An Almanac For Moderns: The Imaginary Land

July First

I have no quarrel with the people who long for the sea. The soul craves immensities, fresh emptiness where it can repose. But I would go now, if I could, to the mountains, and I don’t mean what they call mountains in the Berkshires. Some gentle hills, a mere unevenness in the land, will not help me. I need a peak to lift the heart, a forest dense as moss upon a rock, laced with foaming brooks. 

But on the clearest days the Blue Ridge is not visible here even as a mirage, a high tossed smoky line penciled on the west. Only within me can I hear the song of a waterfall–not the obliterating crash of a Niagara, but an airy cascade, spilling water from the tilted ledges. Water poured so fine that it shatters on the air and drifts, as a smoke, as a lightly laden breeze, amongst the filmy leaves of the sweet Appalachian flora. There the maidenhair and the foam flower tremble forever in the breeze of the fall, and the faces of the mountain bluets, deep gentian blue in tiny forests of theadfine stems, are spangled with spray. And over the gleaming rocks creep the mosses–the deep black moss, the frail Jungermannias sending out green fingers everywhere–and the flat liverworts sprawl fast under the overhanging ledges, translucent emerald green, like seaweeds, or gray-green and nubbly, like a lizard’s skin. There the gentle wood frog lives, and in the wet moss the little red triton runs, perpetually grinning, a slippery living bit of coral. Who, of a burning day upon the plain, cannot feel the coolness, the repose, of recurring phrases in the dryest of botany books, “in rich mountain woods,” “in wet moss,” “on dripping rocks,” “in cold springs”?

More information on our Almanac For Moderns project and the work of Donald Culross Peattie can be found here.