Essay title: Living Wild
Humanity prides itself on all of its accomplishments throughout history: our advances physically, mentally, socially. More importantly, we pride ourselves on the way that we have changed the world around us, the way we’ve made life easier with all of our advances technologically. However, there are those among us that wish to pride themselves on how we used to be as a culture, on our ability to live off the land, rather than changing it to suit our needs. It is these people that truly appreciate the idea of nature and its ability for self-survival, to exist without the guiding hand of man. While some tend to admire and focus on the wildness associated with nature’s vegetation, there are others that see the beauty and mysteriousness among nature’s living creatures.
In his essay entitled “The Water-Ouzel,” John Muir conveys his idea of true perfection and beauty that he sees in this native bird of the Yosemite Valley. Though he finds uniqueness among all of nature’s creatures, of “all the mountain birds, none has cheered [him] so much in [his] lonely wanderings, -none so unfailingly” (258). One of the prideful attributes that Muir sees in the water-ouzel is its dependability to always be found. He can be found in heat or storm, calm or storm, always singing, even “attuning his voice in sure accord” (258). One could name countless phrases or examples from Muir that attempt to capture and convey his appreciation for nature, but no words can truly show his love of wildness except for his understanding of the water-ouzel’s flight path. Muir has described to the reader that the water-ouzel remains close to the water, “never [singing] in chorus with other birds, nor with his kind, but only with the streams. Ironically, born in Scotland, Muir’s observations of the water-ouzel contributed to an understanding of the glacial formation of Yosemite Valley. Following the ouzel’s movements, Muir noted that if one were to trace the path of their flights, they would echo the progression of the glacial flow that carved the land of the valley, forming rivers and tributaries, “the streams tracing the ancient glaciers, the ouzels tracing the streams” (264). Muir ends his segment telling his readers of a mountaineer, a friend of his, living in his cabin through winter. The snow became so harsh that he was pushed to the point of hunting squirrels and other small animals for his cat’s survival. However, when he encounters the ouzel on a riverbank, he becomes mesmerized by the bird’s song, saying, “bless your little heart, I can’t shoot you, not even for Tom” (268). Weighing the need for his cat’s survival with the inherent majesty of the ouzel, the mountaineer can only look elsewhere to feed his cat. At the end of his essay, Muir has his reader seeing the bird, hearing the bird, and feeling for the bird the way that he himself does.
Sharing his passion for mother nature’s moving creations, Gilbert White wrote many letters ascribing many examples of mother nature’s creatures exhibiting their intelligence, no matter how simple we may think it. In his 13th letter to Daines Barrington, entitled “Timothy Digs In,” White tells us of the slow unyielding process of the tortoise burying itself, moving dirt with its forefeet, and then throwing it over his shell with his rear. While, the task seems simple and unimportant, the genius of the tortoise is in its knowing that is must survive winter, so