Tuesday, April 21, 2009

John Muir, Ansel Adams, Yosemite

There are over 700 people in A Book of Ages. Most of them appear several times, doing remarkable things and everyday things, great and funny and foolish things. One or two of them have a birthday every day, which I try to note in this daily blog. Birthdays are apt because it is a perfect birthday book. One day a year we all think about what we have done and how well we are doing; A Book of Ages is a catalog of this kind of observation.

It's a book about years, not about days, but for many years I added to it daily. Often it was someone's birthday that brought them to mind and made me look them up to see what they had done and when. Always this question: how old were they when this happened?

Today is the birthday of the naturalist John Muir. He appears in the book only once, at age 30, when he settles in Yosemite. Yosemite always makes me think of Ansel Adams, who took so many famous photographs of it, summer and winter. Adams appears in the book once too, at age 15, when he takes his first photograph of Yosemite with a box brownie. And so goes the writing of a book, the slow accumulation of facts and names like the laying down of topsoil. The result being a book which is odd and interesting and surprisingly funny. (The perfect birthday gift.)

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