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Under the Trees and Elsewhere

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An April Day

My study has been a dull place of late; even the open fire, which still lingers on the hearth, has failed to exorcise a certain gray and weary spirit which has somehow taken possession of the premises. As I was thinking this morning about the best way of ejecting this unwelcome inmate, it suddenly occurred to me that for some time past my study has been simply a workshop; the fire has been lighted early and burned late, the windows have been closed to keep out all disturbing sounds, and the pile of manuscript on the table has steadily grown higher and higher. "After all," I said to myself, "it is I that ought to be ejected." Acting on this conclusion, and without waiting for the service of process of formal dislodgment, I have let the fire go out, opened the windows, locked the door, and put myself into the hands of my old friend, Nature, for refreshment and society. I find that I have come a little prematurely, although my welcome has been even warmer than it would have been later.

"This is what I like," my old friend seemed to say. "You have not waited until I have set my house in order and embellished my grounds. You have come because you love me even more than my surroundings. I have a good many friends who know me only from May to October: the rest of the year they give me cold glances of surprised recognition, or they pass me by without so much as a look. Their ardent devotion in summer fills me with a deep disdain; their admiration for great masses of colour, for high, striking effects, and for the general lavishness and prodigality of my passing mood, betrays their lack of discernment, their defect of taste, and their slight acquaintance with myself. I should much prefer that they would leave my woods and fields untrodden, and not disturb my mountain solitudes with their ignorant and vulgar raptures. The people who really know me and love me seek me oftener at other seasons, when I am more at leisure, and can bid them to a more intimate companionship. They come to understand my finer moods and deeper secrets of beauty; the elusive loveliness which I leave behind me to lure on my true friends through the late autumn, they find and follow with the eye and heart of love; the rare and splendid aspects in which I often discover my presence in midwinter they enjoy all the more because I have withdrawn myself from the gaze of the crowd; and the first faint touches of colour and soft breathings of life, which announce my return in the early spring, they greet with the deep joy of true lovers. Those only who discern the beauty of branches from which I have stripped the leaves to uncover their exquisite outline and symmetry, who can look over bare fields and into the faded copse and find there the elusive beauty which hides in soft tones and low colours, are my true friends; all others are either pretenders or distant acquaintances."

I was not at all surprised to hear my old friend express sentiments so utterly at variance with those held by many people who lay claim to her friendship; in fact, they are sentiments which I find every year becoming more and more my own convictions....