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- See America First - 1/60 -
SEE AMERICA FIRST
BY ORVILLE O. HIESTAND
IN COLLABORATION WITH CHAS. J. HERR
To Mr. and Mrs. Chas. J. Herr whose kind beneficence and interest in the Great Out-of-Doors made this book possible; these Wayside Sketches are affectionately dedicated
"I see the spectacle of morning from the hill tops over against my house, from daybreak to sunrise, with emotions which an angel might share. The long, slender bars of cloud float like golden fishes in the crimson light. From the earth, as from a shore, I look out into the silent sea. I seem to partake its rapid transformations; the active enchantment reaches my dust, and I dilate and conspire with the morning wind. Give me health and a day and I will make the pomp of emperors ridiculous.
"To the body and mind which have been cramped by anxious work or company, Nature is medicinal and restores their tone. The tradesman, the attorney, comes out of the din and craft of the street and sees the sky and the woods, and is a man again. In the eternal calm he finds himself. The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough."
Scenery, as well as "the prophet," is "not without honor" save in its own country. Therefore thousands of travellers are in Europe today, gazing in open mouthed wonder at the Swiss Alps or floating down the Rhine pretending to be enraptured, who never gave a passing thought to the Adirondacks, or the incomparable beauty of the Hudson, which perhaps lie at their very doors.
It is not our purpose to make the reader appreciate European scenery less but American scenery more. "America first" should be our slogan, whether in regard to political relations or to travel. Many Americans do not know how to appreciate their own natural scenery. Much has been written about the marvelous scenery of western North America, but few have spoken a word of praise in regard to the beauty of our eastern highlands.
The pleasure we take in travel as well as in literature is enhanced by a knowledge of Nature. Thoreau, Burroughs, Bryant and Muir--how much you would miss from their glowing pages without some knowledge of the plants and birds. Truly did the Indian say, "White man heap much book, little know."
To one who is at least partially familiar with the plant and bird world, travel holds so much more of interest and enthusiasm than it does to one who cannot tell mint from skunk cabbage, or a sparrow from a thrush. Having made acquaintance with the flowers and the birds, every journey will take on an added interest because always there are unnumbered scenes to attract our attention; which although observed many times, grow more lovely at each new meeting.
We remember, in crossing the ocean, how few there were who found little or no delight in the ever changing sea with its rich dawns and sunsets or abundance of strange animal life. It is well to have one or more hobbies if you know when to leave off riding them, and you may thus turn to account many spare moments. In the lovely meadows of the Meuse; along the historic banks of the scenic Rhine; where the warm waters of the Mediterranean lave the mountainous coast of sunny Italy; in the fertile lowlands of Belgium; or out where the Alps rear their snowy summits, we felt ourselves less alien when we could detect kinship between European and American plants.
But to visit foreign lands is not our real need, for if we fail to see the common beauty everywhere about us how much can we hope to find in a strange land?
Most people take their cares along with them to the woods and hills, but there is little use of going to the woods, lakes, or mountains without going there in spirit. We must, like real travelers, get rid of our excess baggage, as did the boys who went over the top, if we would really get anywhere.
So many people consider it a waste of time to learn of some of the wonders God has placed about them, yet, God loved beauty or never would He have been so prodigal of it. If we really try, we too can see wherein it is good. "Consider the lilies of the field," for their consideration will in no way hinder your true success.
Thoreau said: "If the day and night are such as you, greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet scented herbs; is more elastic, more starry, more immortal--that is your success. All nature is your congratulation, and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself."
If the reader finds anything of merit in this rambling book of travel it will be due to the various quotations interspersed throughout it. If he is inspired to a greater love for the beauty of God's creation, to be found in his own immediate environment, or feels a deeper pleasure in listening to the music of singing bird or rippling stream, we shall be truly grateful.
In beginning on our journey we disregarded Horace Greeley's advice and went east. True, the course of empires has ever been Westward and the richest gold fields lie in that direction. But the glamour which surrounds this land of "flowing gold" has caused vast numbers to lose their interest in both worlds, until they missed the joys in this and the radiant hope of that to come.
"All that glitters is not gold, Gilded tombs do worms infold."
The land of the rising sun is not less lovely than that of its setting. There is a freshness and a parity in the early dawn not found in the evening time, and the birds greet the purpling east with their sweetest songs. No one may know how cheerful, how far reaching, how thrilling the singing of birds may be unless he has listened to them telling the gladness of the morning while the last star melts in the glowing east.
Then, too, what a journey is this when we look forward to the glad meeting with friends who knew the horrors of the World War and whom a kind Providence permitted to return to their native land. During those awful days spent in the halls of suffering and death near Verdun there were found many golden chains of friendship, and we thought--
"Better than grandeur, better than gold, Than rank or title a hundred-fold, Is a healthy body and a mind at ease, And simple pleasures that always please, A heart that can feel for a neighbor's woe, And share in his joy with a friendly glow, With sympathies large enough to infold All men as brothers, is better than gold."
Gold has no power to purchase true friendship and only eternal things are given away. So, what matters it whether we travel east or west as long as our souls retain the freshness and fragrance of the early morning's hours? We can be our own alchemists, and through the gray vapors of our poor lives transmute them into golden flowers of character that shall gleam and sparkle as the evening of our closing days draw near, like coruscating stars in the violet dusk of our twilight sky.
Nature seemed to have adorned herself richly for our departure; no sky could have been more blue, no grass more green and no trees more full of glistening leaves and singing birds. There was an indescribable freshness and glory on the sunny hills and shining sky. The breeze sifted through the trees and over the rim of the circling slopes, causing the maple leaves to show silver and wafting fragrance from a thousand fountains of sweetness. At brief intervals the loud, rich notes of the Maryland Yellow Throat and the high pitched song of the indigo bunting resounded from the bushes near Glen-Miller park of Richmond, Ind. A cardinal shot across the road like a burning arrow, and his ringing challenge was answered by the softly warbled notes of a bluebird; while down by the spring came the liquid song of the wood thrush, pure, clear, and serene, speaking the soul of the dewy morn.
We did not say our prayers, but paused reverently beneath the broad leaved maple in the park to listen to the thrushes' matin and knelt at the crystal flowing spring to fill our water bottles. As we were thus employed a red squirrel, who had the idea that the whole park was his, crossed and recrossed our path to see what strange creatures dare intrude at his drinking fountain. Coming nearer, chattering and scolding as only a red squirrel can, he began a speculation as to our character in rapid broken coughs and sniffs, pouring forth a torrent of threatening abuse in his snickering wheezy manner; "but, like some people you may know, his defiance was mostly bluster--he loves to make a noise." Yet, unlike his human brother (while being a busybody and prying into the affairs of his neighbors), he is a most provident creature, laying up ample stores for winter days of need.
Leaving the squirrel in undisputed possession of the park, we followed the winding road past glowing beds of flowers, which are worth considering like "the lilies of the field, for they preach to us if we but can hear." Before God created man He placed all necessary things for the development of that greatest of undeveloped resources in the world, the human soul, and beauty is not the least of these:
"All ground is hallowed ground, And every bush afire with God,
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