MISSING MUSES, JOHN MUIR, AND MYSTIFICATION

“There are, it seems, two muses: the Muse of Inspiration, who gives us inarticulate visions and desires, and the Muse of Realization, who returns again and again to say “It is yet more difficult than you thought.” This is the muse of form. It may be then that form serves us best when it works as an obstruction, to baffle us and deflect our intended course. It may be that when we no longer know what to do, we have come to our real work and when we no longer know which way to go, we have begun our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.” ― Wendell Berry

…and so I have reached a wall I cannot find my way around. I’ve tried to write my way through it, dug deep beneath to unearth profound ideas, and called upon Muses to uplift my spirits so that I might see what lies beyond. Nothing produced any grand scheme. My mind used to open and place words faster than a beaver could fall a sampling. If a mystified mind is employed surely I’m working overtime without pay. A Muse of Perspiration has replaced my Muse of Inspiration.

It doesn’t matter if I work by light of day, or lamp, nothing shines forth. Late last night was the closest I came to hearing the faint whisper of my creative Muse. I was on the back porch, overcast, no light flickered from sky or woods. Nothing glowed from within the house. A free symphony of night sounds uplifted me – and mystified that this should happen while I was in total darkness, with only lean capability to recall the scale of the occasion. I couldn’t sit and write my cascading thoughts as they turned into articulate visions in the dark of Cicadas and Tree Frogs. A playful, short-seasoned chorus which only the night breeze hears. It was similar to,  ‘If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears, will it still make a sound?’

I’d been gifted with several minutes to absorb an experience I could bring forth at will during the remainder of my life. It was long enough to acknowledge my Muse of Realization – this is what John Muir listened to while awake in his loft bed a few miles away some 160 years or so ago. I’ll wrestle my stupefied Muses and give them a good cussing for kicking back and chugging good old Wisconsin brews while ignoring my pleas,  I’ve posted a short sideshow from the John Muir Memorial County Park in Marquette County, Wisconsin. The prairie restoration is on the acreage below the original boyhood of John Muir, surrounding Fountain Lake (now named Ennis Lake). The park is located on County Highway F, approximately halfway between Portage and Montello, Wisconsin.

Later in his life, John recalled his arrival on the farm in 1849 as, “To this charming hut, in the sunny woods, overlooking a flowery glacier meadow and a lake rimmed with water lilies, we were hauled by an ox-team across trackless Carex swamps and low rolling hills sparsely dotted with round-headed oaks. . .This sudden plash into pure wildness–baptism in Nature’s warm heart–how utterly happy it made us. . .Everything new and pure in the very prime of spring when Nature’s pulses were beating highest and mysteriously keeping time with our own. Young hearts, young leaves, flowers, animals, the winds and the streams and the sparkling lake, all wildly, gladly rejoicing together. Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!”  Obviously, John had no problem in his life with missing Muses or mystification.

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9 thoughts on “MISSING MUSES, JOHN MUIR, AND MYSTIFICATION

  1. After reading this, I can tell that your muse is alive and well – keep traveling this road less paved – its the very best one!

  2. Charly-
    Love your thoughts and photos. This is an inspiring thought, “The mind that is not baffled is not employed.” Now I think I’ll be happily employed for the rest of my life!!

    Regarding John Muir… his quotes are some of my favorites. I include one on my email signature. A friend whom I met while taking classes recently was excited by this and exclaimed, “He was my grandfather!”
    Imaging that…
    Jane

    1. I’m happy to meet you, Jane. I also include a John Muir quote with my email signature! Many of his boyhood friends’ descendants still farm the same homesteads, the familiar names adorn mailboxes up and down the highways and side roads. So few people know of John Muir and his humble Wisconsin roots – California and the rest of the world fill the largest part of the grand stage of his life. I would have thought at least one of his family would have stayed in Wisconsin, but John eventually brought them all west. I don’t think there are any Muirs left in this area. Meeting one would be a very pleasant surprise, indeed!

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