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"Spirit of John Muir"
Lives on at the Visalia Library

Lee Stetson portrays John Muir

As almost anyone who has ever carried a canteen and a backpack knows, John Muir is one of the founders and the original President of the Sierra Club, unanimously elected in 1892. He later enjoyed national renown as a land preservation leader, visionary, and, of course, author. His first book, THE MOUNTAINS OF CALIFORNIA was published in 1893 when he was 56 years-old and became a classic. In all, he published 10 major books and he died in 1914 with a manuscript by his side. The California Historical Society voted Muir "The Greatest Californian in History' some years ago. Today, the inspired and spiritual, yet still authoritative, qualities of his words live on for countless Americans of all walks of life.

Muir is extremely relevant today and can be seen as the godfather of the environmental movement in the U.S. which has steadily grown since his time. He's particularly important to California where he lived during virtually all of his greatest accomplishments. Muir is owed a great deal of credit for the very existence of Sequoia National Park (in Tulare County). His beautiful and stirring writings helped make the wonders and the endangered status of the giant sequoias nationally known.

Because of Muir's tremendous importance today, the Visalia Public Library presented a month-long exploration and celebration of the great environmental activist during September of 1999 called "The Spirit of John Muir." Lee Stetson, renowned Muir interpreter (and lookalike) who regularly appears in Yosemite National Park and elsewhere gave a fabulous performance in a free public performance at the Visalia Library on Friday, September 10th at 7:00 p.m. . The program was fun, enlightening, and informative. Stetson's presentation of approximately 45 minutes utilizes Muir's own words in character. Among the subjects covered were animal rights, extinction of plant species, and the invigorating effects of the great outdoors. This was followed with two 15-minute question-and-answer dialogues with the audience, the first as Muir, and the second as a Muir scholar. Stetson returned on the following day, Saturday, September 11 at 10:00 a.m. for a special children's performance that featured animal stories, including the moving story of "Stickeen."

During the entire month of September the Visalia Library will present a John Muir exhibit that will showcase rare early editions of Muir's works, original signed letters, and reproductions of significant diary and manuscript entries as well as photos of Muir himself. This entire project is funded with a grant from the California Council for the Humanities.

In preparing for the "Spirit of John Muir" program and exhibit, the Library realized that it most of its copies of books by John Muir were in sad shape, and many branches lacked any copy of Muir's work. So, the Library appealed to the Sierra Club for help. Two local chapters of the Club responded to the call, the Tehipite Chapter (Fresno County) and the Kern-Kaweah Chapter (Tulare, Kings, and Kern Counties), each giving a $400 donation to purchase new John Muir books.

The Visalia Public Library is located downtown, two blocks north of Main Street, at 200 West Oak Street. For more information please call (559) 733-6954.

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