previous environmental disputes, and historians often point to the Hetch Hetchy controversy as a turning point in the history of the American environmental movement.