Fragrance in Literature-New life in new lands by Grace Greenwood

New life in new lands : notes of travel (1873)
Greenwood, Grace, 1823-1904


Three weeks and more in San Francisco and
vicinity ; and they have gone by like three days
and less. I have been a very bad correspondent
during this time of times. All things without
and within seem to have been in league against
my virtuous plans for work, — the strange scenes,
the bright sky and sea, sunshine and soft airs,
novel street sights, charming drives and walks,
brilliant shops, theatres, libraries, churches, and,
above all, the great hearts of these people, —
hearts that keep open house for all visitors, and
take us in, and wrap us around and hold us
fast by the kindest, warmest, cheeriest hospitali-
ty^ — a hospitahty which, like the mercy of the
Lord, is " new every morning." Who could sit
tamely down to write in such incomparably and
intoxicatingly lovely weather as we had for the
first two weeks of my stay ? And when the rains
came on, — the first since May, — and it was really
chilly and dismal for three whole days, who would
write then 1 What sensible Christian woman
would n't curl up on a sofa and read novels ?
Now all is bright and balmy again ; the waters
of the bay sparkle with almost intolerable bright-
ness, and the gardens and grounds have put on
new greenness and glory. The garden under my
window (my window which stands open) sends up
the fragrance of heliotropes, mignonettes, gerani-
ums, carnations, verbenas, and magnificent roses
of many sorts. Fuchsias are in full bloom, and
oleanders, and the bounteous laurustinas, and a
sort of honeysuckle, and sweet-peas, and tube-
roses. So much for my dear flower-loving friends
on the other side, by way of aggravation.

This
morning we drove over a portion of the ranch,
following, for the most part, a charming private
road along the Chico. We passed immense fields
of wheat, and a great meadow of the alfalfa, or
Chilian clover, which looked like a bright green
sea, surging in the fresh morning wind. This clover,
I am told, produces three bounteous crops a year,
without irrigation, never losing its peculiar vivid
green ; then, added to its other merits, it is sweet-
scented. We drove over a rolling plain, starred
with miniature daisies, dotted with buttercups and
tiny blue flowers, strange to me, but something
like our housatonias. But the flowers up here have
not come out as they have down on the coast.
Coming from Belmont, last week, I saw hosts of
harebells and patches of wild iris, that looked as
though the sky had come down in pieces ; while
all along the side of the road ran the yellow Cali-
fornia poppies, like a procession of fairy Orange-
men. The grand floral spring flood is rising all
over the State. Soon it will cover our feet, it
will rise to our knees, it will touch our saddle-
girths, and all the land will be drowned in bloom
and fragrance.

O, how pleasant and beautiful seemed the earth,
in its fresh spring attire! how quiet, and inno-
cent and reliable! All along our way, going and
returning, we breathed in the intoxicating sweet-
ness of violets and roses and lilacs, and the more
delicate fragrance of fruit-tree blossoms and tender
young leaves. We had radiant sunshine instead of
the misty moonlight, associated with tumult and
terror; the song of birds in lieu of that sullen
roar more appaUing than the rush of a tornado or
the thunder of surf; in short, we had brightness
and peace instead of mystery and fear. It was
paradise regained.


San Francisco, May 4.
Since the coming in of fine, clear weather, since
the real royal entry of spring, the obstacles in the
way of study or writing, both without and within,
have seemed quite insurmountable. These glorious
days have rolled in upon me in a perfectly whelm-
ing tide of fragrant and golden enticements,
floating me helplessly out into the lovely country,
up and down the great highways, and over the
bright waters, — to Sacramento, to Belmont, to
Oakland and Brooklyn and Sancelito. Much of
the time I have simply been flying like a shuttle-
cock back and forth across the bay. I had a
pass, and thought I must work it out.
The grand California flower-show is at its height.
Anything more gorgeously beautiful than the dis-
play in meadows and wild pasture lands, on hill-
side and river-side, it were impossible for any one
but a mad florist to imagine. Along the railroads
on either hand runs continuously the rich, radiant
bloom. Your sight becomes pained, your very brain
bewildered, by watching the galloping rainbow.

Vera Cruz, May 30.

Like the progressive women we are, my dear
companion and I rested but a short time in
town, and then resumed our jolly journeying.
We went first to Santa Clara, where we visited
some pleasant friends who own one of the great
fruit ranches with which that beautiful region
abounds. Here we revelled in bloom and shade
and fragrance; here we ate ripe cherries from
the trees and strawberries from the vines. Here
we rambled through long avenues of apple and
pear and peach trees of noble growth, and past
fine vineyards and raspberry and blackberry plan-
tations. Mr. Watkins, our host, has now a hun-
dred acres in fruit trees of the choicest varieties
and in the best possible condition. Twenty years
ago, on this ranch, there was but a single tree,
— a live-oak. All this seems rather creation than
cultivation.

As he was to return for a couple of other friends,
waiting on the bridge, Mr. Hutchings sent us three
pilgrims (we know who) on through the wicket-
gate, and directly into his fine strawberry patch.
We justified his trust, and partook generously of
the delicious fruit, feeling that he should be en-
couraged in the culture of such delicacies in this
wild spot. We would a little rather have had them
gathered for us, though, for the sun was " exception-
ally " hot. On a flowery bank, under a noble oak,
we soon sought rest and shade. Here, where a
delicious breeze reached us, we revelled in the un-
speakable loveliness of the scene. Above, below,
on every side, was the fullness of beauty and life,
— light, color, fragrance, graceful motion, grand re-
pose. Here, while watching the Fall of Falls, the
steady plunge of the great central column, the
ever-varying swing and sway of the silvery mist
that encircled it hke a garment, the peculiar shoots
of tiny side-streams and jets coming down like
arrows or rockets, — passing beautiful; here, while
listening to the many-voiced shout of the leaping
waters, the shout that speaks alternately of joy, of
dread, of defiance, and despair, we heard also, from
the grave lips of the poet himself, Joaquin Miller's
" Yosemite Song, " — a poem which almost expresses
the inexpressible. Perhaps the fine frenzy was
catching ; perhaps we are never too old to catch
it : certain it is, that one of the other three pil-
grims, glowing with a mild poetic fervor, here took
the word and said, "Ah, fellow -pilgrims, here,
where every sense is enthralled with beauty and
sublimity, where
• The wild cataract leaps in glory ' ;
here, with the tremble of its melodious thunder in
the air ; here, in this summer, enchanted among
eternal snows, this smiling valley, lapped in frown-
ing sublimities ; here, amid the shine and shimmer
and shade and fruitage and fragrance, — is Para-
dise ! "

Perhaps the most delightful excursion it is pos-
sible to take in the valley is the one to the
Vernal and Nevada Falls. The trail to these, up
the Merced Canon, crosses the beautiful Illilouette
River and several small, sparkling streams, pierces
the green depths of fragrant woods, winds among
the massive rocks, under mighty mountain walls,
passes a glorious succession of cascades and rap-
ids, and finally leads you out into full view of the
grand, green, columnar masses of the Vernal and
majestic white splendor of the Nevada. Both
these falls, and the cascades between them, have
a singularly joyous look ; they leap and tumble,
hurry-skurry, over the rocks, as though glad to
escape from the cold, gray mountain solitudes,
and the dull pressure and sullen push of snows,
out into freedom, down through kindling sunlight,
to the bosom of beauty and peace, in the fair
valley land.

Forever unforgetable the last views
we had of the two cataracts from the trail
below the hotel, on our way down into the val-
ley ! They were absolutely resplendent in the
afternoon sunlight, each plunging joyously into
piles of welcoming rainbows, — a vortex of splen-
dors. They were clothed in glory as a garment.
The ride on the lower trail was even more
charming than it had been in the morning. In
the deep, sweet-ferny wood the sunset glories
were exquisitely tempered by foliage of every
shade of green ; the air was delicious with the
fragrance of great white buckeye flowers, creamy
azaleas and wild roses and lilacs. Then there
was the jubilant singing of the- swift mountain
streams, broken into, now and then, by the deep
bass of cascades. A brief, rough mule ride; but
what a joy it was, and is, and ever shall be !

All the way from the Summit down, at every
exposed point we found new precautions against
snow and ice, — immense sheds and fences, line
on line, being built, and cuts widened, putting
another snow blockade like that of last winter
out of the question. At Cheyenne we left the
Union for the Denver Pacific, and ran down into
Colorado for a week's visit. It was a glorious
little journey. The plains I had always before
seen dry and tawny were now green and flowery
and fragrant ; and that magnificent line of moun-
tains at our right, beginning with Long's Peak
and ending with the legendary Pike's Peak, stood
out in wondrous beauty, unveiled by smoke or
mist. The sunset was the most joyous I ever
beheld, wrapping that vast congregation of peaks
and domes in unimaginable, almost intolerable
splendor ; and all the while, in the eastern sky,
was a wondrous display of storm-clouds, lightnings,
and rainbows. Such a grand combination show
I never before beheld in any theatre.

But to men and
women of simple minds, to healthy, happy na-
tures, to brave and reverential souls, in sound,
unpampered bodies, to "spirits finely touched,"
I would say at the beginning and finally. Come
to the Yosemite, though you have compassed
the world all but this ; come for the crowning
joy of years of pleasant travel ; come and see
what Nature, high-priestess of God, has prepared
for them who love her, in the white heights
and dark depths of the Sierras, in the pro-
found valley itself, the temple of her ancient
worship, with thunderous cataracts for organs,
and silver cascades for choirs, and wreathing
clouds of spray for perpetual incense, and rocks
three thousand feet high for altars.

This
morning we drove over a portion of the ranch,
following, for the most part, a charming private
road along the Chico. We passed immense fields
of wheat, and a great meadow of the alfalfa, or
Chilian clover, which looked like a bright green
sea, surging in the fresh morning wind. This clover,
I am told, produces three bounteous crops a year,
without irrigation, never losing its peculiar vivid
green ; then, added to its other merits, it is sweet-
scented. We drove over a rolling plain, starred
with miniature daisies, dotted with buttercups and
tiny blue flowers, strange to me, but something
like our housatonias. But the flowers up here have
not come out as they have down on the coast.
Coming from Belmont, last week, I saw hosts of
harebells and patches of wild iris, that looked as
though the sky had come down in pieces ; while
all along the side of the road ran the yellow Cali-
fornia poppies, like a procession of fairy Orange-
men. The grand floral spring flood is rising all
over the State. Soon it will cover our feet, it
will rise to our knees, it will touch our saddle-
girths, and all the land will be drowned in bloom
and fragrance.