Their Varieties of Feature and Form and Diversity of Character.— The Attributes of Trees.—The Essential Condition of Beauty in Trees.—Beauty of Forest Retreats.—The Forest Enjoyments and Joyous Inhabitants. — Individual and Collective Beautifying of Trees, How Realized.
Among all the millions of human beings who have existed since time began, no two have been alike. All their illimitable varieties of expression are produced by the varied combinations of only half a dozen features included in a circle of six to eight inches in diameter. "While amid all these forms of expression many are known as being of exquisite beauty. So with the endless diversity of character that may be exhibited among trees, with the multitude of features and form given by their trunks and myriads of branches, limbs, and twigs, their infinitude of leaves and blossoms, of all sizes, forms, and colors; their towering outlines delineated on the azure canopy of the skies, and the ever-varying play of light and shadow of their foliage. There are subtle expressions in trees, as in the human face, that are difficult to analyze or account for.
Sunny cheerfulness, gayety, gloom, sprighthness, rudeness, sweetness, awkwardness, and eccentricities are all attributes of trees, as well as of human beings. Some trees look sulky or sad, as old oaks, or balsams, and repel sympathy. People never love such trees; they are only endured by way of variety. A healthy, vigorous sugar-maple looks warm, sunny, and deep-blossomed; the voluptuous magnolias and the wide-winged apple-tree, bending down with loads of fruit to shade and cover all, convey to us at once the idea of human love and sympathy. These are the trees we are forced to love, because they are beautiful; have souls that thrill a sympathetic chord in our own souls. The children will not cry when the stiff and stoical old balsam fir and Lom-bardy poplar are cut down; but lay low an old and favorite apple-tree, or oak, or maple, under whose shade they have played, and their hearts will be quick to feel the difference between trees. No tree has the highest beauty of its type without the appearance in its whole bearing of robust vigor. This is the essential condition of all beautiful trees. Thriftiness cannot make an elm look like an oak, but rather marks more sharply the difference between them, making the elm appear more graceful and the oak more majestic. Yet thriftiness changes the forms of some trees. Few trees attain the full measure of their beauty through thrift unless they are fully exposed on all sides to the sun. "We do not mean that all trees will not be beautiful without such complete exposure, but that to realize the highest beauty of which any one is capable, it must be exposed. A greater variety of beauty can be attained by grouping one or more varieties or species, thus contrasting several expressions of form or foliage. But in this case we sacrifice the highest type of individual perfection to produce a more striking effect with several trees. But the same fact may be observed with reference to the group; its full beauty can be realized only by having the trees in luxurious growth, and exposed collectively to the sun.
What is a forest ? How grand, how silent and beautiful ! Let us saunter forth after breakfast in the grand old woods, and, finding a pleasant spot, sit on a moss-covered log that not long ago stood erect and for five hundred years waved his feathery crest to the gentle breeze. It has resisted the crumbling power of Time's history remarkably well, and furnishes a nidus for the growth of the beautiful moss, whose Calyptra, with its cardinal's hat off, wooes the gentle zephyrs passing over its soft bed.
This is a cool arbor — "a boundless contiguity of shade," where, undisturbed by the heathen shot-gun, the feathered songsters congregate to pour forth their matin lays in peace and fill their crops with the devastating insects that would denude the old forest-trees of their beauty and leave them to wither in lifeless decay. Hear the sprightly bluejay pipe his saucy notes, and mock in great glee the chattering squirrel on yonder huge knot contiguous to a safe retreat. Listen to the half-dozen birds in yonder thicket, personified by the merry, mischievous catbird. He is really the only bird in the thicket, and he laughs to think how he is fooling an unfeathered biped, with mouth agape, wondering at his mixed minstrelsy.
Hark! The woodpecker taps with lightning rapidity the dry limb on the top of yon elm, and as the taps echo among the cool arbors of the forest he chants his homely notes aud thanks Heaven that he lives. The fish-hawk screams along the streams, and his voice strikes terror into the small song-birds, who have ventured near in search of food.
In the distance, in the dark aisles of the forest, the loud notes of the hooting owl come booming on the air, and a thousand hearts beat momentarily in great fear. There goes one of the tribe known as the mink, and he proudly trots along with a mouse in his mouth and his head erect. And there comes a hawk from the barn-yard with a hen in her talons, pursuing the course marked out for her on the map of hawk-life, however detrimental that course may be to the housewife's anticipated chicken-pie. Insect life's ten thousand notes ascend to heaven in paeans of praise, and feeble, finite man worships in wonder and amazement the omnipresent Creator of alL The solitude of the forest is the place to see, listen, meditate, and worship. There we come in contact with the God of nature, and feel that it is good that we have been born.