Wherever the sun strikes upon the pines and hemlocks there is a household gleam which gives a more vivid sensation than the diffused brilliancy of summer.
The sunbeams maintain a thousand secondary fires in the reflection of light from every tree and stalk, for the preservation of animal life and the ultimate melting of these accumulated drifts.
Around each trunk or stone the snow has melted and fallen back.
It is a singular fact, established beyond doubt by science, that the snow is absolutely less influenced by the direct rays of the sun than by these reflections.
‘If a blackened card is placed upon the snow or ice in the sunshine, the frozen mass underneath it will be gradually thawed, while that by which it is surrounded, though exposed to the full power of solar heat, is but little disturbed.
If, however, we reflect the sun's rays from a metal surface, an exactly contrary result takes place: the uncovered parts are the first to melt, and the blackened card stands high above the surrounding portion.’
Look round upon this buried meadow, and you will see emerging through the white surface a thousand stalks of grass, sedge, osmunda, golden-rod, mullein, Saint
-John's-wort, plantain, and eupatorium,—an allied army of the sun, keeping up a perpetual volley of innumerable rays upon the yielding snow.
It is their last dying service.
We misplace our tenderness in winter, and look with pity upon the leafless trees.
But there is no tragedy in the trees: each is not dead, but sleepeth; and each bears a future summer of buds safe nestled on its bosom, as a mother reposes with her baby at her breast.
The same security of life pervades every woody shrub: the alder and the birch have their catkins all ready for the first day of spring, and the sweet-fern has even now filled with fragrance its folded blossom.
Winter is no such solid bar between season and season as we fancy, but only a slight check and interruption: one may at any time produce these March blossoms by bringing the buds into the warm house; and the petals of the May-flower sometimes show their pink and white edges in autumn.
But every grass-blade and flower-stalk is a mausoleum of vanished summer, itself crumbling to dust, never to rise again.
Each child of June, scarce distinguishable in November against the background of moss and rocks and bushes, is brought into final prominence in December by the white snow which imbeds it. The fragile flakes collapse and fall back around it, but retain their inexorable hold.
Thus delicate is the action of Nature,—a finger of air, and a grasp of iron.
We pass the old red foundry, banked in with snow and its low eaves draped with icicles, and come to the brook which turns its resounding wheel.
The musical motion of the water seems almost unnatural amidst the general stillness: brooks, like men, must keep themselves warm by exercise.
The overhanging rushes and alder-sprays, weary of winter's sameness, have made for themselves playthings,—each dangling a crystal knob of ice, which sways gently in