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Passengers On the Elder


Excerpt from Muir's letter to young friends on the Alaska Harriman Expedition of 1899.

by John Muir

To: "Girls four, Mary, Cornelia, Elizabeth and Dorothea - 'the Big Four' who with Carol and Roland Harriman, the "little Two,' kept us all young in the never-to-be-forgotten H.A.E. [ Harriman Alaska Expedition]"

Nearly all my life I wandered and studied alone. On the Elder, I found not only the fields I liked best to study, but a hotel, a club, and a home, together with a floating University in which I enjoyed the instruction and companionship of a lot of the best fellows imaginable, culled and arranged like a well balanced bouquet, or like a band of glaciers perhaps at times like a lot of round boulders merrily swirling and chafing against each other in a glacier pothole

Just to think of them!! Ridgway with wonderful bird eyes, all the birds of America in them; Funny Fisher ever flashing out wit; Perpendicular E. erect and majestic as a Tlingit totem pole; Old-sea-beach G. hunting upheavals, downheavels, sideheavels and hanging valleys; the artists reveling in color beauty like bees in flower beds; Ama-a-herst tripping along shore like a sprightly sandpiper, picking kelp-bearded boulders for a meal of fossil molluscs; Genius Kincaid among his beetles and butterflies and 'redtailed bumble bees that sting awful hard'; Inuit Dall smoking and musing; flowery Trelease and Coville; and Seaweed Saunders; our grand big game Doctor, and how many more! Blessed Brewer of a 1000 speeches and stories and merry ha-has, genial John B. who growled and scowled at good Bering Sea and me, but never at thee. I feel pretty sure that he is now all right at his beloved Slabsides and I have a good mind to tell his whole Bering story in his own sort of good-natured, gnarly, snarly, jingle, jangle rhyme.

Kill as few of your fellow beings as possible and pursue some branch of natural history at least far enough to see Nature's harmony.



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