e.e. cummings says it all in his invocation “i thank You God for most this amazing,” the gratitude expressed in robust humility and grand spirit for every thing that is “natural,” “infinite, “yes”. Spirits of trees are leaping greenly. He who has died is “alive again today,” the earth is “happening illimitably,” the eyes of his eyes awake and the ears of his ears are open. So let us celebrate Earth Day, and a birthday of John Muir (coincidence? I think not) who is alive again today in all our minds, as we think about our gratitude for consciousness of this earth of ours.Our show today is a feisty but awed reading of John Muir’s reading of earth, his self-style role as earth’s PR guy, go to guy for advocacy of trees, interpreter of winds and clouds and rocks and trees, squirrels and ouzels, waterfalls and stars, sunshine and flowers, lobbyist for Forest and Valley, our heartbroken champion of the drowned Hetch Hetchy Valley (go to restorehetchhetchy.org), and our story is that he a celebrity today, sure he is, with a trail, flower, glacier, star, hospital, motel, high school named after him, just to name a few, and even our currency has his image, California’s quarter . . . not because he was a scientist respected in geology and botany and ecology, nor because he hobnobbed with presidents, nor because he was a tree-mendous climber of both mountains and trees (but never call him a hiker), nor because he was a tour guide to the rich and famous (but never say the view is pretty or nice or some other “cheap” adjetive), nor because he instigated for preservation of wilderness, and became godfather to the national parks, nor because he helped found and was president of the Sierra Club . . . he is a celebrity, in fact, a rock star, as a poet, for the way he wrote about stars, yes, and rocks, actually. You know I would say this, Poetry Slow Down, but it’s true. He was trained as a poet, in his fractured formal and home-schooled informal schooling, and he read poetry, and wrote with the lyrical grace and metaphoric oomph of an iambic-footed purple forest dweller.
We hear examples of how he writes the purple sage, his sauntering as a purple sage, and I will tell you the truth, I could read him for hours. He said there is no upness like the upness of being in mountains, but I feel there is no upness like the prose of John Muir, with its notes of the Bible, Milton, Wordsworth, Bobby Burns, Thoreau, Emerson, Cowper, and his own exuberance and other ex-rated qualities, making his poetry sing. So on this day, we will hear the ringing poetry of Muir, and I will give you ten ways to celebrate Earth Day and his birthday (they all revolve around poetry), and you will hear me sing my favorite song, a literal song for John Muir, “You Are My Sunshine” (speaking geologically, biochemically, astrophysically), and I hope you join in, and I thank you for joining me on this day. We also hear paeans to earth in Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” and Alicia Ostriker’s “April,” which hears music in a world that some days seems burdened with trash and pollution of all the senses, and we see just how transformative is Muir’s approach to earth from the dictionary definition of wilderness and wild as desolate, trash, wasteland. We have gone this month from “The Wasteland” (“April is the cruelest month”) of “what have we done to our earth,” to John Muir’s calling us out on trashing precious earth, in such ways that we change our minds and the laws and set about preserving our natural world. His strategy is to invoke poetry, and so we’ll keep on course in our Poetry Slow Down. Next week we’ll take up the topic of hats, as in, take your hat off to, hold on to your hats, keeping a hold on, and we’ll “be-hold” hats and have a wonderful time. But now, let’s hear it for our rock star John Muir, who wrote of stars and rocks as music, and trees as the “wave,” and our earth, as (in Emily Dickinson’s words), “our own.” Purple Prose Clown Enthusiast, who honors our Earth, as loved and loving, joyous, delighted, and delightful, long life. Many happy returns.
© Barbara Mossberg 2012
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And come to Fat Lady Flying, May 3, Pacific Grove Public Library, 7:30 pm. Meringue will be served, goddesses will wear loose robes, and all that weighs us down will be buoyant, the heavy will be heaved, hefted, hosited, cranked with pulleys like deus ex machina, sky high, and in these poems of thirty or more years of my life, many things fly, from John Muir himself (well, of course he did), to willows, buffalos, museums, it’s a Chagall world of anti-gravity, and I’ll tell you more anon. Stay tuned, and thank you again for being part of our Poetry Slow Down.
And read about John Muir’s birthday at the Huffington Post, google BarbaraMossberg Huffington Post, April 20, 2012.
And happy birthday, as e.e. cummings said, to all of us, naturat, infinite, and yes.
© Barbara Mossberg 2012