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Restless Fires: Young John Muir's Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf in 1867–68

By author: James B. Hunt
Product Code: H855
ISBN: 9780881463927
Product Format: Hardback
Publisher: Mercer University Press
Availability:Not currently available.
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Price: $29.00

Restless Fires provides a detailed rendering of John Muir’s thousand-mile walk to the Gulf based on both manuscript and published accounts. Hunt particularly examines the development of Muir’s environmental thought as a young adult. Muir experienced delight in seeing nature anew after recovering from partial blindness due to a factory accident. He witnessed the Civil War’s devastating impacts and efforts towards Reconstruction on towns, villages, and people. This is one of the first books on John Muir’s thousand-mile walk that places his journey in the context of the Civil War and Reconstruction, to which Muir gave only passing witness. Through these experiences and reflections, Muir came to radical views regarding humankind’s relationship to nature, death, and faith. Muir suffered hunger, felt pangs of loneliness, slept five days in a cemetery, slogged through swamps, and nearly died of malaria. The legacy of this walk is found in Muir’s perceptive insights generated in part by his background and reading, and by his experience with the Southern environment and its people and plants during the walk. His journal gives evidence of a young man resolving what he wants to do with his life. Muir comes to profound insights as to how human beings fit into nature. A walk in nature gave humans a sense of their limits, a lesson in humility. In Muir’s view, nature provides humans a moral touchstone when they recognize their small part in the “divine harmony.” Muir wrote that when he simply went out for a walk in nature, he was really “going in.” This book explores what Muir meant.
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Review: Publishers Weekly - July 9, 2012
Hunt effectively makes the case that Muir, “environmentalist and leader of the American conservation movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,” was profoundly affected by his travels through the Southern United States at the age of 29 in ways that significantly shaped the future direction of his life. Recovered from having been partially blinded in an accident in 1867, Muir abandoned his work as a machinist to walk through the post–Civil War South, journeying from Kentucky to Florida. His experiences “solidified an emerging bio-centric worldview informed by both his religious heritage, and his new, ecological convictions.” For readers with only a vague notion of who Muir was, this volume, even if focused on just a small period in the naturalist’s life, provides a solid overview of his achievements. Hunt also deserves credit for noting that as observant as Muir was of the natural world, many aspects of human society evaded his gaze. For example, he gave cursory attention to human plights to which he bore passing witness and showed little understanding of slavery and race relations in the post–Civil War South. Evocative prose (“Malaria hung on John Muir like a wet, hot, wool coat”) make this book highly readable.

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