“A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.” John Muir.

I recently went to Sequoia National Forest and Kings Canyon with my son. What a great time we had among the trees sharing in nature! We saw a few bears, explored a cavern, and wandered through the giant sequoias. We even had a chance to talk about John Muir.

John Muir was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books tell of his adventures in nature. His activism helped to save the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and other wilderness areas.

One of his claims to fame was a trip he took with a president. During a cross-country trip in 1903, Muir and Roosevelt spent three nights camping in Yosemite. The president recalled one of those days as “the grandest day of my life.”

Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir at Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park, 1903

Muir was a writer besides being a naturalist. Muir’s friend, zoologist Henry Fairfield Osborn, writes that Muir’s style of writing did not come to him easily, but only with intense effort. “Daily he rose at 4:30 o’clock, and after a simple cup of coffee labored incessantly . . . . he groans over his labors, he writes and rewrites and interpolates.” Osborn notes that he preferred using the simplest English language, and therefore admired above all the writings of CarlyleEmerson and Thoreau. “He is a very firm believer in Thoreau and starts by reading deeply of this author.” His secretary, Marion Randall Parsons, noted that “composition was always slow and laborious for him. . . . Each sentence, each phrase, each word, underwent his critical scrutiny, not once but twenty times before he was satisfied to let it stand.” Muir often told her, “This business of writing books is a long, tiresome, endless job.”

I find that I have some of the same opinions as Muir. Writing can be long and tiresome at times. We writers labor over each sentence and word in order to perfect our compositions for the reader. Still, writing is a worthwhile endeavor. I think the struggle is to find those word gems. When found, those treasures help us crystallize our own thoughts and feelings about a subject. In doing so, others will be able to visualize what we mean with words.