A purpose for mosquitoes…or humans

Vacations are great for reading. I just finished reading “A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf,” the journal of John Muir as he walked from Indiana to Florida in 1867-8. His walk plunges my walk from D.C. to Pittsburgh down to a very humble endeavor in comparison. His work was collecting plant specimens. He started his walk with only a plant press, a bag with a change of underwear and a little money. He had no tent, no fancy rain gear, never carried food or necessities to start a fire. If he passed through a town he would eat and perhaps sleep in the local tavern and pick up a loaf of bread from the baker. Otherwise he ate meals from farms, camps and houses he passed along the way and slept where he could, under the stars if necessary. When he was turned away (people were suspicious of strangers after the Civil War), he went hungry. He carried no water bottles but drank from any stream he crossed.

His daring to live so simply, trusting to take what came each day, in order to explore the plants of this country is striking. But so is his theology. He had a deep respect for the Creator of such beauty around him. A stem of flowering grass would delight him as much as any ostentatious garden flower. He was quick to offer a prayer of praise for any and all life around him. He rebelled against clergy who preached that the plants and animals were created for superior humans to use as they wished. All creation was loved by the Creator, he wrote, even alligators called “devils” by some, and yes, even the mosquitoes (as he walked through Florida swamps). To the standard comment that there is absolutely no use for mosquitoes (a comment I have made frequently), Muir countered that maybe the Creator designed humans so that mosquitoes would have food. He believed that each plant, animal and mineral has its place, and that humans are foolish, arrogant and rebellious towards God if we do not respect our interconnectedness to the tiniest creature.

Years later John Muir went on to found the Sierra Club. I’ll have to do more reading for more of that story. But all that aside, reading his journal has been a window into a man whose God-given passion and work (identifying plants) led him to constant prayers of praise and gratefulness. That was his gift! Where you and I would look at the swamp and think “yuck,” John Muir would wade in investigating a tangle of vines and praise their Creator, alligators notwithstanding. Got to admire a man like that!


  1. Now I want to look up this John Muir journal!