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In the Early Morning


Afoot and light-hearted
I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me
The long brown path before me
Leading me where I choose,
Strong and content I travel the open road.
-- Whitman

The Wayside -- many fairies dwell there. And great is the joy that comes from knowing these fairies -- knowing who they are, where they come from, to what families they belong, where their homes are builded, and little things about their every day life. Dear Folk are these along the way. Some are big and some are little. Some are short and some are tall. Some wing their way through the air whereas others grow from out of the earth. Some hurry and scurry about. Others move more slowly. Some are dressed in colors bright and gay. Others are clad in sober shades that blend with Earth and Moss, and leaves 'round about them. Some are busy all day long -- others turn night into day. Many and many are shy -- therefore go quietly among them. Keep your eyes open and listen. And going thus and watching so, every minute will be filled with interest -- for numberless are the fairies along the way, the fairies you may see and know every day.
And the things recorded in this chapter and in this book are as I have watched them from hour to hour throughout all the days of my childhood. A notebook in my pocket (wherein was carried food for Birds and many other fairies) and a pencil were my constant companions on my Nature walks. Because so much I wanted to help other Girls and Boys find the same big joy in God's great out-of-doors that I was daily finding, I carefully wrote down the little things of the everyday life of the field and forest as I watched them. I felt that my life work was the helping of people -- little folk and grown-up folk, too, who hadn't grown up too much -- to find the big and abiding joy in companionship with the everyday things around them in the out-of-doors. So I have been working on this book all these years. And the things herein recorded are as I have found them and as you may find them. Of the wonderful happiness that will be yours in the finding of them I cannot tell in words. It is so big that it fills each day with an abiding joy in life, with faith in the people about you, with trust in God -- and helps you to overcome the difficulties along the way. So the companionship with God in the great outdoors has meant to my life, and so it may mean in yours. As you go along the way -- keep your eyes open and listen.

There is ever a song somewhere, my dear
Be the skies above or dark or fair,
There is ever a song that our hearts may hear --
There is ever a song somewhere.
-- James Whitcomb Riley

Red-Headed Woodpecker
Melanerpes erythrocephalus

I see my way as birds their trackless way.
I shall arrive, -- what time, what circuit first,
I ask not; but unless God send his hail
Or blinding fire-balls, sleet, or stifling snow,
In some time, His good time, I shall arrive;
He guides me and the bird. In His good time.
-- Browning

The birds are coming North again. From day to day new ones we see -- and seeing them we think and wonder about their finding their way from lands far distant.
March 3rd -- Saw five Velvet-Cloak Butterflies -- they whose other names are Venessa Antiopa, Morning-Cloak, and Camberwel Beauty. Did you know that these fairies hibernate during the winter? They came to the saucers of sweetened water we placed on two fence-posts for them.

I heard the woodpecker pecking,
The bluebird tenderly sing;
I turned and looked out of the window,
And lo, it was Spring.

The March winds come and the march winds go -- and we children love them so. For, O, how good it feels to race along the road with the wind tossing one's curls. And I truly think there's many a fairy that likes to scamper about when March winds blow.

Which ever way the wind doth blow,
Some heart is glad to have it so;
Then blow it east or blow it west,
The wind that blows, that wind is best.

March 9th -- Johnny-Jump-up is here and Johnny-Jump-up is there. O, who is this Johnny-Jump-up? He is a member of the Violet family, of course. And his petals they are yellow. And the sight of him brings joy to we children's hearts.
March 17th -- Shooting Stars are in blossom. We children counted one hundred and three on the way from school -- and left them blooming there -- those quaint, purple-pink flowers, with their nice little noses. Other names have they beside Shooting Star -- Bird Bills, Prairie Pointers, Crow's Bills and American Cowslip. They belong to the Primrose family. Have you watched the Bumble-bees come to the blossoms?

March! march! march! They are coming,
In troops to the tune of the wind:
Red-headed woodpeckers drumming,
Gold-crested thrushes behind,
Sparrows in brown jackets hopping
Past every gateway and door;
Finches with crimson caps stopping
Just where they stopped years before.
-- Larcum

Under a budding hedge I hid
while April rain went by
But little raindrops came slipping through,
fresh from a laughing sky;
A-many little scurrying drops,
laughing the song they sing
Soon found me where I sought to hide,
and pelted me with Spring

-- O. Sheet

Now is March time -- but truly April rain is here. I was prancing along down the road with Isaiah, the Shepherd Dog; Mary Jane, who used to be a little Lamb, who is now a grown-up fairy -- and with me were also seventeen Wooly Bear caterpillars who have been napping through the winter -- well, we were caught in April rain, and we liked its music, and to feel the raindrops trickle down over our noses. (The Wooly Bear Caterpillars I held out that they might have a shower bath.)

It is the first mild day of March;
Each minute sweeter than before,
The redbreast sings from the tall larch
That stands beside our door.
Love, now a universal birth,
From heart to heart is stealing,
From earth to man, from man to earth:
-- It is the hour of feeling.
-- Wordsworth

Little Lamb fairies were playing about to-day. We children love Lamb fairies. Our pet Lamb's name is Mary Jane -- we raised her on the bottle -- and now that she is older grown she wanders away to feed alone -- but at evening time she comes to romp -- and glad times we all have together. Mary Jane and Isaiah, the Shepherd Dog, are very good friends. Mary Jane scampers along at the heels of Isaiah as he brings the cows home to the pasture bars -- and sometimes (the times I'm not scampering along beside Mary Jane) I sit on the gate post and wait for her and Isaiah.

The children whirl around in a ring,
And laugh and sing, and dance and sing;
But the blackbird whistles clear, O clear:
The Spring, the Spring!
-- Wheelock

March time is seed planting time for some Baby Seeds. To-day in the garden we have planted them there -- dear little fairies to be are wrapped up in the tiny things there. My -- but isn't this a wonderful Fairyland?

A seed we say is a simple thing,
The germ of a flower or weed, --
But all earth's workmen, laboring
With all the help that wealth could bring,
Never could make a seed.

There is no glory in star or blossom
'Til looked upon by a loving eye;
There is no fragrance in April breezes
'Til breathed with joy as they wander by.
-- Bryant

April 7th -- Don't you love to watch the Swallow fairies? How wonderful it would be to sail through the air as they do, but truly it is wonderful to watch them. And how well-suited are they for their life in the air. Have you noticed how large a Baby Swallow's mouth is when ready to leave the bird house? (The ones I have in mind are Tree Swallows, who were born and raised in one of our bird houses.) It seems to me that their mouths being large that way would be of an advantage in getting their insect food in the air as they do. We children love this verse about the Swallows:

Thou art a nursling of the air,
No earthly food makes up thy fare
But soaring things, both frail and rare,
Fit diet of a fairy.
-- Burroughs

April 8th -- While feeding the Chickens just before I started to school this morning, three Rabbits came, one after another, from the Vine Maple thicket and ate of the food I scattered for the Chickens. One of them, the least one of all, seemed to like best of all the little bits of apple peelings.

The pussy-cat bird has the blackest of the bills,
With which she makes all her trebles and trills;
She can mimic a robin or sing like a wren,
And I truly believe she can cluck like a hen;
And sometimes you dream that her song is a word,
Then quickly again -- she's a pussy-cat bird.

The pussy-cat bird wears a gown like a nun,
But she's a chirk as a squirrel and chock-full of fun,
She lives in a house upon Evergreen Lane, --
A snug little house, although modest and plain;
And never a puss that was happier purred
Than the feathered and winged little pussy-cat bird.

The first time we heard one we thought a poor kitty was calling for someone, and we hurried along. So we found the Cat-bird, that fairy so named because of his call-note. He's a funny bird, he's a dainty bird, he's a graceful bird; but sometimes he looks as though he had lost every friend in the world, as he sits with drooping wings and tail. We children wish very much that he had been named for his song rather than his call notes. His song is just wonderful. Sometimes around two and three o'clock on Spring mornings Mother hears a stir in our room and comes in to find we children siting in our night-gowns on the window-sills listening to the Cat-bird's morning song -- very early morning song.

Sparrows far off, and nearer, April's bird,
Blue-coated, -- flying before from tree to tree,
Courageous sing a delicate overture
To lead the tardy concert of the year.
-- Emerson

April -- Along the way we watched them to-day -- God's little messengers of love and happiness -- bluebirds, cousins of Robin and Hermit Thrush. In our Fairyband each child chooses its name from some beloved fairy in the out-of-doors. More choose "Bluebird" than any other. Soon we shall be having, as we have had in other years, wonderful times assisting Mother and Father Bluebirds in feeding their babies.
April 10th -- The minister made a mistake in his sermon the other day. He told of the worms climbing by means of their many legs upwards on beautiful plants. Now we children all know that worms have no legs. I think what he meant to say was caterpillars; and I'm really sure that's what he intended, for he spoke of God changing them into beautiful Butterflies. Now, God, Himself, knows that He doesn't make Butterflies out of worms. He makes them out of caterpillars -- soft, velvety ones, and fuzzy ones.
April 15 -- Saw sixteen Monarch Butterflies today. It is good to see them about again.

Monarch Butterfly
(Philip Greenspun)

April 17 -- Among the rocks between the road and the river dwell the Columbines, cousins of Buttercup and Wind Flower. To the bright red blossoms of these Columbines come Hummingbirds -- and each year we children sit quietly near and watch these and other fairies come and go.

The graceful columbine, all blushing red,
Bends to the earth her crown
Of honey laden bells.

April 23rd -- Every day we see them somewhere -- those English Sparrows -- and 'tis no welcome in our hearts we have for them, for in the winter they come unto the Birds' Christmas Trees and feeding tables, taking food that was meant for others and fighting others away. In the Spring they try to keep our gentle Swallows and Bluebirds from the houses we have builded for them, and they never are in harmony with the singing fairies hereabout.

So dainty in plumage and hue,
a study in gray and brown;
How little, how little we know
the pest he would prove to the town.
From dawn until daylight grows dim,
perpetual chatter and scold.
No winter migration for him --
not even afraid of the cold!
Scarce a song bird he fails to molest,
belligerent, meddlesome thing;
Wherever he goes as a guest,
he is sure to remain as a king.
-- Forsayth

May is building her house. From the dust of things
She is making the songs and the flowers and the wings;
From October's tossed and trodden gold
She is making the young near out of the old;
She is making all the summer sweet,
And the brown leaves spurned of November's feet
She is changing back again to spring's.
-- Richard Le Gallienne

May 6th -- "I will make me a garden by the side of the road where Children of Men pass by." So I made me a garden by the side of the road, and the Children of Men passing by come into the garden to learn -- to learn of the Fairyland 'round about us. Today it rained and afterwards we watched the Earthworms -- they who are among the most wonderful fairies on earth, for great is their service they render to us as millions of them are daily plowing the earth. Mother Nature's little farmers are they, and their work has been going on for ages. Yesterday and the day before that we located fifty-seven burrows of Earthworms in the garden. They are also called Angle-worms, being much used as fish bait; but we children prefer to leave them to plow the garden. Have you found their eggs under the rocks on damp soil? And have you not met them crawling about on sidewalks after a rain?
May 9th -- We found Butterfly eggs today -- eggs of Velvet Cloak. They were on willow twigs near the ends, in rows around the twig, and looked like tiny jewels.
O, the little Red Maids by the roadside are opening their satiny petals in the sun. We children like them just for the joy of seeing them and when flowering days are over we gather the seeds for David and Jonathan, two pet Doves, who are very fond of these Portulaca seeds. Red Maids also have another name -- Calandrina -- and cattle like their leaves to eat and also some people use them for salad.
May 11th -- I watched a Monarch Butterfly laying her eggs on the Milkweed today. She laid them one at a time on the under side of the leaves. Do you know why she lays them on the Milkweed? Long time ago I wondered about it, and took some of the leaves home to find out -- keeping them fresh until the green eggs hatched five days later. The little caterpillars were certainly hungry, for the first thing they ate were the eggshells of out which they had come. Then they began to eat the Milkweed leaves; and then I understood why their mother had placed those eggs upon the Milkweed leaves. Each year since then I have raised Monarch Butterflies. And we children plant for them Milkweeds in the garden.

Every tongue of Nature sings;
The air is palpitant with wings.
-- Thompson

There is music in the stream, in the patter of the rain; and the wind plays upon the harpstrings of the trees. And our little brothers of the air tell in song the whole day long of His great love everywhere. And other musicians, too, the Frogs, Crickets, Toads, Beetles, and Katy-dids, take their part in earth's chorus.
We have had such a wonderful exploration trip today -- just a-seeking for different members of the Plant Kingdom. You see, there are may different ones -- Trees, and Flowers. Among the Flowering Plants are Grasses and Cat-tails, those some grown-ups do not realize that Grasses have flower. And then there are those many flowerless plants -- Ferns, Mosses, Liverworts, Lichens, Algae, and Fungi.
May 17th -- Found baby caterpillars of the Velvet-Cloak Butterfly feeding on willow leaves.
I thought I heard a Gnatcatcher -- Is that a Blue Jay? -- Why, a squirrel is calling near. No -- it is the Mockingbird, he who is the cousin of Wrens and Thrashers, he who sings through the day his own song and also the songs of others, he who also sings in the night time. How we children joy to hear his song night or day. We love the verse about him:

Soft and low the song began:
I scarcely caught it as it was ran
Through the melancholy trill
of the plaintive whip-poor-will,
Through the ringdove's gentle wail,
chattering jay and whistling quail
Sparrow's twitter, catbird's cry,
redbird's whistle, robin's sigh;
Blackbird, bluebird, swallow, lark;
each his native note might mark.
Oft he tried the lesson o'er,
each time louder than before;
Burst at length the finished song,
loud and clear it poured along.

There's a nest in the Monkey tree that grows to the west of the house. Of thorny sticks it was made and a soft lining of cotton it has. In it were four bluish eggs spotted with reddish brown -- and out of these eggs came four little birds. These four little birds, they like earthworms, berries and insects. Their scientific name is Mimus polygottos leucopterus. We learned this verse about the song their father sang before their coming. (He doesn't have so much time to sing just now.)

An arrow, feathery, alive, he darts and sings, --
Then with a sudden skimming
dive of striped wings
He finds a pine and, debonair,
makes with his mate
All birds that ever rested there articulate;
The whisper of a multitude of happy wings
Is 'round him, a returning brood,
each time he sings.
Though heaven be not for them or him,
yet he is wise,
And daily tiptoes on the rim of Paradise.

Next Chapter:
Along The Road, Part 2