A Plea for the Unimaginative

THERE are days in which even a Northerner knows the delight of wasted hours. When the New England woman smiles at the call of duty, and turns on her side in the moss, then is the triumph of June complete.

It was on such a day in June that I lay among the cedars, while the hours drifted over me ; or were they moments, or years ? Above were the branches, and beyond huge silver clouds loitering through the blue. Suddenly I remembered to have read that in these moments one entered into “ the consciousness of a race life,” and I began straightway to study my consciousness, but could make nothing of it.

A breeze from over the mountain ruffled a leaf of my book, and I read from Maurice de Guérin, where the page lay open : “ An innumerable generation actually hangs on the branches of all these trees, — like babes on the mother’s breast.”

This profoundly ingenious suggestion troubled me. I looked up, and there was sunlight in the branches ; but sunlight and branches were not enough, it seemed. I read on, and learned that “ all these germs ” (the babes, presumably) “ are suspended in their cradle between heaven and earth, and given over to the winds, whose charge it is to rock these beings.”

And now I was puzzled, and oppressed with a sense of unworthiness; for the thought of this true poet and lover of nature was beyond me.

Sunlight, filtering through the cedars, rested on a bank of green moss, and that was good. The carpet of pine needles was warm and fragrant, and that also was good. But being a New England woman, in spite of June, I turned resolutely in search of the best.

From my much-beloved copy of Mr. Mabie I read that, to one of imagination, the woods are peopled with dryads and fauns, who retire to their coverts at the approach of a human being ; and that such an one should start at the notes of a hermit thrush, since haply it may be a signal for revelry.

The pages were turned listlessly, and at last the book slipped from my fingers. It was too evident that I belonged among the smug and self-sufficient beings who are glad to read of outdoor things — in the house ; but who, when in presence of Nature, must interpret her for themselves. We have no wish to feel that the woods are peopled with the creatures of Greek folklore, or that the notes of the hermit thrush are signals for revelry. It is enough that there is sunlight and shadow, and something of solemn mystery ; enough that the song of the thrush, sweet, serene, unearthly, comes from remote and sacred places in the woods ; enough to lie on the pine needles while the hours drift over us, to wonder and worship, content that the mystery of creation should remain veiled; enough that through the warm stillness a bird sings on, and that there are strange and solemn whispers in the trees — But how can one tell of these things ?