It is likely, then, that a low in rabbits occurred in the middle ‘sixties [1860s], when my oak began to lay on annual rings, but that the acorn that produced it fell during the preceding decade, when the covered wagons were still passing over my road into the Great Northwest. It may have been the wash and wear of the emigrant traffic that bared this roadbank, and thus enabled this particular acorn to spread its first leaves to the sun. Only one acorn in a thousand ever grew large enough to fight rabbits; the rest were drowned at birth in the prairie sea.
It is a warming thought that this one wasn’t and thus lived to garner eighty years of June sun. It is this sunlight that is now being released, through the intervention of my saw and axe, to warm my shack and my spirit through eighty gusts of blizzard. And with each gust a wisp of smoke from my chimney bears witness, to whomever it may concern, that the sun did not shine in vain.
It is an irony of history that the great powers should have discovered the unity of nations at Cairo in 1943. The geese of the world have had that notion for a longer time, and each March they stake their lives on its essential truth.
In the beginning there was only the unity of the Ice Sheet. Then followed the unity of the March thaw, and the northward hegira of the international geese. Every March since the Pleistocene, the geese have honked unity from China Sea to Siberian Steppe, from Euphrates to Volga, from Nile to Murmansk, from Lincolnshire to Spitsbergen. […]
By this international commerce of geese, the waste corn of Illinois is carried through the clouds to the Arctic tundras, there to combine with the waste sunlight of a nightless June to grow goslings for all the lands between. And in this annual barter of food for light, and winter warmth for summer solitude, the whole continent receives as net profit a wild poem dropped from the murky skies upon the muds of March.
Within a few weeks now Draba, the smallest flower that blows, will sprinkle every sandy place with small blooms.
He who hopes for spring with upturned eye never sees so small a thing as Draba. He who despairs of spring with downcast eyes steps on it, unknowing. He who searches for spring with his knees in the mud finds it, in abundance.
Draba asks, and gets, but scant allowance of warmth and comfort; it subsists on the leavings of unwanted time and space. Botany books give it two or three lines, but never a plate or a portrait. Sand too poor and sun too to weak for bigger, better blooms are good enough for Draba. After all it is no spring flower, but only a postscript to a hope.
Draba plucks no heartstrings. Its perfume, if there is any, is lost in the gusty winds. Its colour is plain white. Its leaves wear a sensible woolly coat. Nothing eats it; it is too small. No poets sing of it. Some botanist once gave it a Latin name, and then forgot it. Altogether it is of no importance – just a small creature that does a small job quickly and well.
I sit in happy meditation on my rock, pondering, while my line dries again, upon the ways of trout and men. How like fish we are: ready, nay eager, to seize upon whatever new thing some wind of circumstance shakes down upon the river of time. And how we rue our haste, finding the gilded morsel to contain a hook. Even so, I think there is some virtue in eagerness, whether its object prove true or false.”