John Muir - My First Summer in the Sierra (1)
A young man goes into the mountains to herd sheep and falls deeply in love, changing the rest of his life? Sound familiar? It took me until I was almost done with this exuberant diary to notice the funny parallels to this years Oscar winner. Since Proulx' story and Lee's movie are a commentary on the myth of rugged wilderness and the lone, heroic men populating it, it's interesting to compare the two on that level. Muir in this trip and the path it set him on for his life, shaped another pervasive myth - that of unspoiled nature being more than a resource waiting to be used, but of value in itself. While the overpowering enthusiasm of his prose (written long after the trip), and his referring to plants and animals alike as "people" sound very quirky, and certainly his habit to talk to the flower people does, they are also part and parcel to his view of nature as a vast society, of which man is but a small part. His awe in the face of everything nature throws his way is a great inspiration, and Dan Simmons' suggestion in the Hyperion novels, that with time Muir he might turn into the patron saint of his own religion seems very convincing. He certainly was crazy enough for the job.