A Field by Minnie Stichter

Sometime I expect to turn a sharp corner and come face to face with myself, according to the ancient maxim, "extremes meet." For, did I not vow to the Four Great Walls that had imprisoned me for nine months, that I would fly to the uttermost parts of the earth so soon as vacation should open the doors? And did I not spend almost my entire summer within sight of my home, and in a field of a few acres dimension?

I caught sight of some flowers, just inside the barbed wire fencing the track, that were fairer than any I had yet gathered for my vases. As the old song has it, "O, brighter the flowers on the other side seem!" No one saw me get under that six-stranded barbed-wire fence, and I am not going to tell how I did it. But when I got through I felt as well guarded as though attended by a retinue of soldiers. And I found myself in another world—a dream-world!

It was a large field rosy with red clover and waving with tall timothy. A single tree glistened and rustled invitingly. In its shade I rested, refreshing myself with the field sights and sounds and fragrances. It was delightful to be the center of so much beauty as circled round about me. Then I had only to rest on the rosy clover-carpet at the foot of the tree, and the tall grass eclipsed all things earthly save the tree, and the sky overhead, and the round mat of clover under the tree which the grass ringed about. I had often wished for Siegfried's magic cloak. Well, here was something quite as good, which, if it did not render me invisible to the world, made the world invisible to me. Who of you would not be glad to have the old world with its "everyday endeavors and desires," its folly, its pride and its tears, drop out of sight for a while, leaving you in a flowery zone of perfect quiet and beauty, hedged in by a wall of grass!

There were many "afterwards." And the marvel of it all was that, for all I could do, the field retained its virgin splendor and kept the secret of my goings-in and comings-out most completely.

After the daisies, there came a season of black-eyed Susans. That was when the grasses were tallest and the feeling of mystery did most abound. I know I had been there many days before I discovered the myriads of wild roses near the crabtree thicket—those fairies' flowers so exquisite in their pink frailty that mortal breath is rude. Only when I reached the hedge, bounding the remote side of the field, did I enter into my full inheritance. Along a barbed-wire fence had grown up sumac, elderberry, crabtrees and nameless brambles, while over all trailed the wild grapevine, bearing the most perfect miniature clusters, fit to be sculptured by Trentanove into immortal beauty. And this hedge was the source of ever increasing wonder the whole summer long. I depended on it alone for sensational denouements after the grass was cut for hay. When the field lay shorn, like other fields about it far and wide, I could not have been lured hitherward but for the hedge. There the hard green berries of a peculiar bramble ripened into wax-white pellet-sized drops clustered together on a woody stem by the most coral-pink pedicles ever designed by sea-sprites.

In its time came the elderberry bloom, and its purple fruit; the garnet fruit of the sumach and its flaming foliage; the lengths of vines and their purple clusters—all these and more also ministered to my delight.

About goldenrod time, the school-bell rang me in from the field, but I managed to take recesses long enough to behold the kaleidoscopic views brought before me by the turning of nature's hand. The smooth velvety green of the field with its border of gold and lavender—great widths of thistle and goldenrod following the line of fence—was like the broidered mantle of some celestial Sir Walter Raleigh, spread for the queens of earth. I was no queen; but I did not envy royalty, since I doubted if it had any such cherished possessions as my field in its various phases.

In the November days, the brightness of the fields seemed to be inverted and to be seen in the opalescent tints of the sky. Then, the clearness of the atmosphere, the wider horizon, the less hidden homes and doings of men, had this message for the children of men: "If there is any secret in your life, leave it out."

When it is December and the fields are too snowy and wind-swept for pleasure-grounds, where the only bits of brightness are the embroideries of the scarlet pips of the wild-rose, it is good to nestle by the cozy fireside and conjure it all up again, and nourish a feeling of expectancy for the spring and summer that shall come. Again, the flowers and waving grass and drowsy warmth of the summer day; again, the songs of flitting birds, the scented sweets of the new-mown hay. Again the work of the fields goes on before me like a play in pantomime! Again, with my eyes, I follow home the boys with their cows, to the purple rim of the hill beyond which only my fancy has ever gone. Again I quit work with the tired laborer. Again I dream of the open, free, unfettered song that life might be if it were lived more simply, with less of artificiality. And again, for the sake of one patient toiler in the town, whose life-task admits of no holiday, I have the grace to return thither and begin where I left off—the life common to you and to me, the life ordained for us from the beginning.