THE BEAUTY AT OUR DOORS by Ingram Crockett


Picking Wildflowers

THE BEAUTY AT OUR DOORS by Ingram Crockett

If you should tell the average traveler that he had gone around the world to see what he might h8ve seen at home, had he opened his eyes, he would probably look upon you with pity and a mild scorn. We are slow to learn that Beauty is no more of the far-away than of the near—no more of the sky than of the earth—or of the great than of the small. Let us not, therefore, be deceived by names or places; by conventions or the patronization of a cult. Beauty is in all, even the meanest weed—indeed, the flower of one people may be the weed of another, as, for instance, the cardinal flower, much sought after in France, but with us run wild.
Beauty has need of evangelists among us to open the eyes of our blind. It is true of Nature as of man that the best is often despised because it has not about it the glamour of distance. "Is this not the carpenter's son?" finds its counterpart in: "Is this not a common thing?"
When, however, we have truly listened to those evangelists who speak to us in every breeze, in every star, in every sky tint, or earth tint, or out of the whiteness of the snow, or crystalline marvel of frost and sleet—or from some flower by the wayside—then and then only do we open our eyes to the beauty at our doors.
See! the fields invite us. The Summer has passed. The trees have been touched by the frost. On the red maple in our yard is the beginning of a great bouquet, whose color scheme is rich crimson. The salvias at our doorstep are burning scarlet, and as we watch them standing so brilliantly on the border of Winter, there is suddenly hung above them an iridescent beauty whose wing-beats whirr musically and whose throat is a flaming ruby. Here is the very mystery of that Immortal Beautiful which is the shaper and the spirit of all. To this simple place have come a voice and an answer out of the silence. Color has spolcen to color, and in the meeting of this common salvia and this common humming-bird Beauty and Life have kissed one another.
But come, the path leads on by the privet hedge, that glistens with mellow sunshine, into the garden where the chrysanthemums are opening their spicy flowers. 'K few asters gleam like the first stars of evening from a grassy bank. The sumacs that overtop the lattice seem to drip scarlet and yellow. The leaves of the peach trees fall in fitful showers of winered and yellow-green. Just beyond the garden fence, that Is banked with purple-stemmed raspberries, the tall native trees of the forest invite with subtle suggestiveness to the fuller, freer life of the country. ,
All around us on this common way are to be found marvels of delicate work that come from the soul of Beauty without thought of us, but that richly repay us as we give to them our thought—as we stand beside them in the harmony of the spirit of the whole.
Here, just overtopping the ragweeds, is a grayish, shriveled plant, bearing several pointed, oblong pods. The whole is wintry looking, as though it had prepared for long months of cold by wrapping itself in floss-lined garments. But if we examine one of these garments we shall find that before the first snow has scattered its crystals here, the silken wonder of this plant shall have drifted far on the winds of Autumn in the silent destiny of its renewal.
See how perfectly and how beautifully part ia adapted to part. How close these packed seeds lie in their satiny case, overlapping like brown scales, yet winged with silvery lightness. Lift one of the seeds from its bed and after a moment's exposure to the air the floss that was slightly damp and compact expands—every filament stands out, and caught by the winds, the seed is borne away on its own exquisite twinkling wings.
Through the Summer months, yes, from the first upspringing of this milkweed and from the beginning of its renewal life, how marvelously has Beauty worked through broad pale green leaf and purple flower—through butterfly and sunlight and rainboT —to bring this hidden silver to be revealed, to give itself to mellowing days and cooling winds in a new. service.
As one stands beside this common thing, having come truly in touch with it, is there not opened a vista of exceeding loveliness that we had not dreamed of before? Are we not made to realize the kinship of all and the perfect design of the ever living Law?
Green, and purple, and gold, and wings that beat softly to the call and in the mission of Beauty. The earth, the sun, the rain, and the air lending themselves lest a milkweed should perish, working in this humble plant that which it hath pleased the Spirit to produce.
As we leave the milkweed we cannot fail to sec, if our eyes are alert, a tall, shrubby plant upon whose top are a few yellow blossoms. Bending over these, we find that they give forth a spicy fragrance—that some are partially closed, while others are spreading their four delicate petals like the greenish-golden wings of a butterfly. It is the evening primrose that thus late in the season, and to this frosty air, opens in the morning as well as at dusk. Its affinity, the sphinx moth, has departed. The closed blossoms have passed their time of revelry and are entered upon the holier hours of meditation. The drama of their existence is about to be complete—but still, to the open flowers, come all who may serve them— the bumblebees and certain flies, and still they invite until with crowded seedpods they are ready for the silent white days of the preparation in the dark chambers of the earth.
When we really begin to look upon the wayside flowers, what beautiful mysteries we find them to be. They compel us until we greet them as friends every time we go afield. In the Winter and Spring the rosettes of the evening primrose have a message for us—and with the beginning of its blossoming time it unfolds to us the threefold picture of its life. First the door swung wide, the fragrant invitation, the revelry, the rapture of love; then the faded blossom and the memory; then the closed door, the secret and fruition.
Perhaps while we have been standing on the hillside by the primrose, a wonderful change has been silently going on above us. When we began our walk the sky was almost cloudless and the sunlight enveloped us in a pale golden splendor. Now the sunlight and the whole landscape are subdued. We look up and see stretched across the sky in the track of the sun a ribbed whiteness of cloud that seems to be closely packed against the blue.
Let us lie down for a moment with our faces to the sky. How often have we ever really looked at that immensity through which light speaks to us of the worlds beyond? Have we been waiting all our days for some one to say: "Lo, here! Lo, there!" or to bring to our notice this wonder of swathing color with the beating of drums and vulgar fanfare?
Even while we looked on the beauty of the fields, on the grace of the commonest weeds, these thousand islands of the upper deep were formed and adorned with the lustre of crystal and mother-of-pearl.
If our hearts could only be touched more and more by these simple things! Every day we read of some, tired of what we have been pleased to call, until the word has been worn threadbare, the strenuous life, who turn away into a community of kindred spirits for rest and joy. It is a protest that has its value, yet not altogether by turning away from, but by seeing, in the midst of life and work, the beautiful, are men made happy. We do not need to desert the great work-a-day world, but rather to bring to it the Spirit of Beauty that speaks to us from earth, and sea, and sky, and in the hearts and the laughter of little children.