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Our Wood Lot In Winter
by [?]

Then the cloud lights of a wintry sky have a clear purity and brilliancy that no other months can rival. The rose tints, and the shading of rose tint into gold, the flossy, filmy accumulation of illuminated vapor that drifts across the sky in a January afternoon, are beauties far exceeding those of summer.

Neither are trees, as seen in winter, destitute of their own peculiar beauty. If it be a gorgeous study in summer time to watch the play of their abundant leafage, we still may thank winter for laying bare before us the grand and beautiful anatomy of the tree, with all its interlacing network of boughs, knotted on each twig with the buds of next year’s promise. The fleecy and rosy clouds look all the more beautiful through the dark lace veil of yonder magnificent elms; and the down-drooping drapery of yonder willow hath its own grace of outline as it sweeps the bare snows. And these comical old apple trees, why, in summer they look like so many plump, green cushions, one as much like another as possible; but under the revealing light of winter every characteristic twist and jerk stands disclosed.

One might moralize on this–how affliction, which strips us of all ornaments and accessories, and brings us down to the permanent and solid wood of our nature, develops such wide differences in people who before seemed not much distinct.

But here! our pony’s feet are now clinking on the icy path under the shadow of the white pines of “our wood lot.” The path runs in a deep hollow, and on either hand rise slopes dark and sheltered with the fragrant white pine. White pines are favorites with us for many good reasons. We love their balsamic breath, the long, slender needles of their leaves, and, above all, the constant sibylline whisperings that never cease among their branches. In summer the ground beneath them is paved with a soft and cleanly matting of their last year’s leaves; and then their talking seems to be of coolness ever dwelling far up in their fringy, waving hollows. And now, in winter time, we find the same smooth floor; for the heavy curtains above shut out the snow, and the same voices above whisper of shelter and quiet. “You are welcome,” they say; “the north wind is gone to sleep; we are rocking him in our cradles. Sit down and be quiet from the cold.” At the feet of these slumberous old pines we find many of our last summer’s friends looking as good as new. The small, round-leafed partridgeberry weaves its viny mat, and lays out its scarlet fruit; and here are blackberry vines with leaves still green, though with a bluish tint, not unlike what invades mortal noses in such weather. Here, too, are the bright, varnished leaves of the Indian pine, and the vines of feathery green of which our Christmas garlands are made; and here, undaunted, though frozen to the very heart this cold day, is many another leafy thing which we met last summer rejoicing each in its own peculiar flower. What names they have received from scientific god-fathers at the botanic fount we know not; we have always known them by fairy nicknames of our own–the pet names of endearment which lie between Nature’s children and us in her domestic circle.

There is something peculiarly sweet to us about a certain mystical dreaminess and obscurity in these wild wood tribes, which we never wish to have brought out into the daylight of absolute knowledge. Every one of them was a self-discovered treasure of our childhood, as much our own as if God had made it on purpose and presented it; and it was ever a part of the joy to think we had found something that no one else knew, and so musing on them, we gave them names in our heart.

We search about amid the sere, yellow skeletons of last summer’s ferns, if haply winter have forgotten one green leaf for our home vase–in vain we rake, freezing our fingers through our fur gloves–there is not one. An icicle has pierced every heart; and there are no fern leaves except those miniature ones which each plant is holding in its heart, to be sent up in next summer’s hour of joy. But here are mosses–tufts of all sorts; the white, crisp and crumbling, fair as winter frostwork; and here the feathery green of which French milliners make moss rose buds; and here the cup-moss–these we gather with some care, frozen as they are to the wintry earth.

Now, stumbling up this ridge, we come to a little patch of hemlocks, spreading out their green wings, and making, in the ravine, a deep shelter, where many a fresh springing thing is standing, and where we gain much for our home vases. These pines are motherly creatures. One can think how it must rejoice the heart of a partridge or a rabbit to come from the dry, whistling sweep of a deciduous forest under the home-like shadow of their branches. “As for the stork, the fir trees are her house,” says the Hebrew poet; and our fir trees, this winter, give shelter to much small game. Often, on the light-fallen snow, I meet their little footprints. They have a naive, helpless, innocent appearance, these little tracks, that softens my heart like a child’s footprint. Not one of them is forgotten of our Father; and therefore I remember them kindly.

And now, with cold toes and fingers, and arms full of leafy treasures, we plod our way back to the chaise. A pleasant song is in my ears from this old wood lot–it speaks of green and cheerful patience in life’s hard weather. Not a scowling, sullen endurance, not a despairing, hand-dropping resignation, but a heart cheerfulness that holds on to every leaf, and twig, and flower, and bravely smiles and keeps green when frozen to the very heart, knowing that the winter is but for a season, and that the sunshine and bird singings shall return, and the last year’s dry flower stalk give place to the risen, glorified flower.