Essay: When the Earth Cracks Open

Earth Cracks Open

In the spring of 1872, the naturalist John Muir was asleep in a small cabin in the Yosemite Valley. "At half past two o'clock," he wrote later, "I was awakened by a tremendous earthquake . . . the strange thrilling motion could not be mistaken, and I ran out of my cabin, both glad and frightened, shouting, 'A noble earthquake! A noble earthquake!' feeling sure I was going to learn something."

It would be delightful to think that he actually uttered those words, looking for sermons in the shaking stones. In any case, Muir was alone in the moonlit mountains, and...

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