Fragrance in Nature Literature-A Berkeley year; a sheaf of nature essays by Eva Karlin

A Berkeley year; a sheaf of nature essays (1898)
Carlin, Eva V


The air all along has been full of the sounds and
scents of spring: — the gurgling notes of the meadow-
lark, the rich smell of newly ploughed fields, the warm
breath of mustard in bloom. But this untamable rock-
strewn area, like the Buddhist monasteries of the far
east, has become a veritable sanctuary for plants and liv-
ing creatures that could not maintain themselves in the
open in their unequal struggle with that fell destroyer,
man. Here the wood-rat has piled undisturbed his huge
shelter of sticks. The warbler and the thrush are sing-
ing from every covert. The woodpecker and the squir-
rel shadow you from behind tree-trunk or rock to dis-
cover your intent in trespassing thus upon their private
domain; while the flycatcher flashes his defiance in your
very face, if you venture too near his mate on her nest.
Nor is it otherwise with the plants.

The follow the water courses in hilly districts, but usually as
Trees of a fringe of shrubs ; but here in the Berkeley canons they
Berkeley are trees, and shapely ones, almost replacing the admired
beeches of our Eastern States and of Europe ; the beech
being absent from California. And above the alders, on
drier ground flourishes the California Laurel ; this, in its
compact habit, perennial verdure, keen fragrance of foli-
age, and in the beauty of its wood, having no compeer
among its own kindred on our continent.


It is impossible to understand
our birds without knowing some-
thing of their surroundings — of
the lovely reach of ascending
plain from the bay shore to the
rolling slopes of the Berkeley
Hills (mountains, our eastern
friends call them); of the cold,
clear streams of water which have
cut their way from the hill crests
down into the plain, forming lovely
canons with great old live oaks in
their lower and more open por-
tions, and sweet-scented laurel or
bay trees crowded into their nar-
rower and more precipitous parts;
of the great expanse of open hill slopes, green and
tender during the months of winter rain, and soft brown
and purple when the summer sun has parched the grass
of and flowers. These, with cultivated gardens and fields
of grain, make the environment of our birds, and here
they live their busy lives.

When the rainy months of winter are ended and the
meadow lark is sounding his loud, rich strains from the
field, and the linnet is fluttering and bubbling over with
song, a host of merry travelers come hurrying to our
trees and gardens. The jolly little western house wren
bobs about in the brush, and, as the wild currant puts
forth its first pink, pendulous blossoms, the beautiful little
rufous humming-bird comes to dine upon them. I know
of not how he times his visit so closely, but certain it is
that the pungent woody odor of these blossoms is in-
separably linked in my mind with the fine, high, insect-
like note of these pugnacious little mites in coats of shim-
mering fire, that come to us from Central America at the
very first intimation of spring.