Scent of Bayberry-From an island outpost By Mary Ella Waller

Scent of Bayberry-From an island outpost By Mary Ella Waller

The bayberry, also, has its struggle for existence.

I know a spot on the coast of Penobscot Bay, near Camden, where I have walked along paths that the bayberry overarched. The leaves were long, glossy, rich in aromatic scent — a fragrance that creates in me a wild longing for the sea whenever I catch something akin to its pungency from slowly ascending incense in an inland church or cathedral. '.,

Here the bayberry is a lowly, humble thing. Beaten down by wind, sustained only on sandy soil, it nevertheless makes its own way in time and reaches the height of two or, at most, three feet. Like the pines it is misshapen; it has turned and twisted in vain endeavor to aspire to a greater height. And look at its berries, as if they were contemporary with the cave men! They are wrinkled as if with the passing of the ages, and hoar as if with the frosts of aeons. They are positively uncanny at times. But when a bayberry branch, loaded with its irregular swarms of little, wrinkled, gray berries, the size of allspice, is laid on the hearth and lighted — ah, then they are no longer uncanny in our eyes! They crisp and exude and sizzle as they burn with flame of wax and flash of leaf! Their fragrance rises into the nostrils, and all the concentrated essence of the lowly moorland plant life seems to ascend as in incense from the home hearth.


Last Christmas evening I made a bayberry fire, feeding the first large branch on the hearth with another and yet another — and far away in the West there were three lovers of these moors who, with a precious tiny branch, did the same for two households. In the west of the Empire State there was still another hearth from which a little branch of that same bayberry sent its incense-smoke up chimney. And one there was, a lover of the moorland in all its moods and tenses, but without a home hearth on which to burn so much as one wee, wizened, waxen, gray berry — who, nevertheless, enjoyed the flaming hearth fire in spirit. And who shall say that that enjoyment yields less than does the material?