succession; those links, however slight, must make the floral period continuous to the imagination; while our year gives a pause and an interval to its children, and after exhausted October has effloresced into Witch-Hazel
, there is an absolute reserve of blossom until the Alders wave again.
No symbol could so well represent Nature's first yielding in spring-time as this blossoming of the Alder, the drooping of the tresses of these tender things.
Before the frost is gone, and while the new-born season is yet too weak to assert itself by actually uplifting anything, it can at least let fall these blossoms, one by one, till they wave defiance to the winter on a thousand boughs.
How patiently they have waited!
Men are perplexed with anxieties about their own immortality; but these catkins, which hang, almost full-formed, above the ice all winter, show no such solicitude, though when March wooes them they are ready.
Once relaxing, their pollen is so prompt to fall that it sprinkles your hand as you gather them; then, for one day, they are the perfection of grace upon your table, and next day they are weary and emaciated, and their little contribution to the spring is done.
Then many eyes watch for the opening of the May-flower, day by day, and a few for the Hepatica.
So marked and fantastic are the local preferences of all our plants, that, with miles of woods and meadows open to their choice, each selects only some few spots for its accustomed abodes, and some one among them all for its very earliest blossoming.
There is often a single chosen nook, which you might almost cover with your handkerchief, where each flower seems to bloom earliest, without variation, year by year.
I know one such place for Hepatica a mile northeast, —another for May-flower two miles southwest; and each year the whimsical creature is in bloom on that little spot when not another flower can be found open through the whole country round.
Accidental as the choice may appear, it is undoubtedly based on laws more eternal than the stars; yet why all subtle influences conspire to bless that undistinguishable knoll no man can say. Another and similar puzzle offers itself in the distribution of the tints of flowers,—in these two species among the rest.
There are certain localities, near by, where the Hepatica is all but white, and others where the May-flower is sumptuous in pink; yet it is not traceable to wet or dry, sun or shadow, and no agricultural chemistry can disclose the secret.
Is it by some Darwinian law of selection that the white Hepatica has utterly overpowered the blue, in our Cascade Woods, for instance, while yet in the very midst of this pale plantation a single clump will sometimes bloom with all heaven on its petals?
Why can one recognize the Plymouth
May-flower, as soon as seen, by its wondrous depth of color?
Perhaps it blushes with triumph to see how Nature has outwitted the Pilgrims, and even succeeded in preserving her deer like