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  • Writer's pictureMichael Kennedy

Wonderlust: What takes your breath away?

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

And what can you take away and use?

“Never say there is nothing beautiful in the world anymore. There is always something to make you wonder in the shape of a tree, the trembling of a leaf.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

What takes your breath away? What can you learn from it? What can you take away and use?

For me it's the wonderlust of Lake Tahoe and its surrounding areas. Urban Dictionary's definition of wonderlust is "the desire to be in a constant state of wonder... a passion for feeling wonderment."

If you've been to Tahoe, you know exactly what I mean, and you too have experienced wonderlust.

A brief history in the Lake's evolution of inspiration

Going back 2,000 years, the Washoe (pronounced wa-she-shu) Native Americans were the first people to be inspired by the Lake. The Washoe considered then, and still do, the Lake sacred and the center of their world, providing abundant resources and spiritual fulfillment.

(Nearly) Three Nobel Prize Winning Authors and One Significant Conservationist Inspired by Lake Tahoe

Fast forwarding to the 1860s, Mark Twain's visit produced similar feelings. Twain's description of the Lake is well known and often quoted from his book, Roughing It: "As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface, I thought it must surely be the fairest picture that the whole earth affords."

Surprisingly, Mark Twain never won the Nobel Prize, even though he was recognized by many great writers, like William Faulkner, who called him "the father of American literature." And Ernest Hemingway, who declared "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." Not surprisingly, Mark Twain was listed #1 in the "10 Brilliant Writers Robbed of a Nobel Prize" list.

In the early 1870s, a young John Muir was caught up in the wonderlust of Lake Tahoe as well. He wrote of the Lake with reverence, "I am reminded of all the mountain lakes I ever knew, as if this were a kind of water heaven to which they all had come.”

Legendary Nobel Prize winning author John Steinbeck spent the better part of two years in Tahoe after dropping out of Stanford University in the late 1920s. It was during his winter isolation in the beautiful building pictured below, now known as the UC Davis Tahoe City Field Station, when Steinbeck completed his first published novel, Cup of Gold.

In 1940, near the edge of Lake Tahoe, a 70-year-old British philosopher named Bertrand Russell wrote a manuscript titled An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth. That book helped reestablish the writer and philosopher’s career, leading to a Nobel Prize in Literature ten years later, in 1950.

Lake Tahoe offers abundant resources and spiritual fulfillment for everyone and anyone... who notices; who pays attention. The Lake literally takes your breath away.

The question is, what can you take away and use from this special place to make the world a little better for yourself and others, as so many others have done, including the Washoe Tribe, Mark Twain, John Muir, John Steinbeck, and Bertrand Russell?


Hi! I’m Michael Kennedy, Olympic Valley, CA resident. I’m a teacher, freelance writer, and photographer. Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it, please share with others. I value your attention, it means a lot to me and it helps others see the story. If you're interested in any photos in this post, or in my gallery: click here, let me know what size you want, and I'll send a quote. My email:

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Dec 29, 2022

Exceptionally well done

Jan 01, 2023
Replying to

Thank you…

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