Saturday, August 31, 2013


A Turn in the Nearest Wood

Bradford Torrey (1843-1912), "A Quiet Afternoon," The Clerk of the Woods (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1903), pp. 34-41 (at 34-35):
After running hither and thither in search of beauty or novelty, try a turn in the nearest wood. So my good genius whispered to me just now; and here I am. I believe it was good advice.

This venerable chestnut tree, with its deeply furrowed, shadow-haunted, lichen-covered bark of soft, lovely grays and grayish greens, is as stately and handsome as ever. How often I have stopped to admire it, summer and winter, especially in late afternoon, when the level sunlight gives it a beauty beyond the reach of words. Many a time I have gone out of my way to see it, as I would have gone to see some remembered landscape by a great painter.

There is no feeling proud in such company. Anything that can stand still and grow, filling its allotted place and contented to fill it, is enough to put our futile human restlessness to the blush. The wind has long ago blown away some of its branches, but it does not mind. It is busy with its year's work. I see the young burrs, no bigger than the end of my little finger. When the nuts are ripe the tree will let them fall and think no more about them. How different from a man! When he does a good thing, if by chance he ever does, he must put his hands behind his ears in hopes to hear somebody praising him. Mountains and trees make me humble. I feel like a poor relation.

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