Readings for the Feast Day of John Muir and Hudson Stuck
- Revelation 22:1-5
- Psalm 104:17-25
- Luke 8:22-25
This reflection was shared at Sacred Saunter Outdoor Eucharist on Saturday April 24, 2021 at Freshwater in Eureka.
We have many patron saints of Sacred Saunter (St. Francis, Teilhard de Chardin, Mary Oliver, St. Richard of Chichester and Celtic Saints such as St. Patrick and St. Aidan), but perhaps there is no greater patron saint than John Muir, who said, “People ought to saunter – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, “A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these [trees] are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”
Born in Scotland in 1838, John Muir immigrated to the United States in 1849, settling in Wisconsin. Muir sought the spiritual freedom of the natural world. As a college student Muir studied botany, of which he later said, “This ﬁne lesson charmed me and sent me ﬂying to the woods and meadows with wild enthusiasm.”
In 1868, Muir arrived in Yosemite Valley, California, which he called “the grandest of all the special temples of nature.” During a hiking trip through the Sierras, Muir developed theories about the development and ecosystem of the areas. Some years later, Muir took up the cause of preservation, eventually co-founding the Sierra Club, an association of environmental preservationists.
Muir, an ardent believer in the national parks as “places of rest, inspiration, and prayers,” adamantly opposed the free exploitation of natural resources for commercial use. This position put him at odds with conservationists who saw natural forests as sources of timber and who wanted to conserve them for that reason.
Muir was inﬂuential in convincing President Theodore Roosevelt that federal management and control were necessary to insure the preservation of the national forests. Today, he is revered as an inspiration for preservationists and his life’s work stands as a powerful testament to the majesty and beauty of God’s creation. Muir said, “I’d rather be in the mountains thinking about God, than in church thinking about the mountains.”
Today the Episcopal Church also celebrates the Rev. Hudson Stuck, who was an Episcopal priest and explorer. Born in England in 1863, he came to the United States in 1885. He graduated from The University of the South in 1892. From 1894 to 1904, Stuck was Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral in Dallas, Texas. In 1905 he moved to Fort Yukon, Alaska, where he spent the rest of his life, serving as archdeacon of the Diocese of Alaska.
With a group of fellow explorers, Stuck was the ﬁrst to completely ascend Denali (Mt. McKinley). He later wrote of the experience as a “privileged communion” to be received in awe and wonder. Upon reaching the pinnacle of Denali, Stuck led the climbers in prayer and thanksgiving. Archdeacon Stuck died in 1920.
We will now continue our saunter with prayer and thanksgiving and “privileged communion.”