National Geographic : 1920 Feb
the snow the footprint of a life superior to anything of which zoology takes cog nizance. "Why do the vast plains give us pleasure," he asks, "the twilight of the bent and half-buried woods? Is not all there consonant with virtue, justice, purity, courage, magnanimity? Are we not cheered by the sight? And does not all this amount to the track of a higher life than the otter's, a life which has not gone by and left a footprint merely, but is there with its beauty, its music, its per fume, its sweetness, to exhilarate and recreate us? "Did this great snow come to reveal the track merely of some timorous hare, or of the Great Hare whose track no hunter has seen ?" A SPECTACLE OF ENCHANTMENT Apart from the phenomena of the snow, there occurs at rare intervals dur ing the winter what Thoreau speaks of as a "frozen mist," when the trees and all other outdoor objects are covered in the early morning with a delicate hoar frost. This, of course, soon melts under the rays of the sun; but while it lingers the spec tacle is one of enchantment. "No snow has fallen, but, as it were, the vapor has been caught by the trees like a cobweb. The trees are bright, hoary forms, the ghosts of trees. Closely examined or at a distance, it is just like the sheaf-like forms of vegetation and the diverging crystals on the window panes. You look up and behold the hugest pine, as tall as a steeple, all frosted over. Nature has now gone into her winter palace." Akin to this phenomenon are the crys tallized "rosettes," as Thoreau calls them, which are found sprinkling the surface of the ice after a night of severe cold. "They look like a loose web of small white feathers springing from a tuft of down, as if a feather bed had been shaken over the ice. They are, on a close exami nation, surprisingly perfect leaves, like ferns." Frequently accompanying these feath ery crystals, which are "so thin and frag ile that they melt under your breath while looking closely at them," there is another form of needle-shaped crystals in bun- POISON-DOGWOOD BERRIES: MASSA CIIUSETTS Thoreau has numerous references in his winter notes to the novelty and beauty of the fruit of the poison-dogwood, which hangs in clustered panicles from the leafless stems of the shrub.