Fragrant Quote of August 25th, 2012-Green trails and upland pastures By Walter Prichard Eaton

Birch Forest Image Credit


And the smell of the forest that day! It is the smell of sweet, black humus, just exposed. It is the smell of dead Winter. It is the indescribable smell of pure ice water running over leaves. If you know it, you know it. If not, no description can bring the odour to your nostrils. It is the first and sweetest smell of Spring.

On such a day, too, the upland pastures, clear of the woods, have their own little ice-water brooks that run and spread and reunite over the dead grass, or plough tiny channels through the soil, the spongy, soft soil, free at last of frost on the surface and almost too yielding to the feet. The lone chestnuts or maples which sentinel such a pasture bear as yet no sign of life, though if you break a twig from the maple a crystal drop of sap will form, which you let fall on your tongue to taste its faint sweetness. But though the maples and chestnuts are bare as in Winter, looking over to the doming slope of birch forest across the ravine, where the sun hits it full and warm, you catch, or think you do, the frailest wraith of fuzzy colour in the treetops. It is as intangible as a dream; a cloud dusks the sun, and it is gone. Yet you are sure it is there, the birth-blush of the foliage. In the upland pasture, too, on such a day, a stone wall running east and west will present a curious contrast, for on the northern side will lie a snowdrift, still a foot or two deep, perhaps, with the snow darkened by the wind-blown particles of bark and litter deposited during the Winter, and melted into coarse texture like rock salt; while on the southern side, beneath the dead stalks of last year's mulleins, milkweed, and golden-rod, the ground will be quite dry for several feet out, and you are irresistibly drawn to lie down upon it, warm and sheltered, and get your first lazy feel of Mother Earth. Here, also, as you lie out of the wind on the south side of the wall, you will catch the first subtle ground smell of the Spring.

Like the two sides of the stone wall are the two sides of the sweet-pea trenches, dug the previous Autumn, and the two sides of the mound of excavated earth beside them. The south side of the trench, in shadow, is frozen solid, while the north side grows softer and mushier day by day. The side of the piled earth exposed to the sun is also soft, the dark side hard as ever. Day after day in March I have watched those trenches, testing with a pick or spade to see when I could begin to sow. Ultimately there comes a day when enough of the ice has melted out of the trench and enough of the excavated earth has become friable, to enable me to plant. Then the carefully soaked and chipped seeds are brought forth, the labelled stakes are prepared, and into ground that, after all, is still cold and wet and full of frozen lumps, go the precious promises of bloom. More than once I have covered the row and risen the next morning to find even the tops of the labels buried in snow. But once those sweet pea seeds are in the ground, we have ceased to think of Winter. Our faces are set forward toward the Spring.