John Muir and One Breath

Gary Thorp

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In his book Caught in Fading Light, Gary Thorp recounts his quest to spot a cougar in the mountains of northern California. Using the literary form of nikki bungaku, a traditional Japanese diary-writing style, he explores what it really means to seek, to discover, and to find.

In his late twenties, John Muir was temporarily blinded in a freak industrial accident. This event was the catalyst in Muir’s life, changing him forever. Although he had written scattered notes to himself from time to time, Muir now began to keep a journal regularly. He seemed to be possessed of a new vision entirely, and began to sing the praises of light. “I know not a single word fine enough for light,” he said. He wrote of the “soul” of light, the “glories” of light, the “ethereality” of light, and even compared his own existence to that of “a flake of glass through which light passes.”

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