“I ventured out…”

A wild scene, but not a safe one, is made by the moon as it appears through the edge of the Yosemite Fall when one is behind it. Once…I ventured out on the narrow ledge that extends back of the fall…and wishing to look at the moon through some of the denser portions of the fall, I ventured to creep further behind it. The effect was enchanting: fine, savage music sounding above, beneath, around me, while the moon, apparently in the very midst of the rushing waters, seemed to be struggling to keep her place, on account of the ever-varying form and density of the water masses through which she was seen…I was in fairy land between the dark wall and the wild throng of illumined waters, but suffered sudden disenchantment; for like the witch scene in Alloway Kirk, “in an instant all was dark”. Down came a dash of spent comets, thin and harmless looking in the distance, but they felt desperately solid and stony when they struck my shoulders, like a mixture of choking spray and gravel and big hailstones. Instinctively dropping on my knees, I gripped an angle of the rock, curled up like a fern frond with my face pressed against my breast, and in this way submitted as best I could to my thundering bath…How fast one’s thoughts burn in such times of stress. I was weighing chances of escape. Would the column be swayed a few inches from the wall, or would it come yet closer? The fall was in flood and not so lightly would its ponderous mass be swayed. My fate seemed to depend on the fate of the “idle wind”…

John Muir, The Yosemite, p.30

The Yosemite
Yos Falls 1900


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