NATURE has never seemed to me to be my mother. I have not felt at home with her. It has been with an envy not unmixed with incredulity that I have read Wordsworth and Thoreau, and sometimes listened to rhapsodies of filial love on the part of nature-worshipers who were my friends.

I can see how it began. For me, a town-bred child, nature was at first a picture-book to be opened but upon the set occasions of a drive or a railway journey. Intimacy I did not dream of. But when I was grown, and apprehended that there were those who enjoyed it, then I knew myself a disinherited child, and sorrowed for it. Not that Nature ever was to me a cruel stepdame; only, among the myriads of children that her generous fecundity produces and her abundant bosom nourishes, some must needs be forgotten. I was frozen by her unintended neglect. The loveliest sunset saddened me most; before the most beautiful of her works I felt myself most an alien. It was not my sunset, it was not my world. I was an exile, sick for home, in those bright estates which others seemed to think their birthright.

But now at last, I think, begins to stir the first faint impulse of friendship. I am half-way through life now, but I have hope that the later half will suffice to bring us acquainted. It is an older Perdita come home at last to the bosom of an ageless Hermione. A grown-up child coming thus for the first time to know its mother cannot hope for the close unconscious communion that begins in infancy. It will be a shy relationship, not without misunderstandings, never to be hurried, but furthered by a mutual longing.

Of all our manifold Mother’s many aspects, there was one that drew me always. It was under the bright veil of her many waters that I, last and least of her children, first dared to know and love her face. Sunset and sunrise might be for others, and trees and mountains, and birds on the wing; but water, — its flash, its motion, its sky-blue and its steel-gray, — water was mine as much as anybody’s. Falling waters, and running waters, the changeful white-and-green that slips aside from a forward-sweeping prow, the sleeping surface of a green-hemmed pond — each had its private word for me. And thus, always through the interpreting murmur of water, I begin to understand the language of my latefound mother.

Now and again our shy, reluctant friendship knows a tremulous moment of initiation. We had one such yesterday. Water, the interpreter, was running past me in the deep, snow-lined bed of that river, ‘winding like a road,’ along which lead all my walks. It was twilight of a brief December afternoon; the sun had gone down invisibly, without a sunset or an afterglow; the lead-colored sky was very near, and soft in texture like a fog; the air was windless, but bore to me the shouts of some unseen boys who had lighted not far off, a ruby-hearted blaze, the one note of warmth in all that landscape of steel-color and russet. I leaned outward, resting upon the rail which guards the walk, and looked at all this sober beauty, while a faint breath ‘born of the very sigh that silence heaves,’ seemed to rise and fall, the respiration of Nature herself! For a moment I felt at home in the world.