Fragrant Quote for August 5th, 2012-Old Plymouth trails By Winthrop Packard

North Sea coast Image Credit



Yet howsoever vivid the life or astounding by its multiplicity it is not impressions of these that linger long after one has come up from the bottom of the ebb. It is rather that here one has breathed the air of the deep life laboratory of the world, that into his lungs and pores and all through his marrow has thrilled a breath of that subtle essence, that life renewing principle which Fernando de Soto sought in the fountain of youth which he thought bubbled from Florida sands but which in reality foamed beneath his furrowing keel as he ploughed the sea in search of it. It is the same thrill which the wilting west wind steeps from the salt marsh as it comes across, some baffling and alluring ether distilled from under-sea caverns where cool green mermen tend emerald fires. The scent of it levitates from the wash of every wave and if you will watch with pure eyes and clear sight you may of moonlight nights see white-bodied mermaids flashing through the combers to drink of it. No wonder these are immortal.

Nor can you take from the things of the sea this life-giving essence, 'once they have attained it through growth during immersion in its depths, though perchance, as Emerson sang, "they left their beauty on the shore, with the sun and the sand and the wild uproar." The shell on the mantel shelf of the mariner's inland home may be unsightly and out of place. But put your ear to it. Out of the common noises of the day,.it weaves for you the song of the deep tides, the murmur of ocean caves and the croon of the breakers on the outer reef, and dull indeed is your inner ear if you cannot hear these things, and at the sound see the perfect curl of green waves and smell that cool fragrance which comes only from their breaking.

To the marshes in summer come the farmers from far inland, making holiday for themselves while they work. They cut the short salt hay that seems so stiff and tough, that is so soft and velvety, in fact, and pile it on their wains and take it home to the cattle that like it better than any English hay that they can cut from the carefully tilled home fields. Indeed the cattle ought to like this hay. It is soft as the autumn rowen, and mixed with all the delicate, fragrant herbs of the marsh. The tang of the sea salt is in it, and no man knows what delicate essence borne far on the wandering tides to the flavoring of its fibre. No matter how long you may leave this hay in the mow you have but to stir it to get the soft rich flavor of the sea and breathe a little of that salty vigor which seems to go to the seasoning of the best of life. I have an idea the cattle love it for this too, and as they chew its cud inherited memory stirs within them, and they roam the marshes with the aurochs and tingle with the savage joy of freedom.

Out along the rocks to seaward at low tide go the mossers and with long rakes rip the carragheen from its hold and load their dories with its golden-brown masses. Then they bring it ashore and spread it out in the sun as the farmers do their hay, that it may dry and bleach. Just as the salt hay, touched for a brief happy hour at each tide with the cool strength of the sea, retains the flavor of it always, so the Irish moss that grows in the depths and is hardly awash at the lowest of the ebb, overflows with it and is so bursting with this fragrance of the unknown that no change that comes to it can drive it out. When the wind is off-shore and you may not scent the sea, when the sun bakes the hot sand and dries the blood so that it seems as if the only way to prolong life is to wade out neck deep in the surges and there stay until the wind comes from the east again, you have but to go to the leeward of these piles of bleaching carragheen to find it giving forth the same cooling fragrance which the tides have made a part of its structure. You may take this moss home with you and cook it, but the heat of your fire will no more destroy its essence than did the heat of the sun, and in your first mouthful of the produce, which may in appearance give no hint of its origin, you taste the cool sea depths and feel yourself nourished as if with some vital principle.