Printer-friendly version Share:  Share this page on FacebookShare this page on TwitterShare this page by emailShare this page with other services

Rainbow Dust

by Lynn Rothacher, Steven Moos, John Muir Middle School (Burbank, CA) students, with text from John Muir

About the Song

Album Cover: American History + This beautiful song was written with words from John Muir combined with original lyrics, in a collaborative effort by 7th-grade students of the "Fourth Period" class taught by Steven Moos and Lynn Rothacher at John Muir Middle School in Burbank, California, in 2014. The title, and the lyrics, were from a passage called "Winter Storms and Spring Floods", Chapter 2 of The Yosemite by John Muir.

  • MP3 recording (mp3 file - 4.5 MB) - performed by Steven Moos and Rebecca Southward.


The Making of the Song

by Lynn Rothacher

On April 21, 2014, John Muir's birthday, Mr. Moos and I decided to pass fourth period celebrating the eloquent words of John Muir. First, we read and discussed several of his quotes. Then we read a passage called "Winter Storms and Spring Floods" from The Yosemite. Before we read, we passed out sentence strips and instructed our students to keep their eyes and ears out for phrases that jumped out at them and captured their imagination. We explained that at the end of the reading, each student would write his/her favorite phrase on his/her sentence strip, and with those strips, we would compose a class poem.

For the actual reading, Mr. Moos chose a musical selection by Aaron Copland, Appalachian Spring, which we played in the background. It was majestic and matched Muir's beautiful prose perfectly. After the reading, students selected their favorite phrases and wrote them on their strips. Next, we asked each student to read his/her phrase and place it on the floor wherever (s)he thought it belonged. As more students came up, we instructed them to consider the placement of their phrases in relationship to the other phrases. One student read his phrase, "the gale gave no sign of dying," and set it at the very bottom of the poem, explaining, "Dying comes last."

When all of the lines were in place, we asked our students to stand next to their lines on either side of the poem, and we read the poem from beginning to end, once more with Aaron Copland's music in the background. After we read the poem, a choir student noticed that no fewer than five people had selected the phrase, "rainbow dust," and that the repetition of the lines reminded her of a chorus. "We should create a song!" she exclaimed.

Luckily, Mr. Moos is a professional musician and songwriter, so the next day he tried to set our poem to music. "This isn't a song," he proclaimed after trying to find an appropriate melody. "The song exists - its in the universe, fully formed. We just have to find it." We spent the rest of the period trying to find it, selecting phrases from our poem, as well as previously overlooked phrases from our Muir packet. We also used our own words in the chorus. Mr. Moos said that we had to find a rhyme for "Muir." A student came up with "cure," which perfectly encapsulated one of the quotes we had discussed: "Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike." It was a true collaboration. By the end of the period, we had found our song.

Mr. Jaffe, our faculty computer guru and musician, was kind enough to give up a few of his lunches to record "Rainbow Dust," as did computer and music instructor Ms. Southward, whose angelic voice was a perfect match for Mr. Moos'.



Rainbow Dust


Glorious mass of rainbow dust
Fine crop of frost crystals
Long snow streamers just like hair
Sparkling snow-spicules


John Muir sat next to a tree
The tree sat next to John Muir
Jesting on the invisible arm
The forest was the cure


The cloudless sky grew garish white
The gale gave no sign of dying
I was seeking another place
Safe from branches flying


John Muir ran next to a stream
The stream ran next to John Muir
Jesting on the invisible arm
The water was the cure


The air was full of fine snow dust
Scores of arrowy comets
From fountain basins near and far
Melting into music


John Muir sat down next to me
I sat next to John Muir
Jesting on the invisible arm
The music was the cure



Lyrics by: Lynn Rothacher, Steven Moos, John Muir Middle School Students (7th - grade - 4th Period, Spring, 2014), and John Muir.
Composed by: Steven Moos.
Vocals: Steven Moos, Rebecca Southward
Recorded by: Glen Jaffe.

Artwork: Mural by Randall Williams, from a 5,400-square-foot mural depicting Yosemite scenics similar to the photography of Ansel Adams on a corridor wall at John Muir Middle School in Burbank (2014).

Permission to Reprint by: Greg Miller, Ed. D., Principal, John Muir Middle School, Burbank Unified School District (July 17, 2018).

We gratefully acknowledge the permission to reprint the text, song, and image provided by the John Muir Middle School..






Other John Muir Songs

Sierra Club® and "Explore, enjoy and protect the planet"® are registered trademarks of the Sierra Club. © 2024 Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club Seal is a registered copyright, service mark, and trademark of the Sierra Club.