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First person: Finding everyday awe in nature in Yosemite National Park

The view of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park, California. (Diliff/Wikimedia Commons)
The view of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View in Yosemite National Park, California. (Diliff/Wikimedia Commons)

Listen: Our show on everyday awe and how to practice it.

John Reynolds has lived in Yosemite National Park his entire life. In this ‘First person’ diary, he shares how living in nature helps him maintain a sense of awe.

“It brings inspiration. It brings joy. It brings spirituality. It brings hope for the world.”

JOHN REYNOLDS: Every day when I walk down, I think my first sensation is the air. You know, I take in these gulps of air into my lungs. And it’s … better than coffee. It just rejuvenates you.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI: Oh, John Reynolds. I do envy him. He has lived in California’s Yosemite National Park his entire life. Born and raised, he says. His mother worked at the Yosemite Post Office for 43 years – John grew up in Yosemite village.

There’s an absolutely adorable picture of John on the Sierra News website of him as a toddler, sitting on the steps of a Yosemite village building. Later, he joined the Post Office, and worked there for 44 years, 10 years as postmaster. John recently retired … Congratulations!

But John says he’s not going anywhere. He’s going to stay right where he is, in Yosemite. And continue his morning ritual, in the first few steps from his home, he pauses, takes deep breathes, and acknowledges the wonder around him.

REYNOLDS: In that 45 second walk, it just inspires me for the day because I go, Man, look where I work. I always turn around and look at Yosemite falls on my way down.

… It almost looks like a painting. It’s hard to articulate, you know? There’s a cascade in between the upper and lower falls. And then as you walk through the base of the lower falls, you really get a sense of how insignificant you are and how amazing Mother Nature is because of the wind that it creates. The mist. It truly gives a sense of awe. It gives. And I’m struggling to find the words for it, but I don’t know how many times I’ve walked up to the top of the falls in my life, but I’m still blown away by it all.

The smell of pine is always prevalent. At the height of spring, when the snow is melting, the reverberation of Yosemite falls makes the doors rattle in our house. And so that makes me smile. And I the power and the majesty of everything of the book. I don’t even have to see it. I can hear it through the doors like, oh, my God, the falls must be really moving. The doors are really rattling today.

Coming from the west, driving eastward. It’s a beautiful canyon drive with a road that follows, that meanders along the said river. And then once you hit the boundary, you start seeing the granite formations that the glaciers have carved out. And then you drive further into the valley after you pass the boundary. And that’s when Yosemite Valley really starts to unfold. I notice people that come up to the park, they’ll see a spot and it’s like they don’t even know they’re driving. They just stop.

You can get agitated, but you have to understand what these people are possibly experiencing for the first time is this incredible view that they’re just stopped in their tracks. And they’re like, Oh my God, they’ve got to stop. And they get out, take a picture, even though they’re blocking the road. But I’ve come to a place where, you know, I smile at it because I know exactly what they’re going through. They’re having an experience of seeing Yosemite for the first time and these incredible monoliths and the full effect of the enormity of it.

You know, I I’ve spent 63 years here in the valley. I can walk out in the valley, and you can always see something here that you haven’t noticed before. It fills the spirit. And I think nature does that. I mean, I think it brings inspiration. It brings joy. It brings spirituality. It brings hope for the world, I guess.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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