Monday, June 29, 2015

Fragrance of Conifers in Literature

It was to more modern masters, to Emerson and Hawthorne that she naturally and finally turned. To Emerson the mystic in her made quick response, and not only the mystic, but the lover of unhampered, independent thought and action. To her he was always "the friend and helper of all who would live the life of the spirit"; and throughout her life, phrases and paragraphs from his essays remained in her memory as shining strands of living light.
She would sometimes sit beside her table far into the night reading his pages, until the lamp burned dim and low; but it was by some instinctive selection of a fitting environment that she reserved Hawthorne for the soft, scented gloom of the pine glades, or the rocky ledges of the hillsides, where the sound of the plashing, falling water sang in her ears and the wind whirled the sun-flecked, flickering shadows of the aspens over her open book. With the wood-silence about her, the wind stirring the hair on her brow, she read those mysterious, beauty-haunted pages, her imagination captured and enthralled until she did not feel the wind, nor see the shadows chase and fly. Into the tales she plunged as might one into some deep, limpid pool, and rose invigorated with the cold, pure refreshment of the " ethereal water."
But she did not always read. There were hours when she wandered up the slopes of the hillsides and into the depths of pine gloom, when she stood on the edge of steeps which fell away so sharply and abysmally that the eye plunged happily through the dense bracken and the brown and purple trunks of the giant pines into the deeps of deer-haunted shadow. Again she would wander to some more level spot, where the pines grew low and spreading, their branches twisted and distorted into strange and grotesque shapes by the mighty mountain winds; but if bent and stunted, they were strong. They had prevailed, and stood but the more deeply rooted in the soil, ever sending out new buttresses against the rushing legions of the enemy. Their flat, mossy tops they spread in air, black, green, blue, russet, silver, in the sea of sunlight they floated on; but beneath the branches brooded the peace won through resistance, and in the long aisles was the dim, mysterious light of the pine woods, sunlight falling through closemeshed nets of green.
It was always very still there; the foot sank noiselessly into the faded brown carpet of last year's needles, and there was fragrance, austere, balsamic—and music.
About the high, white peaks the winds roar and scream, or wail and mourn down the gulches, or whisper and murmur among the aspens and maples; but in the pine forests it sings the songs of the sea; sometimes the rippling melody of the surf washing softly against the shore, and again the organ roll of the solemn, majestic ocean surges; but always the sea music.
Ah, there is magic in the pine forests! One hears untranslatable harmonies; one sees strange subtleties of colour, and the fragrance is the complement of both. Frances loved the pine glooms. She would sometimes spend hours within the shadowy aisles, an ascetic, blackrobed figure, with pale, uplifted face, drawn back, it would seem, by the weight of hair; but there was nothing ascetic in her glowing eyes and smiling mouth as she listened to the sea-music the wind sang to the pines, and inhaled the pine fragrance with a rapture which no flower scents could give her; until the grey, shackling chrysalis of her past life would fall from her and she would feel the soar and lift of wings, while from some depth of being there welled the thrilling impulse of joy.
The new missioner
 By Mrs. Wilson Woodrow
 
Then, the train is literally racing down hill — with the trucks bumping heels like the wheels of a wagon on a sluggish team; and a new tang comes to the ozone — the tang of resin, of healing balsam, of cinnamon smells, of incense and frankincense and myrrh, of spiced sunbeams and imprisoned fragrance — the fragrance of thousands upon thousands of years of dew and light, of pollen dust and ripe fruit cones; the attar, not of Persian roses, but of the everlasting pines.
The train takes a swift swirl round an escarpment of the mountain; and you are in the Forests proper, serried rank upon rank of the blue spruce and the lodgepole pine. No longer spangles of light hitting back from the rocks in sparks of fire! The light here is sifted pollen dust — pollen dust, the primordial life principle of the tree — with the purple, cinnamon-scented cones hanging from the green arms of the conifers like the chevrons of an enranked army; and the cones tell you somewhat of the service as the chevrons do of the soldier man. Some conifers hold their cones for a year before they send the seed, whirling, swirling, broadside to the wind, aviating pixy parachutes, airy armaments for the conquest of arid hills to new forest growth, though the process may take the trifling aeon of a thousand years or so. At one season, when you come to the Forests, the air is full of the yellow pollen of the conifers, gold dust whose alchemy, could we but know it, would unlock the secrets of life. At another season — the season when I happened to be in the Colorado Forests — the very atmosphere is alive with these forest airships, conifer seeds sailing broadside to the wind. You know why they sail broadside, don't you? If they dropped plumb like a stone, the ground would be seeded below the heavily shaded branches inches deep in self-choking, sunless seeds; but when the broadside of the sail to the pixy's airship tacks to the veering wind, the seed is carried out and away and far beyond the area of the shaded branches; to be caught up by other counter currents of wind and hurled, perhaps, down the mountain side, destined to forest the naked side of a cliff a thousand years hence. It is a fact, too, worth remembering and crediting to the wiles and ways of Dame Nature that destruction by fire tends but to free these conifer seeds from the cones; so that they fall on the bare burn and grow slowly to maturity under the protecting nursery of the tremulous poplars and pulsing cottonwoods.
The train has not gone very far in the National Forests before you see the sleek little Douglas squirrel scurrying from branch to branch. From the tremor of his tiny body and the angry chitter of his parted teeth, you know he is swearing at you to the utmost limit of his squirrel (?) language; but that is not surprising. This little rodent of the evergreens is the connoisseur of all conifers. He, and he alone, knows the best cones for reproductive seed. No wonder he is so full of fire when you consider he diets on the fruit of a thousand years of sunlight and dew; so when the ranger seeks seed to reforest the burned or scant slopes, he rifles the cache of this little furred forester, who suspects your noisy trainload of robbery — robbery — sc — scur — r — there!
Then, the train bumps and jars to a stop with a groaning of brakes on the steep down grade, for a drink at the red water tank; and you drop off the high car steps with a glance forward to see that the baggage man is dropping off your kit. The brakes reverse. With a scrunch, the train is off again, racing down hill, a blur of steamy vapor like a cloud against the lower hills. Before the rear car has disappeared round the curve, you have been accosted by a young man in Norfolk suit of sage green wearing a medal stamped with a pine tree — the ranger, absurdly young when you consider each ranger patrols and polices 100,000 acres compared to the 1,700 which French and German wardens patrol and daily deals with criminal problems ten times more difficult than those confronting the Northwest Mounted Police, without the military authority which backs that body of men.
You have mounted your pony — men and women alike ride astride in the Western States. It heads of its own accord up the bridle trail to the ranger's house, in this case 9,000 feet above sea level, 1,000 feet above ordinary cloud line. The hammer of a woodpecker, the scur of a rasping blue jay, the twitter of some red bills, the soft thug of the unshod broncho over the trail of forest mold, no other sound unless the soul of the sea from the wind harping in the trees. Better than the jangle of city cars in that stuffy hotel room of the germ-infested town, isn't it?
If there is snow on the peaks above, you feel it in the cool sting of the air. You hear it in the trebling laughter, in the trills and rills of the brook babbling down, sound softened by the moss as all sounds are hushed and low keyed in this woodland world. And all the time, you have the most absurd sense of being set free from something. By-and-by when eye and ear are attuned, you will see the light reflected from the pine needles glistening like metal, and hear the click of the same needles like fairy castanets of joy. Meantime, take a long, deep, full breath of these condensed sunbeams spiced with the incense of the primeval woods; for you are entering a temple, the temple where our forefathers made offerings to the gods of old, the temple which our modern churches imitate in Gothic spire and arch and architrave and nave. Drink deep in open, full lungs; for you are drinking of an elixir of life which no apothecary can mix. Most of us are a bit ill mentally and physically from breathing the dusty street sweepings of filth and germs which permeate the hived towns. They will not stay with you here! Other dust is in this air, the gold dust of sunlight and resin and ozone. They will make you over, will these forest gods, if you will let them, if you will lave in their sunlight, and breathe their healing, and laugh with the chitter and laughter of the squirrels and streams.
And what if your spirit does not go out to meet the spirit of the woods halfway? Then, the woods will close round you with a chill loneliness unutterable. You are an alien and an exile. They will have none of you and will reveal to you none of their joyous, dauntless life secrets.
THROUGH OUR UNKNOWN SOUTHWEST
 By AGNES C. LAUT
 
 
"All outward wisdom yields to that within.
Whereof nor creed nor cannon holds the key;
We only feel that we have been,
And evermore shall be.
"And thus I know, by memories unfurled,
In rarer moods, and many a nameless sign,
That once in Time, and somewhere in the world,
I was a towering Pine."
 
When the writer was a "freshman medic" she acquired the spruce pillow fad—for were we not told by our professor of materia medica that tired brains may be soothed into forgetfulness of quizzes, "exams" and other horrors of medical college life by the fragrance of oleum pini sylvestris? No college "den" was complete without one or more spruce pillows. While my love for the pine tree was and is sufficiently general to include every branch of the very large pinus family, which embraces the spruce pillow variety, my preference naturally inclined me to want a pillow of the Georgia pine. No northern member of the pine family, I imagined, could possibly be more fragrant and soothing than its southern relative. Imbued with this idea, I wrote my mother to send me from Georgia to New York a bagful of needles of Georgia pine.  
The Pine-needle Basket Book
 By Mary Jane McAfee
 
Then a better thought occurred to me as I looked at the heaps of soft—toned burrs. “When we're in the city in the winter, we’re always longing for the sights and smells of the forest. We’ll take all we can of it down with us.” My girl friends laughed at me, but they lent themselves readily to the task.
No doubt the squirrels and chipmunks were much surprised at our continued activity. What could we want with the empty cones? I hope we mystified them as a punishment for their greediness.
We. gathered the most perfect cones of each variety, roaming the woods for days in our hunts. We stripped the cedar of its branches of bright green moss. We gathered sacks of slippery needles from the fragrant pine, and still more fragrant fir. We gathered cedar boughs laden with blossoms, and huge blocks of bark from the redwoods.
We pricked the swollen globules on the bark of the smooth firs, and filled bottles with pure balsam. We ordered beautifully grained cedar boards from the lumber-mill, and made each of  us a cedar chest to hold our treasures.
Rifling of the Forest by Mary Powell
 
THE road upon which the Indian was driving led out into a pine forest, between the stately trees of which Marian caught glimpses of cloud-enshrouded mountains. The cold, the raw wind, the increasing gloominess of the day, with its ominous threat of storm, in no wise checked her momentary enthusiasm and awakening joy for the open country. For as long as she could remember she had been cooped up in a town, and in her heart love of nature had been stultified. At last! She breathed deeply of the keen air, and the strong, pitchy smell of pine began to stimulate her. "What mountains?" she asked. "Spanish Peaks," replied the driver. She made other inquiries to which he gave brief and unsatisfactory replies. Perhaps it took all his attention to keep the car in the road. Besides, the car made such a rattle and clank that conversation was really not easy. Marian ceased asking questions.
The road led through a forest of pines such as she had never seen, wonderfully fragrant and exhilarating after the cities and railroads.
Vanishing America by Zane Grey

But lonely as the pine-forest is, and to a certain extent monotonous, it is impossible to tire of it The vistas of endless brown or silvery cylindrical stems, that rise to a height, sometimes of two hundred feet, have a charm that absolutely rivets the eye. There is a sense of youth and life and freshness about these mighty ever-springing giants, which imparts itself to the beholder, an exuberance of strength, of which the wayfarer seems to gather a portion, as the fragrance of the pinewood is wafted to his nostrils by every breeze that stirs the far-away shadowy branches, or shakes the golden cones to his feet
The Black forest, its people and legends
 By Lisbeth Gooch Séguin

 

 

Saturday, June 27, 2015